Finding the right mobile game monetization partner

April 11, 2022 Unity Technologies

 

This article is a recap of Monetization that grows with you, a Pocket Gamer session presented by Andrew Brock, Senior Director of Product Management at Unity. 

 

Creating an exciting game will be one of the main goals of any mobile developer, but you may also need to support your studio with a reliable source of revenue so you can get the funds required to keep making the games your players love and expanding them to new heights.

For those thinking about monetizing their game, it can be very overwhelming as the world of mobile advertising continues to evolve at an increasingly fast pace. Developers are up against changing regulations, growing industry consolidation, getting a return on their time spent monetizing, and setting the right goals for their studio. 

 

The complex new world of monetization 

The ads industry continues to experience monumental changes which are fundamentally shifting developer monetization strategies. 

For the last several years, monetization teams have been separate from development teams. Today, they’re starting to come together as studios tie their monetization goals with their business goals to drive long term, sustainable growth which is changing the mobile gaming world. 

Monetization strategies are being taken far more seriously as ad tech has become a driving force for innovation by bringing free gaming to the masses while creating a profitable business model that funds creators of all sizes.

Here’s what developers can look for in a monetization partner to better prepare for industry challenges and achieve their goals.

 

Four mobile game monetization challenges

1. Changing regulations 

There are numerous regulations and policies to keep on top of from COPPA, GDPR, LGPD, iOS14, iOS15, PIPL, and many more. New legislation is being introduced and existing ones are being changed every year as legal interpretation constantly evolves. 

The number of regulations and the frequency in which they’re changed or updated can be overwhelming if you aren’t up to date or don’t have legal counsel to support you. Privacy will become even more important and you will want a partner that helps you prepare for this unpredictable environment.

What to consider: How are partners reacting to regulations and how quickly are they responding to the changes? Pick a monetization partner you can trust to help you address these challenges instead of complicating them. 

For example, a proactive partner will provide you with the information you need to prepare for and address these changes well in advance. Look at their technical documentation or online resources to understand how they have helped other developers and how much lead time they gave.

 

2. Growing industry consolidation

Every year there are more announcements about consolidations that impact developers and the industry as a whole as there are fewer independent monetization partners to choose from. 

Massive industry consolidations are happening in four main ways:

  • Studios acquiring other studios 

  • Studios acquiring ad tech companies

  • Acquisition of neutral ad tech and game services by game studio companies

  • Large industry enterprises acquiring smaller studios

What does this mean for the everyday developer? As the pool for monetization partners shrink, how do you make sure your information isn’t being used to compete against you? How will it impact you if some of your partners either get acquired or acquire others?

What to consider: As large studios acquire new tech and capabilities, smaller studios should choose a long term partner that has their best interests in mind. Investigate who you work with and who they are affiliated with and consider their long term motives. Does it align with your studio’s values and business goals?  

 

3. Return on time spent monetizing

Tools and technology in the mobile gaming industry advance at a breakneck pace and the playbook for getting a sustainable return on investment changes as user behaviors evolve. 

Keeping yourself and your team up-to-date doesn’t just happen by accident and investing in education in new tools and technologies is an important part of generating sustainable revenue growth.

As well, the monetization needs of your studio are going to change over time with the lifecycle of your game and the return you get from monetization or paid user acquisition will ebb and flow. 

You’ll need to understand how to adjust your monetization strategy to meet your specific goals at different phases throughout your game’s lifecycle. Typically, the one and a half year mark is when mobile games get the highest volume of daily active users (DAUs). After that, you might see a decrease in users, and will get a different return on investment. 

A new game with a small user base, for example, may only need to work with a single monetization partner to fill their requests and obtain a good yield. As your adoption begins to grow, it will be worth the effort to add more partners and build a more effective monetization strategy, such as setting various eCPM targets for different geographies. 

You’ll need to understand how to balance the number of network SDKs you want to integrate and maintain while also evaluating how those decisions impact your player lifetime value (LTV) and overall yield.

 

 

There are critical tradeoffs between how much time and effort you spend monetizing versus developing based on your game’s size and what lifecycle stage it’s at.

What to consider: Ensure you have the right information to understand when to scale your monetization strategy and time to invest into it. When does it make sense to scale back to ensure you’re getting the best return on time spent? 

A developer’s primary focus is building the game itself and any time that’s taken from this needs to have intent and purpose. Choose a partner that can help you better understand the lifecycle of your game and optimize your monetization strategy to increase your return. 

 

4. Balancing company goals and monetization

Developer goals should expand beyond “maximizing monetization revenue”. Developers must be setting monetization goals that align with their specific studio goals, which will vary from studio to studio and even game to game. 

Today, it’s common for developers to have a wide array of goals, like retaining players, growing in app purchases, acquiring new users, managing crashes, or implementing multiplayer strategies. Some developers, for example, want to minimize ads, but hit cashflow goals.

What to consider: How are you balancing these strategies in your own games? Ask yourself about your studio goals versus just your monetization goals. Monetization should be a strong component of your strategy, but how you monetize should be based on a deeper strategic foundation. 

 

Choosing a partner that’s invested in your success 

As you grow your game, consider who your partners are and how they’ll help you where you need it most. 

  • Who is going to help you navigate the regulatory environment to reduce risk and achieve continued success?

  • In a world of acquisitions and consolidations, where do you feel safe participating, and what protections do you need to put in place to support your long term interests?

  • How are you going to spend your time monetizing to get the best return on time spent?

  • How are you going to balance monetization goals against business goals?

Unity Mediation is just one part of what we’re doing to help solve industry challenges and bring successful game operations to developers of all sizes, not just the largest studios. Explore Unity Mediation or visit our resource hub to learn more about maximizing your ad revenue while aligning your monetization strategy with your studios’ goals. 

 

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