Mobile games are one of the hottest industries right now with monumental growth in the past few years. Nearly a quarter of all apps downloaded from the Android and iOS app stores are games, with consumers spending reaching sky-high levels. In Q2 of 2022, consumers are set to spend $33 billion on apps, and games are set to account for 65% of all consumer spending (Source: Data.Ai). The gaming industry is booming, with users spending much more time on mobile gaming than they were before the pandemic.
However, while building a mobile game that players love is one aspect of development requiring creativity, time, and dedication, making money from the game is a challenge in itself. For a long time, developers have been looking for the perfect mobile game monetization strategy to generate and scale revenue through mobile games. While there are many game monetization trends for mobile games, not all are scalable enough in the long run. This is why we have compiled a list of the top monetization trends for mobile games that developers should look out for in 2022.
Top Mobile Game Monetization Trends
Mobile games span across genres and audiences and are monetized in a variety of ways. Developers can choose from multiple monetization options to drive revenue through their mobile games. If you want to know how to monetize mobile games, here are the top mobile game monetization trends to look out for.
1. Paid Games
The simplest mobile gaming monetization trend is adding a price tag to the game before players can start playing. Paid games are generating significant revenue in both the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store. Some of the biggest games that are paid are Minecraft, Stardew Valley, Incredibox, Monopoly, and Bloons TD 6.
However, by making the game paid, developers limit their audience numbers considerably, as the vast majority of mobile gamers never spend even a single penny on these games. On the other hand, paid games bring a high-quality audience that might not hesitate to spend more on the game. Overall, paid games work well for established design studios that have a huge player base ready to play their new games. Small-scale game developers often need to look at other monetization trends and keep the games free to play.
Advertisements in mobile games are one of the biggest revenue drivers for game developers. With a plethora of formats available, developers can leverage ads in mobile games to monetize their audience and increase their revenue. Mobile gaming ads have become increasingly popular, more so due to the sudden growth of the mobile gaming industry, driving millions of eyeballs to the smartphone screens and opening up a largely untapped audience for advertisers. Ads in mobile games are also beneficial to drive engagement and, with correct execution, offer an enhanced player experience.
Here are some of the top ad formats developers can utilize in their mobile games:
- Rewarded Ads: The most sought-after ad format in mobile gaming is the rewarded ad format. Rewarded ads offer a choice to the user, where they can watch a video ad and get a reward when it ends or skip it entirely. These rewarded ads offer users a chance to receive in-game currency, additional playing time, the ability to continue the level after failing, or even premium levels. Unlike many other ad formats, users prefer rewarded ads as they offer them a choice to watch or skip, which many other formats do not, and they get a reward once the ad concludes, enhancing their experience. Rewarded ads are a great method to monetize the audience, which otherwise would not spend any money on mobile gaming.
- In-Gaming Blended Ads: While many other ads are displayed over the game interface, in-game ads are blended inside the game itself, closing the gap between the game and the ad. This enables brands and developers to offer a better ad experience to users without disrupting their game experience. These native ads can be displayed using digital banners inside the game, branded in-game items, featured levels, and more. These ads are considered less intrusive by players as they do not hinder their natural game flow and generate higher subconscious retention and engagement. Moreover, these ads bring in premium revenue for developers, as they can directly benefit from a high-quality and quantity player base and charge higher ad rates. We are witnessing increased adoption of these ads as brands are using blended ads to reach their target audiences in-game.
- Interstitial Ads: Ads that generally pop up in-game and cover the entire interface of the device are known as interstitial ads. These ads often allow the users to either skip or exit the ad after a few seconds or otherwise run for some additional time. At the end of the ad, users can either exit the ad to continue playing or engage with the ad and reach its destination. They are often displayed at natural transition points, such as level changes, task completion, or sub-menu exits. While these ads offer better engagement than many formats and thereby higher revenue for developers, many users consider interstitial ads to be extremely intrusive, as they hamper the natural gaming flow.
Source: https://www.goodbarber.com/blog/how-to-display-your-own-ads-in-your-app-a330/ (Recreate left side)
- Playable Ads: Playable ads offer users a chance to try out a different game inside the game they are currently playing. These ads provide minimal game mechanics or storyline to lure the players into engaging with the ad and reaching its destination. While they can be used for any app, this ad format is most commonly used with mobile games. Advertisers often use these ads to drive engagement, increase conversions, and reduce their overall uninstall rate by helping users experience the game before they install it. Developers can get better revenue with playable ads as they are offering an already active and highly relevant user base to these advertisers.
