Facebook Ads – Analyzing English-Speaking User Acquisition for Game Developers

[Editor’s note: In the article below Adparlor chief executive Hussein Fazal discusses data his company is seeing around user acquisition on the Facebook platform through the Ads API.]

In previous articles, we have discussed the factors that affect user acquisition pricing overall and the interesting sub-topic around the rising cost of user acquisition over time. In this guest post, we will examine user acquisition in the “big four” English speaking countries – United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Most Facebook games launch in English and many of them remain exclusively in English. So the goal of this analysis is to determine the ‘market attractiveness’ of these four countries by looking at three key indicators – available volume, advertiser competition, and user quality.

Available Volume

Looking at the table below, we can see that the United States makes up a large portion of the overall population and the Facebook population relative to the other three. This also translates when we compare the number of targetable game players in these countries. In fact, out of approximately 60 million targetable game players across these four countries, the United States encompasses 74% or almost 45 million of these users. (Note that targetable game players is different from total game players as Facebook ads allows you to target users who “like” the game – and not all of the games users.)

Many application developers, upon launching their game, focus strictly on the United States given the large user base available.

However, it is of course not just the user base that matters. Outside of the big four – there are many countries that have a significant Facebook population and consequently a large game player community. We also need to take a look at how competitive it is in advertising to these users versus how valuable they really are.

Advertiser Competition

For any particular country, the competitive landscape around Facebook ads is always changing. Tens of thousands of small advertisers constantly modify their ad spend – while the power players with large budgets strategically ramp up and slow down their marketing efforts at often unpredictable times. While the general consensus is that competition is increasing overall across Facebook Ads and that CPC bids are rising, we see that effective creative/copy along with efficient micro-targeting can still result in cost-per-install pricing being just as competitive as it was over a year ago.

Successful game developers will dig deep at the micro level and examine the competition specifically for targetable game players – and even deeper to determine the competition for players of their particular game genre. Trying to advertise a city-building game when other large advertisers are bidding on those same keywords will significantly increase the competition for those impressions, increasing CPC prices, and hence the cost of user acquisition.

Given that the market for game specific advertising is always changing, it is difficult to predict how much competition you will run up against when starting your campaign. However, some analysis can be done at the macro-level. We see that competition within a country remains relatively consistent over short time periods – with the exception of holidays like Christmas. Hence, by following CPI prices at several points over the past few months from the millions of acquisitions delivered for Adparlor’s gaming clients, we have been able to come up with a relative competition scale for all four countries on Facebook. The graph to the right has been normalized to give the US a relative competition score of 1.00 so we focus on the difference between the United States and other English speaking countries. We can see from the graph above that the US is in fact the most competitive and Canada is the least competitive. The section below on user quality points to why this is the case.