Comment & Opinion

Game of Phones: Why it's time for a smarter approach to mobile game app marketing

Mobile acquisition specialist Saikala Sultanova explains all

Game of Phones: Why it's time for a smarter approach to mobile game app marketing

Saikala Sultanova is a mobile acquisition specialist and a member of the UA Society.

Mobile game marketers across the globe are perpetually caught in a chicken and egg situation. When it comes to matching a game to the desired mobile devices, the decisions always affect both marketability and scale.

The challenge game marketers face is in capturing intel and data that will identify the unique, high growth potential areas that allow them to create and grow successful mobile games in today’s crowded marketplace.

With so many mobile device models out there (especially on Android), this lack of data makes it hard for developers and marketers to pitch and justify the work required to make a game compatible with every device out there. They must be able to know and prove the value of a potential market based on data-backed performance key performance indicators (KPIs). I recently set out on a mission to make this possible.

So where do game marketers begin? Most of the time, it’s easy enough to segment and group mobile devices into three buckets (high, mid and low end) based on tech specs and price. You can also apply performance metrics with your internal data to see how that works for you.

The problem with that approach, is that it fails to account for devices outside your own database, where you may be overlooking valuable potential targets, such as different countries, platforms or demographics. Without that transparency, you simply don’t know your full market opportunity for your game genre, or what is possible within your KPIs for retention and monetization.

“You don’t know what you don’t know”

Socrates might have had some premonitions about game marketers when he coined this adage. Naturally, as game marketers we want to bring valuable users from far and wide to our games. But, we also want to plan performance marketing budgets in the most effective and realistic ways and capitalize on every segment of users that we can.

While this is a balance that all types of marketers play with, it is especially important in gaming, where uninstall rates are 34% higher than in non-gaming, putting pressure on the lifetime value of each install.

Additionally, the success of some games and game genres can be heavily reliant on geo-region -- mid-core games, for example, are the biggest in APAC and South East Asia, while social casino games are best suited for North America and Australia.

As I ruminated on a solution or ‘middle ground’ to this issue, my hypothesis was that there must be some correlation between device groups, countries, platforms and game genres, and the resulting rates of retention and monetization.

I turned to AppsFlyer, a mobile app measurement and attribution company, to put this hypothesis to the test. Using their data, we were able to form an analysis that provides game marketers around the world with food for thought about under-tapped target markets and potential missed opportunities.

If marketers can better evaluate target market potential, then their developers can work towards data-backed device group matching, so that together they can explore “hidden gem” target groups that may be a goldmine.

Build for potential, not ideal

All too often, game designers work for a few years to build a beautiful game that is only available on high-end or niche devices and made to target the most valuable players in the world. While this holds a luxurious appeal and the potential for niche success, these audiences are notoriously hard to reach and sparsely located, making the ROI and lifetime value hard to justify and expensive to deliver.

Take, for example, a simple comparison of how casual games perform on Android devices versus iOS devices. In high-end Android groups, we see similar rates of organic and paid installs, but in high-end iOS, paid installs are struggling to achieve decent volumes. What this may suggest for this genre is that the high-end iOS landscape is so competitive that its expense may not be justified by the lifetime value that results.

In many cases, this insight can help a marketer make an informed judgement call on their game development, perhaps directing them to hone in on the high volume and quality growth that Android affords, rather than spread their efforts too thin.

How can you inform your development, at scale?

You can dig into the analysis most helpful for your project in this interactive analysis table. The data is designed to provide the insights that support game development, device selection, and overall impact for your business at scale.

Developers can use this device group potential to make a business case for making their game suitable for larger device groups. To do this, they can explore assumed target markets during development time and map it with retention and monetization benchmarks. Or, after sizing a potential market in their usual way, developers can then inform and verify their decision with this table to determine if the game is worth additional development costs.

Marketers can use the analysis table for discovering new target groups, such as country or device type, to test for their game genres. If they are earlier in the development cycle, marketers can use this analysis for making a business case to convince developers to make a game compatible with a wider device ranges.

For example, the data in the table uncovers a missed opportunity for social casino apps, where while paid traffic on high-end iOS devices is driven by the traditional mix of US, UK and France, the organic traffic also crosses into Japan, Thailand and Russia. Social casino developers don’t typically invest much in localization, which these regions require, but the traffic suggests that reconsidering could lead to traffic growth.

"You don't know what you don’t know", but by digging in to what real user data tells us, we can begin to draw ideas for exploring markets and tactics outside of the norm, and aim to expand reach, competitive advantage and lifetime customer value. regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.