How to Drive Cost Efficient, Highly Qualified Game Installs

tresensaWinter is almost here. And along with the foul weather comes bleak news that the cost-per-install (CPI) fees for driving native game app store downloads are set to double or even triple to the $8 to $10 CPI range within the next twelve months, largely driven by social casino companies with large, ever growing war chests to spend acquiring new users.

The escalating costs of app store discovery will finally force game studios to seek out alternative and creative ways to market their games. The status quo will simply not cut it anymore.

One of those alternatives is already starting to gain traction, offering studios the opportunity to get millions of game plays and drive highly qualified installs at the same time.

Mobile web gaming has come of age. The future of mobile game discovery lies with extending gaming content (not just a static ad for the game) outside of just the traditional app stores and into user rich areas like mobile media sites, blogs, social networks, chat services, browser content stores, and even inside of other native apps. Instead of users needing to go to an app store to find games, the games will find the users wherever they are consuming their media. Major media companies, web publishers and game portals that already have large mobile audiences are now looking to further engage their users with native-quality HTML5 game content. And what better way is there to get a qualified install of your game than to have them actually play your game. It is the “try before you buy” approach to mobile marketing.

So how does this work? Game studios attract game players by letting them experience and get hooked on a game before they download the app.

• The studio builds, or works with one of the emerging set of HTML5 game studios to build, a “lite” version of their mobile app game in HTML5 to support a no-download, ‘tap-to-play’ experience.

• The “lite” game is distributed throughout the mobile web in a non-incentivized manner through one of a growing set of mobile web game distribution companies (my company, TreSensa, included). The game is accessed by users throughout the mobile web as gaming content.

• The “lite” game offers limited free play (e.g., the first few levels of the native game, the tutorial, etc.) on a non-incentivized basis, then at game over prompts download of the native app to play the full version of the game.

• The studio pays their selected distribution partner only when the user who has played the “lite” version of the game has downloaded the full native app version.

In addition to the high-value users acquired through the mobile web, studios get the added benefit of brand awareness generated by those who play the “lite” game but don’t elect to install it – at no cost.

To bring the above points to life, here is an example of how PuzzleSocial, a mobile game studio based in NYC, has successfully leveraged the mobile web for its business. PuzzleSocial is the studio behind Daily Celebrity Crossword, one of the most successful crossword games in the app stores. This spring PuzzleSocial created a lite HTML5 version of their game and began testing distribution on the mobile web. In less than four months and with a limited rollout without any paid traffic, the game has generated over 320,000 unique game plays. More importantly, roughly 10% of the people playing the HTM5 version of the game on the mobile web are then making the decision, completely un-incentivized, to download the full version of the game for permanent residence on their device. This is the ultimate qualified user.

The mobile web is completely untapped in terms of marketing potential for native apps. Because mobile web games are distributed via a URL, games are always just one tap away from being played, and once your game is being played, that is when you as a studio can really start to build your audience and your business. The time is now for innovative, forward-thinking game studios to gain an early-mover advantage on the emerging mobile web opportunity, which includes driving qualified, ROI-positive native app downloads. What are you waiting for?

Rob Grossberg, the author of this post, is CEO of TreSensa