How to Monetize a Mobile Game

Targeting players with ads is a great way to monetize your free mobile game, but it is hardly the only one. Consider other options, as well.

Earning a Living in a Freemium Model

If you were thinking on making a free-to-play mobile game, it could be comforting to know that you’re not the only one. Many developers have chosen to build these games, especially after learning they could easily be monetized, generating solid revenue during their lifespan.

But monetization of free games is a tight rope one must walk on, in order not to ruin the experience and antagonize the fanbase. That’s why I’ve created a list of 41 useful ways to boost revenues, hope you like it!

Q1 2019 MONETIZATION BENCHMARKS

Advertising

#1 Banner ads

They’re the most obvious first choice. With a $2-$3 CPM, they’re not exactly the most lucrative revenue generator, but they’re super easy to implement. Players don’t appreciate it as much, but they’re happy to look through their fingers if the ads aren’t covering large parts of the screen.

#2 Interstitials between game stages

Better from banner ads in terms of user experience, because they’re usually placed at periods of no gameplay. They also have a higher CPM than banner ads which can reach up to $10.

#3 More games button

An effective method of earning from larger publishers. The player can tap a button to see a list of similar games he / she may enjoy.

#4 Game Exit

After the player decides to quit the game, you can show him a full-size ad one more time.

#5 Icon drop

Even though this one isn’t available on iOS, it’s still worthy of consideration. The game can send push notifications to the players, and you can use it to promote your other games.

#6 Incentivized downloads / Offer walls

If you have an in-game economy, you can use it to incentivise players. Offer your in-game currency in exchange for downloading and trying other games.

#7 A Second Offer wall

Offer walls are generally perceived positively, mostly because the player gets something in return. Don’t be afraid of adding another offer wall.

#8 Coupons offers

In-game currency is one thing, but getting real-life rewards is a completely different beast. You could be offering a 10% discount on Starbucks or something similar, every time a player achieves a milestone or defeats a difficult boss.

#9 Videos

The player views a video ad and gets rewarded with your in-game currency. In return, you get real money. It’s simple, it’s effective, and players love it.

#10 Search

You can earn an average of $12 for every 1,000 downloads, if the player gets a search app installed together with the game.

#11 Branded virtual goods

If you have virtual goods, you can brand them. Just see what Hideo Kojima did with Death Stranding recently, and try to emulate the same thing on mobile.

Selling Downloadable Content (DLC)

#12 Premium version

Developers that are just migrating from paid games should consider this first. Create two versions of your game, a free (limited) one, and a paid (full) version, and allow players to upgrade their free versions through an in-app purchase.

#13 Level packs

Similar to having a premium version, break the game down into packs of levels and sell each one separately.

#14 Customise the looks

Modify how the game looks or feels, and offer that customisation separately.

#15 Wallpapers

If you’ve got a great game on your hands, some people would be willing to pay a little extra to get a fresh wallpaper for their phone.

#16 Ringtones

If your game has original music, you can sell that in your store as well. Many players would love to get a fresh ringtone to remind them of their favourite game.

Q1 2019 MONETIZATION BENCHMARKS

Removing In-Game Limits

#17 Remove ads

One of the most popular solutions among free-to-play games, and a similar to the free vs premium model. If the player already has a version with ads, he / she can buy an ad-free version directly from the game. Usually costs $0.99.

#18 Buying Extra Turns

Energy mechanics are popular among mobile games nowadays. That means that once the player depletes the accumulated energy levels (usually up to ten sessions), he/she has to wait some time before the energy reaccumulates. Or, they can pay a little extra to get a few more turns.

#19 More Time

Time-sensitive levels are a good monetisation opportunity. If a player can’t clear the level in a set amount of time, he/she can purchase a little extra time to wrap it up.

Virtual Economy

Given that in-game economy drives more than half of all of the mobile games revenue, I’m going to devote it a hefty portion of the article.

I’ve broken it down in smaller pieces which you can combine, too.

#20 Characters / Avatars

If your game has characters players can relate to, consider introducing buyable extras. This works especially well if your characters have unique perks, such as speed, agility, strength and so on. Just make sure you don’t turn it into a pay-to-win game.

#21 Training / Tuning

Depending on the type of game, you can have your players pay for training. Cars-related games can sell tuning, car parts and similar.

#22 Advantage giving items

Gear and armour that can improve a player’s character is also something that can be sold for real money. However, tread carefully here, nobody wants to play a pay-to-win game.

#23 Upgrades for virtual items

If the game has items the player can own, that means those items can be upgraded. And that is something people are willing to pay for.

#24 Customisations

Up to a quarter of all players are interested in customising their in-game characters.

#25 Resources

Resources are another popular mechanic for mobile games. Energy bars, diamonds, they’re the driving force of a game and they’re probably the first point of contact a player has with a shopping experience. They can also be used to easily balance a game.

#26 Manufacturing items

With these items, players can harvest and transform valuable resources automatically, over a set period of time.

#27 Double coins

If you add the double coins “cheat” to the game, you can open up a whole new revenue stream. Usually, devs add it for $0.99 and in some games, they allow players to double multiple times.

#28 Extra lives

Some games, like endless runners or similar 2D horizontal scrollers require the player to start from the beginning every time. By paying for extra lives, they can “cheat death” and continue the run after making a fatal mistake.

#29 Discoverables

Even though players can buy most items, some need to also be discovered in the game, first.

#30 Surprise boxes

The contents of the box is unknown until purchased and opened. This is a popular practice in the Far East.

#31 Limited editions

Consider adding limited or rare items to the game, which can be traded, purchased and sold. If you can add an auction for items like this, that would be even better.

#32 Seasonal items

The holiday season is a great time to offer unique, holiday-themed items.

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Billing

Apple and Google are the go-to billing services, but even they aren’t available all over the world. In some countries, like Brazil, people don’t use credit cards as much. Purchasing things in an app can become quite the challenge.

#33 Carrier billing

Even though the feature isn’t available on iOS, it should still be considered. Players can be charged for in-app purchases through their carrier bill. You can use Fortumo to make it happen.

#34 Vouchers

Players can buy codes, either elsewhere online or in stores, and redeemed for any in-game currency. Both Google and Apple support this approach.

#35 Wallet Payments

PayPal-like services. In some cases, players may have funds stashed away somewhere which they’d be looking to spend. Not available for iOS. Companies such as PaymentWall can provide you with the necessary infrastructure.

Merchandising

#36 T-shirts

Wearing branded t-shirts is probably the best and most popular way to show your love and support for something. Bands have done it for ages, so why not mobile games, as well? You can use your in-game shop to sell shirts, too.

#37 Lunch boxes

Consider selling lunch boxes if your target audience is on the younger side.

#38 Branded cases

What better way to protect the smartphone used to play the game, than having a case with the game’s logo or characters?

Social

#39 Duels

Even a completely free game can become a cash printer if you let players compete amongst themselves for prizes.

#40 Tournaments

Duels on steroids. Requires more participants, which probably means you’d need a bigger user base to start with. A little marketing could be useful as well. It’s best implemented on games that simulate a real-world game with real tournaments, for example sports games.

#41 Gifting

If you’re playing a mobile game with your significant other, you may want to surprise them with a gift every now and then. Spending $0.99 for an in-game gift isn’t much to most people, but it’s a great token of appreciation.

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