3. Subscription And Freemium Models
While the freemium model has been prevalent for a long time, recent years have also witnessed significant growth in subscriptions. In the freemium model, players need not pay any money to install and play the game. However, they get restricted access to the game, and they can enhance the experience by either doing any in-app purchase or paying a fixed amount for the premium version of the game.
Subscriptions, however, are recurring payments made by the users to gain access to premium content, such as in-game items, levels, or limited edition game mechanics. One of the most common subscription payment modes is game operations or battle passes, which offer users the chance to participate in limited-edition game levels that only occur for a certain time. These battle passes often come with a standard payment, after which players can participate in the event and gain additional rewards and in-game items. Many major games have adopted the battle pass strategy, opening up the gates to regular revenue generation.
4. In-App Purchases
Another extremely common mobile game monetization strategy is driving users towards in-app purchases. In-app purchases enable developers to monetize the audience that may not pay a fee for the base game but might pay for in-game items and other elements. Game developers can offer various in-game elements in exchange for real-world money. These elements can be used by players to enhance their gaming experience. Some of the key types of in-app purchases include game skins (weapons and player models), additional lives, in-game currency, weapon upgrades, and the ability to resume play after failing a level.
In-game purchases are the driving force of revenue generation for mobile games, and we are seeing many games adopt comprehensive strategies around these purchases. For example, many games offer newbie bundles at a steep discount for new players, thereby creating chances of revenue generation right from the beginning. Moreover, many games also offer discounts and sales on their in-app purchases based on real-world events and festivals, including Christmas-themed bundles, a sale on green items on Saint Patrick’s Day, and more.
Finding The Right Mobile Gaming Monetization Strategy
Apart from the top game monetization trends mentioned above, there are many other trends that can be leveraged as secondary revenue generation avenues. For example, many games have built recommendation pipelines, where they recommend certain games to their users and charge the recommended game a fee for advertisement. Many games have also opted for paywalls, where players can start playing the game for free, but it is only available for a certain period. After the free period ends, users can pay a fee to continue playing the game. Games are also adopting paid ad-free access, affiliate marketing, sponsorships, and even real-world merchandising.
However, there is no best mobile monetization strategy that works for all games, genres, and audiences. When picking a monetization strategy, developers need to be wary of how their game will work with the model, how the players will react to it, and how much their revenue can scale through the model. This can be achieved through user segmentation and testing along with thorough competitive research.
With so many options available, it might get confusing for developers to find the right revenue-generating strategy for their mobile games. Fortunately, they can adopt a hybrid strategy by combining many of these trends to churn out the optimum strategy. With meticulous segmentation of players, games can drive higher revenues. For example, while a group of players generates revenue through in-app purchases, another group drives rewarded ads, and this strategy is complemented by a group of players that pay a premium subscription to receive an ad-free experience.
Some of the most common combinations in a hybrid monetization strategy include in-app ads and in-app purchases, subscriptions with in-app purchases, and the combination of all three. Conclusively, through a hybrid approach, developers can utilize the best strategies and scale their mobile gaming revenue.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What are the top mobile game monetization trends for 2022?
Answer: Some of the top mobile game monetization trends that developers can look at are charging an upfront fee to players before they can download the application, showing in-game ads, offering subscriptions and freemium models, and adding in-app purchases.
Question: What are the top ad formats for mobile games?
Answer: There are a number of ad formats that can be used in mobile games, so it all comes down to the game’s genre and audience. The most widely used ad formats in mobile gaming include in-gaming blended ads, interstitial ads, rewarded ads, banner ads, playable ads, and offerwalls.
Question: What is the difference between subscription and freemium games?
Answer: Both subscription and freemium models are designed to generate revenue from users playing the game. The freemium model generally offers a free version of the game to the players, containing minimal game mechanics and limited content, and players have to pay a fee to play the full-fledged game. Subscriptions, on the other hand, charge a recurring fee from the players in exchange for premium content, which can be the whole game, certain levels, or limited edition battle passes.
Question: Which mobile gaming monetization strategy is the best?
Answer: There is no single game monetization strategy that works for all games. Developers need to experiment with different strategies through audience segmentation and A/B testing, through which they can find the strategy that works the best.
Question: Can you use multiple mobile gaming monetization strategies together?
Answer: Yes! Developers can create a hybrid monetization strategy by combining different strategies together. The most common combinations in a hybrid monetization strategy are in-app ads with in-app purchases, subscriptions with in-app purchases, and the combination of all three.