To successfully monetize your mobile game, the first thing you need to do is look at the games that managed to not do the monetization the right way. SEGA’s Sonic Runners is one such game.
Sonic Runners was the first smartphone game in the acclaimed Sonic the Hedgehog game series, and hence the developers had high expectations of it before release. But immediately after release, the game started to get negative reviews. Players started to complain about the game’s predatory monetization strategy and many unsolved bugs.
Eventually, SEGA pulled the game from both the Playstore and the App Store. Later, they issued a statement where they labeled Sonic Runners as a commercial failure.
The failure of Sonic Runners illustrates how a mobile game can fail even if it belongs to a classic franchise.
It also shows the importance of having a solid monetization strategy in your mobile game.
Take a look at the mobile gaming industry statistics. Thousands of games are released on the App Store and Playstore every month. But of these thousands, only a few make a profit. Most of them don’t even break even.
These figures make the need to create a good monetization strategy for your mobile game even more evident.
Because a large percentage of mobile games fail because of bad monetization. Sonic Runners, for instance, wasn’t a bad game in regards to the gameplay. Instead, it was the monetization strategy that led to its failure.
The key to avoiding such a mistake is to create a monetization strategy that is right for your game and its target audience, one that can monetize your mobile game’s players without being predatory.
Below, we have outlined a step-by-step process on how you can develop such a solid strategy:
When it comes to planning monetization, beginner developers fall into one of two extreme ends.
At one end are the developers whose ‘sole’ intention of creating a game is to make money. Though there is nothing wrong with wanting to make money from a game. But you mustn’t put the primary focus on monetization and then design a game around it. The game you create with this approach won’t be a good game and ironically will not monetize.
At the other end are the developers who only think about monetization towards the end. These developers focus solely on the game’s design and development during the planning stages and only consider the monetization aspect when the release time approaches. And by that time, it becomes impossible to monetize your mobile game.
The right way to go about your game’s monetization is to avoid both these approaches. Instead, give both the gameplay and the monetization the importance it needs. You should prioritize your players’ gameplay experience and build the monetization strategy around it. You must also plan the monetization strategy before you write a single line of code.
Take Candy Crush, for example. King, the developers of Candy Crush, have made an impeccable game design around which they have implemented Candy Crush’s monetization.
For example, in Candy Crush, once you have exhausted all your lives, you have to wait for a timer to end before you can play again. You can remove this timer, however, by buying an in-app purchase that gives you additional lives.
Monetization choices like these are one of the reasons why Candy Crush is among the highest-grossing games in the world.
When you devise a monetization strategy, you must also consider your game’s type and target audience. For instance, if your game is a puzzle game targeted towards children, you shouldn’t monetize your mobile game using in-app purchases.
The good news is that nowadays, you have different methods you can use to monetize your mobile game. 5 of them are prevalent monetization models:
Below, we explain each of them in more detail:
In-app purchases are currently the leading monetization method in the mobile market. This method of monetization generates more revenue than all other models.
In-app purchases are purchases your players make in your game to get certain benefits that enhance their gameplay experience. These benefits can be extra lives, new weapons, character skins, special powers, etc.
In-app purchases usually come in two types: consumables and non-consumables.
Consumables are items your player can buy multiple times. Additional lives, healing potions, etc., come under this category.
Non-consumables are items your player can only buy once. Powerful weapons, character skins, etc., come under this category.
You can make both consumable and non-consumable items, only available to those who make in-app purchases. But this approach is no longer favored.
Suppose your game is an RPG. You can design several weapons and special powers in your game that your players can purchase. However, if the only way players can get these items is by buying them, a large percentage of your player base won’t like it and will likely leave your game.
But if you let your players get the same items by grinding in the game, your players won’t have this problem. Some of the players who don’t pay at first may start paying later.
Once you choose to monetize your mobile game with IAPs and have created your in-app purchases, you should configure them in the App Store and Playstore. In the App Store, you must go to the App Connect section and in the Play Store to the Google Developers account. From both these places, you can configure each in-app purchase in your game by type, price, etc.
In-game advertisements are another commonly used strategy to make money from your mobile game. The in-game advertisement model is one of the chief reasons most of today’s mobile games are free-to-play.
There are many types of in-game advertisements you can use in your game:
Banner ads are ads you display in a specified area in your players’ game screen during gameplay. As banner ads are present during the gameplay, players quickly notice them. However, for the same reasons, players also consider this ad format as intrusive.
Interstitial ads are full-screen ads you display between transitions in your mobile game (like between two game levels.) Unlike banner ads, players can close interstitial ads by clicking a close button, and hence players consider them less intrusive.
Reward Ads are video ads that your players can watch to get an in-game benefit, like extra lives or coins, as a reward. Compared to many other types of ads, Reward ads have high levels of engagement.
Playable ads are ads in the form of games that your players can play from within your game. Usually, playable ads are ads for other mobile games and consist of one or two levels from the said game. Playable ads are another form of ad with high levels of player engagement.
The key to monetizing your mobile game with in-game advertisements is choosing the proper ad formats for your game and its target audience. If you don’t do so, your players will find your ads intrusive, and your player engagement and retention rates will be low. So, conduct a careful analysis of your target audience and devise your game’s monetization strategy accordingly.
Once you have picked the suitable ad formats and planned ways to incorporate them into your game, the next step is to choose an ad network for your game. An ad network will act as a medium between you and advertisers.
