We’ve recently taken a look at today’s mobile gaming audience and the origins of mobile gaming. Next, it’s time to delve deeper into key mobile gaming terms and ad formats using examples from legendary and foundational publisher, SEGA. In today’s ever-evolving mobile gaming landscape, it doesn’t hurt to continue your education around current terms and trends, to help you innovate and iterate, and ultimately stay at the top of your game (literally). Read on for the terms and formats you need to know and how they matter to your overall app monetization strategy.
Crash course: gaming terms you should know (or brush up on)
A game’s (virtual) economy assigns value to in-game items, behaviors, and rewards. A well-designed economy is critical and encourages players to engage with every aspect of a game. Take SEGA, for example; in their popular title, Sonic Dash, the game’s economy is cleverly designed to propel the user beyond the exciting gameplay. Sonic is famous for rings acting as an ersatz life meter as well as a currency used to buy boosts. The in-game economy encourages continued engagement by ascribing clear value to performance and drives player progression with upgrades to capabilities.
Currency is an in-game fund used by the player to access the title’s economy. Most games will make use of at least one form of currency to aid in progression (e.g. to upgrade a player character), and many games will use multiple currencies, both “soft” (earned regularly via gameplay) and “hard” (earned predominantly or exclusively with real money via in-app purchases). It’s critical that each currency is balanced for its intended purpose and provides clear and consistent value for players. Sonic Dash utilizes three main currencies:
Rings - The classic Sonic Gold Ring (you can probably hear it just looking at this picture) is abundant and earned during every run. SEGA was creative with this implementation as Rings also serve an immediate gameplay purpose: they protect you from damage in a callback to the original Sonic titles as well as provide Sonic with the funds to buy boosts and upgrades. This is a great example of a “soft” currency.
Red rings - Less frequently awarded, these rings are more valuable and can be spent to continue a level in the case of a death. This is a well implemented “hard” currency.
Gems - Earned by completing missions, the player can spend Gems to rebuild broken down Zones and restore them to their natural beauty. The user earns more rewards (in the form of currency and new characters) as they fully restore more Zones
Depending on the context, the term “metagame” can have multiple meanings. Yet, no matter how you look at it, the concept is important for mobile games. Put simply, a metagame refers to the progression system that wraps around your core gameplay, utilizing the game’s economy and feeding back into the game’s core actions. In Sonic Dash, the metagame revolves around unlocking and upgrading characters with varying stats, as well as restoring and opening various gameplay Zones for Sonic and his friends to race around in.
The core loop is the main activity a player will engage in, and the structure around which the game is designed. This generally consists of three components which we can further explore by identifying examples in SEGA’s Sonic Dash as a primary example:
Action - The player takes Sonic into a Zone and runs - collecting Rings, saving animals, and busting up one of Dr. Robotnik’s contraptions along the way.
Reward - After a run, the player is rewarded with the Rings they picked up along the way, as well as any animals saved.
Progress - The player drops their Rings into upgrades including longer lasting point multipliers anda more potent Dash Boost, among others. A player can also save animals during the run; animals saved during the run are used to unlock Zones for rebuilding and award the player with XP.
Apply the most suitable ad formats to your games using knowledge of gaming terms
Gaming today—mobile gaming especially — is the wild west; that is, there’s no right or wrong way for a user to engage with your games. As a result, choosing how to build and monetize your game benefits from flexibility and creativity. Recognizing that each of your users will likely approach and play your game differently and with different preferences will give you a greater chance at successful monetization if you can balance the game itself and what your players value. This is where different ad formats come into play. Some users might spend real life currency in your game, but the reality is that most of your players, no matter how committed they are to gameplay, will be less willing to spend money in the app unless you have a carefully designed ad monetization plan. Successful mobile games generally use a combination of the following ad formats to ensure total monetization:
Rewarded video ads
Rewarded video ads have proven to be effective within almost every type of game. According to AdColony, in fact, 89% of the top-grossing mobile app and game publishers use some form of video ads. User-initiated and unobtrusive, the player is given an in-app reward in exchange for watching a short video. The most successful examples of these integrations offer immediate and clear value with a reward relevant to what the player is doing right here and now, in the present moment of gameplay.
“At SEGA, we’ve done plenty of A/B testing and competitive analysis to determine what works best for our players. Users are accustomed to interstitials at natural stops in gameplay, and rewarded videos are offered in strategic locations to add value for them. These units go hand in hand and help keep the players engaged in the game.”
— Daniel Ortiz, Director of Ad Monetization, SEGA
Most games, particularly those built with clear breaks in action should incorporate some interstitial ads. Think of them as quick commercials that can capitalize on players playing through multiple loops. Creative publishers can segment users by play style or lifetime value to cultivate an interstitial experience suitable for them.
Despite what you may think, banner ads aren’t used solely for food delivery apps or news websites; in fact, when implemented thoughtfully within the aesthetic design of a game, a publisher can maximize unused screen space capturing revenue from valuable brand advertisers via banner placement.
“Banners can be a low-risk option if integrated responsibly. Having tested out various locations, we haven’t seen any churn. Brands often buy banners so it's a good gateway to prove out the quality of our inventory, opening a path to higher-yielding formats.”
— Daniel Ortiz, Director of Ad Monetization, SEGA
When integrated successfully in concert with your currency and economy, the offerwall is a potent moneymaker. According to research from Tapjoy, Tapjoy publishers that use the offerwall alongside rewarded video generate 114% more revenue than those using rewarded video alone, and survey results from Tapjoy offerwall users and data from the network suggests that offerwalls continue to play a vital role in mobile app monetization. When utilizing this format, your users are rewarded at a conversion rate of your choosing — sometimes handsomely — for completing small tasks outside of the app, such as completing surveys or trying out other games. The offerwall doesn’t have as large of a reach as the other formats previously mentioned, but it does have the power to turn non-spenders into active participants in your game economy.
For app developers just starting out and who might not yet be sophisticated about ads, SEGA’s Mike Evans, Senior Vice President Mobile & Digital Strategy, offers this advice:
“Don’t be discouraged if your initial ad set up doesn’t reach the targets you’ve specified. Adopt a testing mantra but be mindful of how variables like seasonality, acquisition source/targeting, technology advances and regulation can all bias results. Always be thinking about new hypotheses and learn how to properly design and interpret your A/B tests. Successful monetization is a journey.”
— Mike Evans, Senior Vice President Mobile & Digital Strategy, SEGA
Interested in learning how MoPub can help you reach your mobile app monetization goals? Get in touch with our team today.
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