When It Comes to Game Development, Think Monetization First – Not Last

Often when I talk to new game developers in the mobile space, they tell me about their awesome game ideas and novel game mechanics. I really enjoy listening to them and contributing to their ideas where I can. However, after they’re ready to launch, or even after they launch and start accumulating users, they tend to ask: “Ok, now how do I make money?”

For some new game developers, making money seems to be just a service/extra layer you add to your game, but in reality, it should be a core part of your game mechanics. There’s a huge difference between adding your monetization layer at the end versus thinking how the monetization affects or even influences your game mechanics from the beginning.

Think about it this way: would you create your game, get it ready to push to the App Store, and then decide that you want to add the option for a new power-up? Adding power-ups randomly to each level would most likely feel weird and probably unbalance your game, as well as create a bad PX. The same is true for your monetization strategy, and even more so, if it relies heavily on ads that must be incorporated into the experience.

Video ads offer a powerful way to engage users while still maintaining a quality user experience. As you consider bringing ads into your monetization strategy, here’s a look at which options are available to you:

  • Interstitial: This placement occurs during a natural breaking point – or, as you might call it, the “dead zones” in your game – such as in-between levels. Why there? Because you don’t want to stop your game action and force an ad into gameplay. (And even if you place your ad in the right place, you should really try to cap the frequency to avoid frustrating players.)
  • Opt-in interstitial: This ad format can be shown to players in exchange for something they might find useful to progress in their game: for instance, for an extra life or a special power-up that will make it easier for them to clear a difficult level. Offering them the choice to watch an ad, versus making it a requirement, will help users gain trust in you. The same goes for IAP. Offering a dungeon map IAP that helps you find hidden treasure or additional health (i.e. useful items that will help the player in their quest) is far more effective than offering the key to dungeon – forcing users to pay to proceed. When considering opt-in ads or IAP in a multiplayer game, make sure the extra items do not give a noticeable advantage to either player. That will create tension between your players and distrust in you, the gamemaker. Opt-in interstitials can be very successful – a study by the Mobile Marketing Association found that value-exchange ads had a higher CTR than non-rewarded interstitials or mobile linear video.
  • Special placements: This is a special type of opt-in ad, where you leverage the ease of integration and customization from a provider like Vungle and provide a unique way to trigger the ad viewing experience, completely customized to your gameplay.

Don’t let monetization become an afterthought

From the beginning of the design process, think about how you want to include monetization, especially if you’re considering IAP or ads. Take a look at your game, find the distraction points, and be careful not to introduce elements that will break your game’s balance and possibly result in bad reviews and unhappy customers.

Ultimately, keeping players happy and engaged is your primary goal. Friends and family are the single biggest source of how people discover mobile games. Monetization done right, and brought into the game at the conception phase, can enhance the player’s experience and keep them singing your praises.

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Vungle's marketing team members have experience in gaming monetization, performance marketing, brand advertising, mobile analytics, app development and SaaS. We're former attorneys, journalists, research analysts, financial advisors and product managers. We are committed to producing content that helps brands and publishers across all verticals and industries grow their mobile businesses.

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