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.