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The mobile games industry glossary

A living A-Z of mobile games industry terms you should know

The mobile games industry glossary

Two things.

Firstly, the PocketGamer.biz audience spans the most enthusiastic one-man indies to venture capitalists scouting for the next boom. Understanding one another, and the minutiae of what we do, can be a challenge. This glossary is intended to help bridge the gap.

Secondly, this is a living document. The mobile games industry has never stopped moving. A few years ago, no one knew the term hypercasual. Today, it is one of the most influential genres in the mobile games ecosystem. If there’s one certainty, it’s that the next seismic shift is just around the corner. This page will be updated in accordance.

Feedback is essential. If you think a term should be on this list, let us know at khai.trung.le@steelmedianetwork.com.

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A

A/B testing

Also known as split testing, this is a controlled experiment comparing two (or more) versions of an app or game – or specific elements within – to determine relative effectiveness.

Active user

A person who accesses an app or game for a specified period of time, and a frequent unit to represent unique visitors and/or participants. This is commonly arranged as:

  • Daily active user (DAU)
  • Weekly active user (WAU)
  • Monthly active user (MAU)

Ad network

Ad networks engage with publishers when ad space is available within its suite of apps or games. Ad networks will post openings and allow advertisers to bid on those available spaces.

Angel investor

Also known as a private investor or seed investor, angel investors provide financial backing from their own money for small startups, often as a one-time investment to support companies through difficult early stages.

APAC

An acronym for Asia-Pacific.

AR

An initialisation for augmented reality. These are physical world experiences enhanced with computer-generated input. Pokémon GO is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable examples, which overcasts digital representation of Pokémon into the physical world through a mobile phone camera.

ARPDAU

An initialisation for average revenue per daily active user. This is a key performance indicator (KPI) that measures the success of monetisation strategies on a daily basis.

ARPPU

An initialisation for average revenue per paying user. This is a measurement of revenue according to paying users over a period of time.

ASO

An initialisation for app store optimisation. This is the process of improving the visibility of your mobile app or game, so it will rank higher in the Apple App Store and Google Play. This is typically done through optimising the app name or title, icon, screenshots, and rating.

 

B

Banner ads

Traditional graphic ads, similar to a billboard, placed at the top or bottom of an app or game and remain static whilst playing.

Beta

An early release of a video game, following its alpha release, where developers seek feedback to remove bugs prior to the product’s commercial release.

Blockchain game

Also known as an NFT game or crypto game, these are games that include elements of blockchain technologies to give digital items a real-world value.

Currently, these most frequently center on buying, selling, or trading tokens that imbue unique options or capabilities within the game, such as Axie Infinity’s collection axie creatures. There is also an emphasis on unique collectability.

 

C

Casual (games)

These are games targeting a mass market audience, rather than hobbyist gamers. Casual games are not restricted by gameplay, rather involve simple rules, shorter sessions, and are mechanically accessible to players of all skill ranges.

However, casual games share similarities with hypercasual games, but have more complex elements and mechanics.

Cloud gaming

Also known as gaming-on-demand, this is a method of playing online games using remote servers. As titles reside on a company server, cloud gaming removes the need to download and install full games. Restrictions including internet bandwidth and server capacity are less prominent in mobile gaming.

Conversion

A general term to describe preferred interaction. In the mobile games industry, this is typically – but not exclusively – used to represent users that have installed apps or have made in-app purchases (IAP).

For example, a conversion rate may be the total number of users who have made IAPs over the total number of users who installed the app or the total number of installs over the perceived audience interested in the game.

CPE

An initialisation for cost-per-engagement. This is the advertising pricing model: the price that gets paid when an ad is engaged with, although the parameters of said engagement will vary. Advertisers may favour 'meaningful' engagement, such as clicking through to the website, over any interaction, including closing the ad.

CPI

An initialisation for cost-per-install. This is a pricing model in mobile apps and games whereby app advertisers pay a certain amount of money whenever a user installs the app from a specific advertisement. This information is useful In creating targeted campaigns and determining the specific value of said campaign.

