User acquisition - or UA to those in the know - is the driving force for mobile game marketing.
Speaking at the App Promotion Summit in Berlin, Kaya Taner, CEO of German UA company AppLift reckons that we're currently into the third wave of the business.
It all kicked off in 2011, with a scattergun approach whereby companies spent ten of thousands of dollars to try and gain app store chart position - often through changing the price of games from paid to free.
It's getting better
As free-to-play games became more important, and the technology of user tracking matured, things changed with companies looking to get the largest amount of traffic for the smallest cost. This model was particularly characterised by incentivised downloads.
In 2013, however, Taner reckons that the industry is now focused on generating ROI-positive campaigns, rather than just spraying marketing money across all advertising networks.
"It's all about non-intrusive campaigns, and working across many channels but closely looking at results on a per channel basis," he explains.
In this way, smart developers are constantly tweaking their campaigns on a channel basis to get the best results.
However, even with robust pre- and post-install tracking, there is still a time lag before it becomes clear what the LifeTime Value of users from different channels is. Most users take days to make their first IAP.
For this reason, developers currently have to use what Taner called "early proxies for LTV".
Maybe work in this area will kick off the fourth wave of UA in 2014?