It’s often said that the great challenge for mobile games these days is discovery — standing out amidst a sea of other mobile titles, and somehow becoming the game that people download and play. Really, though, that’s not the entire problem — it does a company little good if a hundred million people download a game but the game doesn’t monetize. Ultimately, it’s monetization that pays the salaries of everyone in the game industry, not downloads. At the recent Gaming Insiders Summit, CEO Jon Walsh of Fuse Powered offered some insights into optimizing monetization — indeed, Reinventing Monetization for mobile games was the name of his talk.
“The industry is just scratching the surface of what a freemium business model means, how to implement it, and how to monetize in a way that encompasses the entire player lifecycle and gives players a great experience,” Walsh explained. “This is genuinely possible and is the next evolution of the freemium model: players pay to experience a game in the way they want to experience it.”
Walsh began by explaining what’s all too often wrong about how mobile game publishers approach monetization. “There’s too much data,” Walsh noted, “and you don’t know how to use it to make a better game experience.” Modern analytics make it possible to collect mountains of data about how people play a game,yet it’s in the proper analysis of that data you find better monetization. It’s not necessary to collect every possible scrap of data, and indeed that can make analysis more difficult. Asking the right questions is the most important task.
What’s happening in the industry is not just increasing sophistication on the part of the publishers when it comes to gathering data, Walsh argued, but it’s also increasing sophistication on the part of the audience — and increasing expectations.”Give players what they want and expect, and do it quickly,” Walsh said. That’s what they increasingly expect — and demand — from mobile games.
Walsh pointed out that there are two main sources of monetization in free-to-play mobile games: in-app purchases (IAP) and ads. Both are important, though all too often publishers neglect the potential for advertising in mobile games. Many times publishers seem to be cautious about advertising because they fear it might harm the game experience for a large part of the audience. “You have to take ads seriously, because in most games than can be a material source of revenue,” Walsh said. “Players want rewarded video,” he added, because many players are restricted in what they can spend. For that sizable segment of the audience, mobile ads are a benefit that they appreciate, not something they skip past.
While publishers worry about retention of players, there’s more to the concern than just keeping players around longer to have more chances to get their money. “Engagement drives monetization,” noted Walsh. “The reverse is also true — without a great monetization strategy you will lose players. In fact, it’s a cycle.” This is most clearly seen when players have opportunities to move forward in a game, and there’s something they can buy that will help them achieve something important in the game. Yes, they won’t get to that point if the game is not engaging — but they may not keep playing if they don’t see a way to get what they want. If you don’t make the right offer at the right time, you could be harming retention.
The way to maximize monetization, in Walsh’s view, is to customize it to the needs of the individual player. “We are in an era of personalization. People want to be unique,” Walsh said. “Players are diverse — they want different things at different times. It’s not just minnows and dolphins and whales, but lots of variations and we have to be able to react to that.”
The answer lies in the tools that are available. “Technology cam help create a playbook to drive more revenue,” Walsh pointed out. You have to understand your players, create segments around those players, and deliver the right offers at the right moments to the right players . “You have to measure the right things — a few will give you a lot of control.”
The options for your playbook depend on the game, as the illustration shows. For instance, a simple puzzle game that has a huge volume but no IAP should focus on advertising. A game like Candy Crush Saga, that has high engagement and massive volume but a low conversion rate should be looking at special offers as well as advertising that allows players to help earn power-ups. Something like Hearthstone, which has high engagement, high conversion, and a high average spend, should be looking to larger offers that have a strong value to the players.
Walsh summed it up this way: “Define the player path, present specific offers, adapt to your players, and give them what they each want.” Good advice for marketers looking to make the most from their games.