CTA

An initialisation for call-to-action. A general marketing term that refers to the next step or action the marketer wants the consumer to take.

CTR

An initialisation for click-through rate. A term used by advertisers to indicate the number of clicks that advertisments receive based on the number of users they are shown to.

 

D

DAU

An initialisation of daily active user. For more information, see Active User.

 

E

Engagement

A broad term to describe the level of continuation desire players have that keep them coming back to specific titles. This is influenced by elements such as aesthetics, felt involvement, social dynamics, and habit-building.

 

F

F2P

An initialisation of free-to-play. A cornerstone development in mobile games enabling basic access to a game without charge, while more advanced features or a significant portion of content must be paid for.

 

G

GaaS

An initialisation of games-as-a-service. GaaS represents games with a continue revenue model, typically receiving a lengthy or indefinite stream of monetised new content over time.

Also known as live service games, GaaS is often used to support F2P (free-to-play) models.

Gacha

Derived from Gashapon vending machines, Gacha is a game mechanic in which players receive a randomised in-game item or asset per purchase. Similar to loot boxes, games utilising Gacha mechanics often employ both in-game and real-world currencies.

GameFi

A portmanteau of ‘game’ and ‘decentralised finance’. For more information, see Blockchain Gaming and Play-to-Earn.

 

H

Hardcore (games)

Hardcore games require players to invest significant amounts of time and interest in order to learn and access the full experience. As a result, hardcore games have the highest engagement of all mobile game categories. Genres include multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) and first-person shooters (FPS).

Hybridcasual

A new style of mobile game incorporating the accessibility and ease-of-play of hypercasual games with more sophisticated mechanics, such as involved progression or a deep metagame, to find a balancing spot between the reach of hypercasual and the greater engagement of mid/hardcore titles.

Hypercasual

One of the most successful categories of mobile games in recent years, hypercasual games are lightweight and easily accessible titles that entice players through short session length and immediately compelling mechanics. Hypercasual games preference user acquisition (UA) over engagement and retention, and as such tend to have shorter lifespans.

 

I

IAA

An initialisation of in-app advertising. IAA is a revenue stream for mobile games that exchange on-screen real estate to display ads to players. The incorporation of ads can widely vary, from straightforward banner ads to playable.

IAP

An initialisation of in-app purchase. Users can purchase an asset within an app or game with real-world currency. Assets can range from in-game functional items, cosmetics, or full access to the game’s content.

IDFA

An initialisation of Identifier for Advertisers, this is a random device identifier assigned by Apple to a user’s device, which enables advertisers to track users and data and was a cornerstone element of delivering customised advertising.

Following Apple’s App Track Transparency updates, IDFA functionality remains available but requires obtaining the user’s permission, and as such IDFA usage has depreciated.

Impression

Also known as a ‘view-through’, impressions refers to when a player has seen an advertisement. This can differ to engagement, which monitors when players chooses to interact with an ad.

IPO

An initialisation for initial public offering and also known as a stock launch, an IPO is the process of offering shares of a private corportation to the public, typically through new stock issuance. After the IPO, shares can be freely traded in the open market.

 

K

KPI

An initialisation of key performance indicators. These ae the varied and quantifiable metrics to measure the success of the app or game. These can range from game performance, user acquisition (UA), monetisation, and contribution to overall business performance.

 

L

LATAM

An acronym for Latin America.

LiveOps

A portmanteau of live operations. For more, see Games-as-a-Service (GaaS)

LTV (loan-to-value)

An initialisation of loan-to-value. LTV is the ratio of lending risk that financial institutions consider. Not to be confused with…

LTV (lifetime value)

An initialisation of lifetime value. This is a key performance indicator (KPI), specifically the anticipated profit margin from an average player during their entire engagement with a game.

 

M

M&A

An initialisation of mergers and acquisitions. M&A is a general term that describes the consolidation of companies or assets.

MAU

An initialisation of monthly active users. For more information, see Active User.

MENA(T)

An acronym of Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey if including (T).

Metaverse

An amorphous term used to describe a range of activity that seeks to incorporate various digital spaces and capabilities. These can include but are not exclusive to virtual reality (VR), blockchain, and decentralised digital economies, platforms, and virtual worlds.

