Knowledge Base

Knowledge Base: Paid User Acquisition 101

Knowledge Base: Paid User Acquisition 101

Topic Area: Marketing

Level: Introductory

So what is paid user acquisition?

Paid user acquisition is what it says on the tin: it’s a way of paying to get consumers to play your game. This is typically done through advertising networks and through the use of different types of ads such as banner, native, rewarded and interstitial ads. You may also consider other avenues such as YouTube influencers, social channels and other media.

Why is it important?

It’s getting more and more difficult to get noticed on mobile app stores like the App Store and Google Play. Hundreds of thousands of apps are competing for attention in SEO rankings (Check out the App Store Optimization 101 course), chart rankings and the limited room for being Featured on a marketplace.

Investing in a UA strategy can help give your game the lift it needs to get noticed and for word to spread about it. This can of course potentially be an expensive endeavour, however; at least initially.

Who is this course for?

This is for developers and publishers after tips and tricks for paid user acquisition to help make their game successful. It’s ideal for beginners to learn the basic options open to them, while more seasoned professionals may be interested to learn about case studies and how games companies are making the most of their UA marketing budgets.

Check out the Course Content tab above for the full course. We'll be updating this throughout the week as more parts of the course are made live, so be sure to check back for more information!

You can also check out the Tools & Services tab for related resources to user acquisition. And you can browse through Further Reading to consume even more in-depth information about the topic.

Have any burning questions for us? Register on and let us know in the comments below. We'll do our best to get them answered!

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A huge raft of services and ad networks are available in the paid acquisition and advertising space to help you market your game to potential players.

Below we’ve presented a number of these from our Resources List for your consideration. To help you choose between them, you might consider visiting the AppsFlyer Gaming Ad Network Performance Index for some statistics as part of your research into the best network around.


Aarki is a mobile app marketing company that has worked with numerous companies including GSN, Big Fish, King, Elex and Machine Zone. It has offices around the world in countries such as China, UK, Japan and its HQ in the US. It has particular experience in the Match-3, Simulation, Casino, Midcore and Hardcore genres.


AdAction is a mobile app media company that partners with app developers, Fortune 100 brands and publishers to increase sales and drive app downloads across iOS and Android platforms. It averages more than five million monthly app installs in over 180 countries, and its clients include the likes of Zynga, Machine Zone, Gumi and Jam City.


AdColony is a mobile video advertising company that aims to deliver full-screen video ads across its network of iOS and Android apps using its proprietary technology. It has worked with games publishers and developers such as Supercell, Gamesys and Machine Zone, to name a few.


Google's AdMob service helps app businesses gain insight into their users, drive more in-app purchases and maximise ad revenue and mediation. The platform is powered by Google's ad technology, works across Android and iOS and supports game engines such as Unity and Cocos2d-x.


Based in Tokyo, Japan, Adways is a mobile marketing company that provides in-house adtech such as AppDriver, one of Asia's largest mobile marketing platforms. It operates in 12 countries from Asia o the US and supports app developers worldwide bring the games to a global audience.


Altrooz is a mobile data management platform to help marketers connect their mobile content with relevant audiences at the right time. The platform optimises content across social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, its own network and mobile ad exchanges.


Appcoach is a mobile advertising agency that has expertise in performance marketing and data optimization, and aims to maximise return on investment on mobile marketing. It has introduced a number of China-based apps into both domestic and global markets, and has offices all around the world including, the China, US, UK and India.


AppsFlyer is a mobile advertising attribution and marketing analytics platform that enables app markets, brands and ad agencies to measure their marketing campaigns across more than 2,000 integrated media partners. It is a Facebook Mobile Measurement Partners, a Google and Twitter Official Partner, and provides mobile advertisers with mobile campaign analytics, in-app user engagement tracking, lifetime value analysis, ROI and retargeting attribution.


A mobile adtech company that helps mobile app advertisers control their campaigns through a single proprietary technology platform, DataLift 360, which provides advanced data integration and extended targeting and audience management capabilities.


Avazu is a publicly listed company in China that offers a global advertising platform for mobile app and game developers. It claims to offer access to billions of customers across the globe, and helps advertisers control their promotion costs by providing a variety of pricing models, including CPA and CPC.


Mobile games-only platform Chartboost helps developers grow their audience, monetise and make better data-driven decisions. It works with 90% of the top grossing iOS and Android game developers and its services are used by over 300,000 games, reaching more than one billion active players around the world each month.

Cheetah Mobile

Cheetah Mobile offers an array of mobile services, including its Cheetah Ad Platform that reaches more than 635 million users a month and is used by over 500 brands.


Facebook offers developers access to its 1.7 billion+ monthly users worldwide for mobile marketing campaigns to drive downloads to your app or game. Using Facebook's advertising services, developers can also target Instagram's 500 million MAUs.


Fiksu is a mobile marketing firm that combines its proprietary Fisku DSP dataset with segmentation tools to reach high quality audiences at scale using the top RTB exchanges. Its clients have included the likes of Amazon, Disney, EA and Dunkin' Donuts.


A mobile advertising technology company, Fyber helps freemium app and game developers generate sustainable revenue streams through ad monetisation across connected devices. Its platform serves around 500 million+ MAUs and lets thousands of app developers and publishers to integrate, manage and optimise all ad revenue sources across mediation, exchange and ad serving.


Glispa is a mobile marketing ad tech company that works with global advertisers, app developers and publishers to help them reach their user acquisition and monetisation goals. Through its ad mediation platform, Ampiri, app developers can gain control over their entire mobile app inventory to maximise revenue potential. Its social influencer network VOLTU meanwhile connects advertisers with thousands of influencers around the world to drive app installs and brand awareness.