Suppose your game is targeted towards young women, and you have configured interstitial ads in them. Now suppose a woman’s make-up brand whose target audience is the same has a set of interstitial ads. Since the ad space in your game and the requirements of the make-up brand match, the ad network will automatically link your game with the brand’s ads. And the ad network will show the make-up brand’s ads in your game to your players.
There are numerous ad networks out there. You can start with any of the ones below:
Subscriptions are benefits your players can get for some time (usually monthly) for a price. Typically, subscriptions get automatically renewed once the period is over, and players can enjoy benefits as long as they keep paying.
Many users prefer subscriptions over other forms of payments because they can enjoy many perks with a single purchase. It also helps them be conscious of how much they are spending.
You can include multiple subscriptions in your game. You can include different benefits with different subscriptions and price them at different levels accordingly.
For example, suppose your game is a first-person shooter, and you choose to include 3 different subscription bundles. The first bundle, Subscription A, gives players ten additional lives, three new weapons, and 5000 coins for $3 every month. The second bundle, Subscription B, offers players five lives, one new weapon, and 2000 coins for $2 every month. Finally, the third bundle, Subscription C, offers players three additional lives and 1000 coins, but no new weapon, for $1 every month.
When you offer such a diverse range of options, your players will be free to choose the subscription bundle which most matches their needs. For example, players who don’t want to spend much can choose the $1 bundle. At the same time, players who don’t mind paying a bit can choose the $3 option.
Once you have created your subscriptions, you can configure them in the App Store and Playstore. To configure for the App Store, you select the option ‘Renewable Subscription’ in App Connect to add your subscriptions. Meanwhile, for the Playstore, you add subscriptions from the Subscriptions tab in your Google Developer Account.
The paid model is the traditional game monetization model. Under this model, you monetize your mobile game by asking your players to buy your game by making a single upfront payment and then enjoying your game for as long as they want without paying anything additional.
The popularity of the paid monetization model has declined in recent years due to the rise of free-to-play mobile games. But several mobile games, like Monument Valley, Minecraft, and Terraria, have become financially successful by following the paid model.
These financial successes are because there are plenty of mobile gamers who prefer to pay just once to enjoy a game forever. So, if you think the type of game, you develop is one that your players would like to make an upfront payment for, you can go ahead.
You can configure your paid monetization method from App Connect and Google Developer Account with ease.
The mixed monetization model is any method where you use multiple monetization methods in combination.
Using in-app purchases and in-game advertisements in the same game is the most common way for you to do this.
For example, if your game is a puzzle game, you can let your players buy additional lives via in-app purchases. You can also allow players to get extra lives by letting them watch reward ads.
Another method is to make your game’s first level free to play but unlock further levels behind a single in-app purchase.
A third method is to allow your players to remove all in-game ads by making a one-time in-app purchase.
If these combinations are not suitable for your game, then you can experiment with those of your own. Just make sure the mixed monetization strategy you choose for your mobile game is apt for it.
Once you have configured your monetization strategy in your game, it’s time to test it. By testing, you can find out areas where you have gone wrong and need to either improve. Conversely, by testing, you can also find out if the monetization is working correctly.
For instance, as soon as your player purchases your game, they must enjoy the benefits from the purchase they made, whether it be extra lives or healing potions. And the game should deduct only the right amount from their account. By testing, you can identify if both the in-game benefits and the payment system are working correctly.
In addition, by testing, you can also find out if your game’s monetization is intrusive or not. For example, your testers can assess if your ads appear at correct intervals or if the in-game purchases are too demanding.
In short, if you consider your mobile game’s monetization as a puzzle, then testing is a crucial piece in it.
No matter how much effort you put to monetize your mobile game, you can always find ways to improve it.
And game analytics software can help you do this. With game analytics, you can get data on how your players are responding to your monetization methods.
Are they completely ignoring certain in-app purchases? Are they reacting negatively towards a particular ad format? Or are they not buying your subscriptions?
You can identify areas like these where you can improve.
By identifying, you also get the opportunity to do A/B testing to tweak your monetization strategy further. Like, if a particular type of in-app purchase is not doing well, you can see if replacing it with a new type would be better.
To do this, you can segment the audience into two: A and B. To audience A, you introduce the new in-app purchase. While for audience B, you don’t.
Once you do this, you can use analytics to check how they both perform. For example, if you find out that audience A responds warmly towards the new in-app purchase, you can decide to discard the old one and replace it with the new better performing one. If not, you can continue to experiment.
Similarly, you can also use segmentation to test different forms of monetization on different sets of users. For example, to the players who make many in-app purchases, you can offer exclusive in-app purchases. And to players who don’t pay at all, you can show more ads.
When you tweak and improve your mobile game’s monetization strategy like this, you get better retention and engagement rates and, as a result, better revenue as well.
Monetizing your mobile game is hard. It requires you to carefully research, plan, implement, test, and tweak.
But the effort is worth it.
Because the mobile game industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. In 2020, Statista estimates it was worth $77.2 billion. Some top games were earning millions every year.
If your game is an excellent mobile game with a solid monetization strategy, your game too can become one of the biggest earners in the industry. So, monetize your mobile game wisely.
Juego Studios is a team of android game developers who have developed 150+ games. Our team of 200+ has created games for both Android and iOS platforms for our clients from around the world.