Optimizing Game Design for Ad Monetization

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The mobile game industry has exploded since the launch of the App Store in 2008 with countless new titles appearing every day and ample opportunity for strong advertising revenue. However, not everyone has succeeded in making a profit from their marketing efforts. Sure, Words with Friends, Solitaire, and Candy Crush Saga have done it, but many developers fail to see a strong return on their investment. Here are some tips to consider and how to choose the right type of ad formats for your game.

Casual Games Work Best
What is the common trend among the highest earning games? They are designed for wide audiences rather than a specific demographic. Most casual games are easily marketable, with asynchronous turn-based games like Words With Friends being best for full-screen and video ads. Other casual titles can be just as successful with banner and native ads as long as they don’t interfere with the user experience.

Second, when designing your game it’s important to make it very user friendly to a global audience. While it’s great if you have a hit title in the US, the player base for most mobile titles is larger in foreign countries like China, Japan, and Korea. Mobile game developers like Pocket Gems highlight on their website that 70% of their players are outside the US and a 2013 report by App Annie on the most successful mobile games based on revenue reported that Puzzles and Dragons, developed by GungHo Online came from Japan. The same report, also mentions that game revenue for freemium games resulted in 93% of profit compared to premium titles, a good point to consider when setting pricing.

The other benefit of designing your game for a global market besides a larger audience is the opportunity to reach a broad range of affluent people not typically associated with playing mobile games resulting in a win-win situation for advertisers. For instance, before the iPhone, Nintendo was very successful with the DS and Wii because they targeted people outside the hardcore gamer market (some who never played any video games before) with their casual titles like Wii Sports, Brain Age, and Nintendo Dogs which paid off big time for them.

Types of Mobile Ad Formats
Now that you know how to market your game, let’s talk about which ad formats work best for mobile. These three are the most common:

Full Screen Interstitials: With this type of ad format you have quite a bit of variety. One of the simplest and most effective ways is to mimic the YouTube model and offer short video advertisements. Another variation is a large rich media image that covers the screen briefly to showcase advertisement. This type of format is quite popular on mobile and can bring great results as long as the timing of the ad placement doesn’t feel forced.

Banner Ads: These have the greatest reach and scale of any ad unit allowing you to reach millions of players. Unfortunately, they do not perform as well as other ad formats. The types of banners include adhesion, expandable, pull, and slider. Each one has their own unique set of pros and cons depending on how they are used. However, some games do quite well like Flappy Bird which generated $50,000 a day during its prime.

Native Ads: This is the hot new trend in mobile advertising and it has proven to be quite successful. Facebook, being the best example with its user-friendly design and huge multi-billion dollar ad revenue. Native ads work great because they blend in seamless with game design and don’t intrude on the user experience.

By paying attention to mobile trends, tailoring your title to a global audience, and choosing the correct ad format, the process of optimizing game design for ad monetization doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. With effective ad design, mobile game developers can increase their chances of standing out from everyone else and become successful generating a profit through word of mouth.

Shawn Aguilar, the author of this post, is Digital Marketing Manager at TapSense