InAppFuel’s Ilya Nikolayev talks mobile monetization


One of the more intriguing panels at this year’s inaugural Inside Mobile Apps conference (New York; December 3-4) will be Mobile Monetization: How to convert free to play into paying customers.

One of the speakers scheduled will be Ilya Nikolayev, a social and mobile vet whose mini-game monetization product, InAppFuel, launched just last week.

Inside Mobile Apps caught up with Nikolayev to find out more about his new unique brand, how it works, and why he thinks it will help drive both engagement and monetization to the games that utilize its functionality.

Inside Mobile Apps: How did the idea for InAppFuel first come about?

Ilya Nikolayev: I’ve been in the social and mobile space for a while. I launched a Facebook app called Family Tree back in 2007, and it was one of the top non-gaming apps on the Facebook platform for a while.  Ran that company between 2007 and 2011, raised venture capital along the way, and then finally exited that company in 2011. I started to look at mobile and built some mobile games, and as part of operating our own games, we were trying to figure out how to better monetize them. We went out and started looking at what some of the bigger players were doing on the monetization front, so we started looking at the Zynga Pokers of the world and so forth, and we saw that they were using mini-games within their games to drive revenue. We saw how these mini-games are often the top purchases within the product, so as a developer, we started looking around to see if there was a service that would offer this to developers. If you don’t have the resources to spend a couple of months to build this within your game, was there a company out there that would provide this for you? We realized that this service didn’t exist and that there was a big market opportunity for this service. So the idea behind InAppFuel is we provide these mini-games to drive revenue and engagement within your games. Think of things like the free daily spin or the free daily ticket, things that get you coming back more often, and getting a percentage of those users to become paid customers.

Image via InAppFuel

IMA: How long were you testing the product before launch?

IN: We had been beta testing for a couple of months, and then we just launched the site to the public last week. It’s an exciting time for us because now as a developer, you can download the SDK, you can setup everything you need without any handholding from us. Obviously, we’re happy to help if need be, but at this point, we set it up as a self-service tool.

IMA: At the Inside Mobile Apps conference, you’ll be speaking about how to flip free to play gamers into paying customers. How do you see the mini-games InAppFuel provides as key to driving this monetization?

IN: I think the mini-games certainly help. If you look at Zynga Poker, Bejeweled, and The Simpsons from Electronic Arts as three examples, they have these little time trial mini-games that work well for them. We saw these really big developers doing well with this, so we thought it was a good idea to try and even the playing field for the smaller and mid-size guys who don’t have the resources to build these mini-games. We also think that there’s an engagement component too, as not all games have daily activities, so if you integrate a little mini-game, and you know you have your free spin of the day, it helps to drive people back to the product in addition to whatever features you might also have to drive people back daily. We think the mini-games are a big help in terms of digital monetization.

IMA: What games can I see InAppFuel in right now?

IN: We’ve got a few games that we’re broadcasting out as being live, and we also have a few folks who are testing the product out right now confidentially. We’re also in discussion with a bunch of different companies, as we’ve only been live for a week, but we’re really excited about the feedback that we’ve heard. All of the people who have seen the product, think it’s a great product and a great idea, and they really like that it can be plugged in and ready after spending a few hours with it as opposed to it being a few months in development. If you’re adding slots, you need to work through the payout tables and the odds and conversion rates and all that stuff, so the advantage of our product is you plug in the SDK and you’re up and running in a couple of hours.

IMA: Who do you see as your biggest competitor right now?

IN: Funny enough, we don’t have any competitors right now who do mini-games. There are a bunch of B2B companies out there that offer ad networks and cross-promotion units and discounts on your existing IPs, but there’s nobody who provides additional IPs through mini-games. As of right now, we don’t really have any direct competition, and if anything we might actually look to work with the other B2B folks in terms of adding additional functionality into their SDK. But I think the existing B2B folks are pretty focused right now on the ad side. If you look at PlayHaven, for example, you can use some of their cross-promotion tools, but in exchange, they want to plug in their ad network.

If you look at mobile, it’s getting to be a really crowded space, especially with Apple just announcing that there are now over 1 million apps. It’s a pretty exciting time to see how busy the space is.