Despite the singularity of the term ‘metaverse’, there will likely be numerous decentralised metaverses, each with their own parameters and guiding principles.

Despite the lack of definition, it is worth stressing that Fortnite and Roblox are not explicitly or exclusively ‘the metaverse’, just as Facebook and Google are not exclusively ‘the internet’.

Mid-core (games)

Mid-core games are titles that feature more complexity than casual and hypercasual games to increase engagement, but are more accessible than hardcore games. Frequently, mid-core games distil hardcore game mechanics into simpler elements to lend a broader appeal.

MOBA

An acronym of multiplayer online battle arena, one of the most popular genre of games on PC, console, and mobile. A subgenre of strategy games, MOBA are small teams of players, each piloting a single character, across a predefined environment. Popular examples on mobile include Pokémon UNITE and League of Legends: Wild Rift.

Mobile attribution

Attribution enables marketers to discover precisely how user or player were led to their app or game.

MTX

An initialisation for microtransaction. A business model where players can purchase virtual assets through micropayments. For more information, see IAP (in-app purchase).

 

N

NFT

An initialisation for non-fungible token. A unique, irreplaceable, and inimitable digital ticket most often used to denote ownership of a specific digital asset or file. NFTs are typically held on the blockchain, most commonly the Etherium blockchain, to verify ownership.

 

O

OTT

An initialisation of over-the-top. OTT content refers to the media offered directly to consumers via the internet, and is most commonly related to mobile gaming and app availability, TV streaming services, and games consoles.

 

P

P2E

An initialisation for play-to-earn. The concept of gaming which provisionally provides players with a chance to earn in-game assets that have a real-world value. For more information, see blockchain gaming.

Playable ads

Interactive ads that can provide players with an experience akin to the full product, or suggestive or indicative of the full product without having players commit to downloading or streaming.

 

Q

Q[numerical]

Commonly used shorthand for yearly quarter. The specific quarter is referred to by the numeric, i.e Q1 2022, pertaining to the first quarter of 2022.

 

R

Retention

Retention is a core key performance indicator (KPI), referring to the rate of players that have installed and repeatedly play your game, typically from the day it was downloaded. Measurement is typically divided between Day 1, Day 7, and Day 30.

ROAS (return-on-assets)

An acronym for return-on-assets. This is a profitability ratio, measuring how efficient a company’s management is in generating earnings from resources. Not to be confused with…

ROAS (return-on-ad-spend)

This is a core key performance indicator (KPI), and refers to the money returned to a business for each dollar spend on advertising.

 

S

SDK

An initialisation for software development kit, typically a set of tools that allows the quick creation of apps and games. SDKs are designed for specific platforms or programming languages.

Soft launch

The release of a new app or game to a restricted audience – in mobile games, typically Australia and New Zealand – in advance of a full launch. Similar to beta releases, soft launches allow for the removal of bugs but extend to mechanical and economical balancing or even fundamental alterations to the game. For an evolving list of titles in soft launch, click here.

 

U

UA

An initialisation of user acquisition, this is the act of gaining new users for an app or game, platform, or service. On mobile specifically, this refers to generating installs, typically conducted through ad and/or promotional campaigns.

UGC

An initialisation of user generated content.

Unicorn

A colloqial term for mobile games which have made $1 billion in lifetime reveune. For an evolving list of unicorn mobile games, click here.

 

V

Venture capital

Capital invested in a project that involves significant risk, a new or expanding business. The principle difference between venture capital and angel investment is the latter will provide financial support from money pooled from investment companies, large corporations, and pension funds rather than, as is the case of angel, their personal wealth.

 

W

Waterfall

Waterfall is a traditional term for programmatic ad bidding – a method of organising and selling ad inventory associated with real-time bidding using fixed costs. In waterfall bidding, each ad within the inventory is assigned a different value to certain partners based on compatibility or previous success, and is sequentially offered in order of priority (Partner A turns it down, offered to partner B who accepts, so partner C is never approached).


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