Part 1: Mobile Game Developer’s Glossary 101

Game Developer’s Glossary

There are many details to take into consideration when developing a game such as what platform it will work on, theme, user experience, and monetization.  Each component must be addressed at some point during the development stage and depending on what you’re most interested in certain parts of the process may be more intriguing than others.  With each component comes new vocabulary and aA glossary for game developers.cronyms, so we’ve put together a comprehensive glossary of commonly seen words. This glossary is to help clarify any confusion you might have when exploring different websites or forums in the indie developer world. Following the glossary, we’ll also be publishing two other blogs in this 3-part series.  Upcoming topics will cover game genres and themes as well as the personalities of gamers using the Bartle Test.


DAU: Daily active users is the number of unique users that have played your game in a single day.
MAU: Monthly active users is the number of unique users that have played your game at least once in the month.
ARPU: Average revenue per user, is closely synonymous to average revenue per monthly active user. For example, if I have 100 unique users and $5 revenue my ARPU would equal $0.05.
ARPPU: Average revenue per paying user is the division of all your revenue generated from your unique paying users. This number tends to be higher than your ARPU because it calculates only paying users as opposed to all users.  If your total revenue is $5 and you have 10 unique paying users than your ARPPU would be $0.50.
ARPDAU: Average revenue per daily active user is the total revenue on a day divided by the unique user who played your game that particular day.
ARPMAU: Average revenue per monthly active user is your total monthly revenue divided by your monthly unique users.
Churn: The amount of users who stop playing your game at any given time.

General terms

AAA games: These are games that have a high production budget and are multi-million sellers. In the film industry, they’d be known as a Blockbuster movie. Some of the most popular AAA games are Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, and FIFA.
DLC: Downloadable content is content purchased after the game is downloaded. For example, purchasing more levels, add-ons, and in-game items. The reason for using DLC, especially in mobile games, is to reduce oversized network transfer and download extra content only on demand.A game developer's glossary to end users.
End User: Synonymous to user. This is the person who actually ends up playing the game.
Freemium: Games that are free initially, but then cost money as a user continues going through levels and must unlock certain features, acquire certain virtual goods, or pay to progress beyond certain points.
In-app purchase (IAP): Purchases made within an app usually accessing special features or levels. For example, “Remove Ads”, new levels, virtual currency (coins), power-ups, and accessing special characters are all considered in-app purchases.
Mobile app Alpha/Beta Testing: A testing process for your app that is done before the actual release version of the app. Usually involves defining selected users (by email) and allowing only them to download and test your app on their mobile device.
Push notifications: A notification tool that alerts users of new messages or updates in your app. This is a great tool for engaging users and encouraging them to use your app, as well as retaining users who haven’t used the app in a while.
Virtual Goods: A good or product with no tangible substance, but resides in the virtual world. They are usually in-game items to enhance a user’s experience such as power-ups, weapons, and resource boosts (more time or double energy).

User TaxonomyA game developer's glossary to user taxonomy.

Minnow:  Spends the smallest amount of money possible in a month.
Dolphin: This user tends to spend the “average” amount of money.
Whale: These users tend to spend a hefty amount of money each month and are committed to your game.
Heavy Spender: These users spend a lot! They are putting lots of money into your game.

User Acquisition

Attribution: The practice of attributing is a marketing technique to see where your installs came from. For example, were they from a paid ad on Facebook, a mobile web ad or a banner in another mobile game. It helps determine what campaigns and media efforts are driving installs.
CPA: Cost per acquisition pertains to the cost to acquire new users.A game developer's glossary to user acquisition.
CPI: A specific form of CPA. Cost of install is the cost per installs from new customers. This is calculated by dividing the cost of an advertising campaign by the number of new application installs attributed to that specific campaign.
LTV: Life time value of a user is an average based metric that estimates the potential net/gross profit from a future relationship with a customer. Say an average user plays your game 2 months and spends $0.75 each month, then the LTV would be $1.50. Meaning, you want to make sure that you acquire a user for less than $1.50 to make a profit. This value helps understand if marketing efforts are actually returning their investment and helps developers retain a greater portion of their marketing margins.

Now that you have a strong understanding of the lingo, our next installment will investigate the different game genres and their subcategories. This will help you further discern the types of games and how to eventually categorize your own.

You’ve got the lingo down, and this glossary for reference, so go check out our forum and put your new knowledge to use!

This is part 1 in a 3 part post. Click here to read part 2.

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