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Lessons from Lockdown: Making Casual Games in a Covid-19 World

In September we ran the first webinar in our Toolbox series: making casual games in a Covid-19 world. Joined by our friends at Adjust and TopOn, we covered what we’ve spotted, how to grow your casual game and how to advertise during the pandemic. Don’t worry if you missed it. You can catch the recordings and read up on the talks in this blog.

It’s been an odd few months. Over that time, we’ve noticed a dramatic shift in the gaming industry: we’ve never seen so much playtime, traffic is at an all-time high and some countries have really surprised us. So we thought it’d be worth sharing the key metrics and banding together with Adjust and TopOn to give you some advice on how to make sure it’s your game beneath those idle thumbs.

The webinar had three main sessions:

  • an update on the state of the gaming industry
  • a talk on how to use your data to grow your game
  • a lesson about developing your advertising strategy.

Casual gaming in 2020: What’s the data saying?

Our CEO, Ioana Hreninciuc, kicked things off by going over the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for casual games, including retention, session length and Cost Per Install (CPI). She also tackled the rise of hypercasuals in 2020, and discussed the key regional differences (for example, how did Asia compare to Europe?).

Ultimately, this should help you figure out how your game is performing compared to others in your genre. And you can expect to learn which genres are winning the war for those thumbs. Here are a few highlights.

Since lockdown, playtime has consistently grown by 15%

It’s now starting to return to normal. But we saw that over the summer, people were playing more and more games. The lockdown period saw people making more time for playtime, as we didn’t see much difference between the weekends and the weekdays.

Android has lower Day-7 retention than iOS

Specifically, hypercasual games had a 50% higher D7 retention on iOS than on Android. We suspect this is partly because there are more errors on Android devices. There are a lot more app stores and devices, especially in Asia, which can make it difficult to test for every eventuality.

But Android has more playtime and session counts

It seems that Android users come back for fewer days, but on those days they return more often and cram in more play.

Ioana recommends that to make the most of your game, you should measure your life-time value directly, test more on Android devices, expand into Asia and be aware of seasonal changes.

You can discover the key facts and see where your game sits in the grand scheme of things by using Benchmarks+. Try out our free tier.

A quarantined world: reaching the at-home mobile gamer

Next on the agenda was Stephanie Pilon, the global director of product and field marketing at Adjust. She looked at how monetization models, mechanics and player’s behaviour have changed. And how you can keep up with the pace.

She shared the successful marketing techniques that hypercasual games have been using, which business models work and three strategies you can use for yourself. Here are a few highlights.

Gaming installs increased 75%

Comparing the first quarter of 2020 to the same time in 2019, there was a massive increase. In fact, March alone saw a 132% increase. And a single week of March, we saw a whopping 1.2 billion mobile games downloaded.

Most of this is driven by hypercasual games

Because hypercasual games are so easy to pick up, small enough to be downloaded on the dodgiest connection and completely free (they use ads), they’re driving around 80% of all installs. But hypercasual games do something else, too. Companies cross-advertise their other titles, keeping gamers on their games. You can finish one hypercasual game from a developer and immediately move onto the next game in their portfolio.

If you make sure that you focus on using your data correctly, push your other games and keep communicating with your players, you can learn a lot from how hypercasual games function.

They have two reports that you can download. Or you can relive the video and get the slides here.

Monetization for different markets

Last – but not least – we had Harry Yang, the chief marketing officer from TopOn. He explained how countries overseas have been advertising their games and what we can learn from them, as well as how you should develop a strategy and how ad mediation might help.

Every market is different. And the more you understand different  cultural and global trends, the more effectively you can advertise your game. So by the end of Harry’s talk, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to plan your advertising strategy.

There’s an opportunity to make money

Ad revenue is predicted to hit $45 billion by 2023. Japan is the highest earner here, along with the US, South Korea and China. In fact, the Chinese market is likely to reach $4 to $7 billion in 2020, with estimates at around $10 to £20 million a day.

It definitely seems like Asia is a market worth considering expanding into.

The less entertainment, the more people turn to gaming

This is a trend that’s spreading across the world, including Japan, China and South Korea. As companies find it increasingly difficult to create films and movies, games are easily becoming the new medium that people are using to entertain themselves. So we expect to see downloads and revenue hitting a new peak this year.

Always check international laws before you expand

For example, there’s a huge opportunity to make money advertising in China. But you need to allow more time in your development cycle. Games can’t have political, military, national or religious content in them. If you’re making a simple or mini-game (like a puzzle, sports or music game), you’ll need to allow 20 days for the Chinese government to approve it. If you’re making a larger game, like an adventure game, this process can take over three months. Bear this in mind if you’re thinking of expanding.

If you’d like to learn more about how to monetize your games, you can watch the full recording and download their report here.

Get the full talks

It’s all online. So if you’d like to watch the full recording, along with all the questions we answered, sign up and register.