Google AdWords

Backed by one of the biggest multinationals in the world, Google AdWords helps developers attract more users all over the world. Its services are typically based on clicks, so developers won't need to pay for a service until someone clicks on their ads to visit the website or app page.


InMobi helps consumers discover apps and games through its mobile advertising services. The firm claims to enable over 100 billion discovery sessions on mobile across a billion users every month. It lets developers target users based on whether they 'look like' existing quality users, based on their app interests and other targeting options such as demographics, location, context, behaviour and interests.


IQU is a digital media agency focused on the games industry, and provides services in user acquisition through performance, dialogue and branding campaigns. It has worked with developers and publishers including EA, Wargaming, Ubisoft and Lockwood.

Millennial Media

AOL-owned Millennial Media is a mobile ad marketplace that enables advertisers to connect with target audiences at scale, while driving monetisation for publisher and developer partners.


Mobvista offers services in global mobile advertising and overseas games publishing. It offers access to users in more than 240 countries and regions, reaching over 10 billion daily impressions. The company has offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, San Fan Francisco, New Delhi and Singapore. In 2016 it acquired monetisation and user acquisition company NativeX.


Pollen VC gives mobile developers early access to their app store revenues, meaning they can spend the money they are going to make before they do. This helps developers finance launch campaigns, scale quickly and optimise their app's growth while reducing reliance on external capital or credit. Its services have been used by the likes of Pixonic and Mastermind Studios.


As well as acting as a games publisher, RockYou's cross-platform video ad network includes 75 million+ social and mobile players, 20 million of whom are based in the US. The network has been used by games publishers such as Zynga, Wooga and SocialPoint, as well as RockYou itself.


Tapdaq offers a cross-platform mobile marketing tool for developers to grow their audience and circulate traffic around their app portfolio. Developers can also trade installs with each other, and negotiate the creative and targeting settings for all deals they set up, giving them control over how and where their ads are shown.


Tapjoy offers an array of services for mobile developers to drive downloads and improve revenues. The firm helps developers drive large scale UA campaigns through the Tapjoy Offerwall. Developers can acquire high value users on a pay-per-install basis while optimising bid rates for maximum ROI, or they can use pay-per-engagement t drive users deep into their app and increase retention rates.


There are many ways to use Twitter to drive user acquisition, including creating viral campaigns.  Twitter Ads meanwhile can help drive traffic and reach the right people who may be interested in your app. Twitter's suite of free analytics tools meanwhile help developers analyse, scale and optimise their campaigns, as well as track impressions, results and cost-per-result across all their different campaign objectives.

Unity Ads

Unity Ads can be used by developers to help drive extra revenues to their games. But that also means developers and publishers can create advertising campaigns to appear in ads across a network of over one billion gamers across the globe.


Vungle is an in-app video advertising platform that developers and advertisers can use to reach and acquire high quality users worldwide. The services is used by more than 20,000 mobile apps and by developers such as Supercell, Sega, Miniclip and Outfit 7. It serves 2.5 billion video views per month to over 250 million unique devices.

Yahoo Gemini

Yahoo Gemini helps mobile publishers target, reach and engage their audience to drive measureable actions and conversations. The platform has been used by the likes of SeatGeek, Poshmark and GSN Games.


Founded in 2011, mobile performance marketing company Yeahmobi has a large mobile affiliate network that can be used to help mobile apps and games find and acquire new users. It has offices across the globe in counhtries including the US, China, Japan and Germany.

Know of other services that you use or provide to app developers to improve their user acquisition? Send your suggestions to

While we’ve covered many of the basics of paid user acquisition types and strategies, there are still a wealth of guides to advertising and user acquisition across the internet. We’ve selected a few of the best ones for you to learn from below. Enjoy!

Got anything you’d like to share that you’ve found useful? Let us know at and we’ll get it added to the list!

Everything you ever wanted to know about paid UA in 2,000 words

Torulf Jernström provides a complete overview of the paid user acquisition space as it stands in 2016.

Mobile gaming user acquisition: 8 best practices from key advertisers

This whitepaper by AdBuddiz shares findings from interviews with ten top mobile gaming advertiser, delving into the most popular forms of UA on mobile

User acquisition basics for every game

PlayFab teaches readers the basics of each type of user acquisition and the keys to success for any UA strategy, including paid.

Mobile user acquisition: what’s really working (and, separating hype from truth)

Mobile ad spending is heading north of $100 billion. This article provides a look at what elements of marketing and UA are working through data analysis.

21 hacks that will improve your user acquisition strategy

V-Play offers a wealth of resources offering advice on both free and paid user acquisition strategies.

The 10 commandments of mobile user acquisition

While this article is from 2013, it provides useful tips to develop an understanding of the user acquisition process and the key concepts you need to understand.

User acquisition is a waste of money, and will eventually kill the mobile games industry

It’s important to know that many types of paid user acquisition aren’t for everyone, as PocketGamer’s own Jon Jordan explains here.

Best mobile ad formats and sizes for display ad campaigns

A look at how each type of mobile ad works and how to select the best type for your mobile marketing campaign.

Six tips for an effective user acquisition strategy

A look at paid and free solutions for getting consumers to play your game

3 things to pay attention to when running user acquisition in India

It’s one of the biggest smartphone markets in the world, so Nadeesh Ramachandran runs through some considerations you should take when committing to UA in India.

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