Comment & Opinion

How to balance game monetisation with a player-first mindset

Meta Audience Network explores the ways in which leading developers and publishers utilise monetisation strategies to complement the player experience and drive engagement

How to balance game monetisation with a player-first mindset

Antonio Manuel Ribeiro, Strategic Partner Manager for EMEA with Meta Audience Network explores the ways in which leading developers and publishers put players first when it comes to picking monetisation methods.

Mobile gaming is experiencing impressive growth and there's no shortage of game revenue going to publishers. In 2021, global mobile game revenues will grow to $90.7 billion, at over 4.4% year-on-year growth1.

The challenge is creating a balanced monetisation mix that balances in-app ads (IAA) and in-app purchases (IAP) in a way that supports player engagement, lifetime value (LTV), and retention – as well as revenue and growth.

The most successful publishers take a player-first mindset to guide their monetisation strategy.

Combining IAA and IAP has been prevalent already, but it's definitely the way things are going for the future
Guillermo Escofet

Complement the player experience

Across all genres, even hypercasual, it is increasing in popularity to combine in-app ads with in-app purchases. In the App Monetisation Industry Outlook by Meta Audience Network, Guillermo Escofet, Principal Analyst, Omdia, said: "Combining IAA and IAP has been prevalent already, but it's definitely the way things are going for the future."2

As you plan your monetisation strategy, be sure to consider the impact on gamer engagement as you add in-app purchases or ads to your game.

We recently interviewed Clement Xue, Head of Activision Blizzard Media, to better understand how the company thoughtfully integrates IAA and IAP in its games to create an engaging, transparent value exchange for players.

Activision Blizzard Media is a Meta Audience Network partner for games such as Candy Crush Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Crash Bandicoot On The Run.

Clement said: "We have found that our players who engage most with ads are also our most engaged players and that ads give them a slight boost when they are stuck on a level or are having difficulties making progress in the game."

He also commented on how a balanced game economy can lead to revenue gains. “We've also seen that ads can be a way for players to test and try rewards before actually making a purchase, thus driving up IAP.”3

Consider entry points in game design

When Zynga, another Meta Audience Network partner, introduced ads to its games, the monetisation team’s top priority was to provide the best possible player experience. A big part of this was preserving engagement, which is why they carefully consider entry points in the game design process.

The teams’ strategy focuses on two kinds of rewarded video entry points, targeting either engagement or reach.

Engagement-focused entry points

  • Videos are featured at key moments in the game—if players run out of lives or in-game currency, they can choose to watch a rewarded video to stay in the game.
  • Videos are opt-in, but for players that need it the most, these ads can provide a gaming lifeline.

Reach-focused entry points

  • Videos are featured in highly visible placements, such as a daily reward bonus or a “hot button” found in the game lobby.
  • Rewards are comparatively smaller, but immediacy and convenience make it easy for gamers to supplement their everyday play.
  • Rewarded videos offer an extra bonus for the players who want it while increasing ad volume.

In a recent case study, Dmitriy Makiyevskiy, Director of Ad Partnership and Operations at Zynga shared why it’s critical to integrate rewarded video in the game design: "This evokes a positive experience, one that benefits the user within the game, and also the brand that’s advertising in those placements. With the right entry point, rewarded video can also drive higher eCPMs."4

Clement feels similarly about the importance of integrating ads as early as possible, saying:

"Advertising needs to be integrated into the game during game design, alongside in-app purchases, so that there is a strong value proposition for players to watch ads or pay for IAP while ensuring that the economy is well balanced."

In another recent study, Activision Blizzard Media shared that it uses ads to help those stuck on a level or having difficulties making progress in the game. Rewarded video offers these players the choice to opt-in, which underscores the clear value exchange and creates a better user experience.

We run many iterations, to figure out the right balance that maximises player engagement as well as IAP and ad revenue.
Dmitriy Makiyevskiy

Test, Test, Test

It’s key to test which placements, formats and rewards are most effective for your audience. We recommend measuring player LTV, retention, and engagement.

When Zynga introduced ads, they ran A/B tests on segmented audiences, assessing how these variables affected monetisation performance and engagement metrics.

"Alongside the game teams, we carefully monitor both IAP and ad metrics to ensure that we are continuing to drive strong IAP and user engagement," said Dmitriy.

"Obviously, this process takes a bit of time, but it ends up being all worthwhile. We run many iterations, to figure out the right balance that maximises player engagement as well as IAP and ad revenue. Each genre has its own benchmarks.”

Clement at Activision Blizzard Media also weighed in on the importance of testing from a player-centric standpoint.

“We leveraged extensive player testing and research to understand the placements, formats, and rewards that would resonate best with our players,” Clement said. "Our players have shown receptivity and openness to our in-game advertising experiences, which has translated to strong engagement, with 98% viewability and a 92% video completion rate."3.

Looking for more monetisation insights to grow your gaming app?

Visit Supercharge your Game for more useful resources, case studies and articles to unlock new opportunities for growth.

SOURCES

1- Newzoo Global Mobile Market Report 2021, September 2021.

2- Meta Audience Network, App Monetization Industry Outlook: How Gaming Businesses Can Prepare for Future Growth, July 2021.

3-Meta Audience Network Success Stories, Activision Blizzard Media Grows Revenue with a Balanced Monetisation Model, October 2021.

4-Meta Audience Network Success Stories, Zynga’s ad monetization strategy puts players first, December 13, 2021.

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Ana Rajic Community manager
Hybrid model (IAP + IAA) is definitely the way to go for most of free-to-play mobile games today. According to our internal research, out of top 300 grossing mobile games, 91% of them uses ads in combination with in-app purchases to monetize their users.
We've seen successful implementations across different genres, including hyper-casual, puzzle, strategy, sport, narrative-driven, simulation, etc..
Some of the key success factors we've seen are the choice of ad formats, the choice of entry points (in-game placements), player segmentation as well as the choice of mediation and ad networks.
When done right, ads can be a significant source of revenue and can even have a positive impact on user experience and retention.