Category Archives: Gaming & Monetization Strategies

Part 2: Optimize Onboarding with Gamification

How Gamification Can Boost Retention on Any App Part 2: Optimize Onboarding with Gamification

The Mystic Media Blog is currently endeavoring on a 3 part series on how gamification mechanics can boost retention on any app—not just gaming apps but utility apps, business apps and more. In this second entry, we explore how to refine and gamify your onboarding process to keep customers coming back.

ONBOARDING

Your app has been downloaded—a hard-fought battle in and of itself—but the war isn’t over; the onboarding process has just begun.

App onboarding is the first point of contact a user has within an application. It’s one of the most crucial parts of the user experience. Situating users in your application is the first step to ensuring they come back. Twenty-five percent of apps are only opened once after being downloaded. Many apps simply do not make it simple enough for users to understand the value and get the hang of the application—step one in your retention process.

Here are the top tips for smooth onboarding:

MINIMIZE REGISTRATION

A prolonged registration process can turn off new users. Users do not always have time to fill out extensive forms and can quickly become resentful of the pacing of your app. Keep registration to a minimum, minimize required fields, and get users going faster.

We recommend enabling user registration altogether with “Continue as Guest” functionality. Games typically employ this and it enables users to get hands on with the application before they undergo the tenuous account creation process. Hook them with your app, then let them handle the administrative aspects later. Account creation with Google, Facebook, or Twitter can also save quite a bit of time.

Gamification is all about rewarding the user. Offer users an incentive to create their account to positively reinforce the process and you will see more accounts created. If they haven’t created an account, make sure to send prompts to remind them of what the reward they are missing out on. As we detailed in our last entry, FOMO is a powerful force in gamification.

TUTORIAL BEST PRACTICES

When a user enters your application for the first time, they generally need a helping hand to understand how to use it. Many games incorporate interactive tutorials to guide the user through functionality—and business apps are wise to use it as well. However, an ineffective tutorial will only be a detriment to your application.

Pacing is key. A long tutorial will not only bog the onboarding process down, too much information will likely go in and out of the user’s brain. Space your tutorial out and break it into different sections introducing key mechanics as they become relevant. On-the-go tutorials like the four-screen carousel below by Wavely help acclimate users quickly and easily.

And don’t forget to offer a reward! Offer users some kind of reward or positive reinforcement upon completing tutorials to encourage them to continue using the application.

AVOID DEAD ENDS AND EMPTY STATES

An empty state is a place in an application that isn’t populated with any information. For example, favorites, order history, accomplishments, etc.—these pages require usage in order to be populated for information. New users will see these pages and become confused or discouraged. Many applications will offer self-evident statement such as “No Favorites Selected”. Or, in the case of UberEats below, no message is displayed.

It’s confusing and discouraging for users to see these statements. Avoid discouraging your users by offering more information, for example: “Save your favorite restaurants and find them here.” Check out Twitter’s exemplary message for users who’ve yet to favorite a tweet below.

CONCLUSION

Onboarding is the first and most crucial step to building a relationship with your userbase. One of the major things business apps can learn from gaming apps is that time is of the essence when it comes to capturing a user’s attention. Keep it short, punchy, and to the point.

The Top In-App Purchase Tactics for 2022

According to Sensor Tower, consumers spent $111 billion on in-app purchases, subscriptions, and premium apps in 2020 on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. How can your app take advantage to maximize revenue? Every app is different and begets a unique answer to the all important question: What’s the best way to monetize?

App Figures recently published a study which showed only 5.9% of Apple App Store apps are paid, compared to a paltry 3.7% on Google Play. Thus, the freemium model reigns supreme—according to app sales statistics, 48.2% of all mobile app revenue derives from in-app purchases.

When creating an in-app purchase ecosystem, many psychological and practical considerations must be evaluated. Below, please find the best practices for setting in-app purchase prices in 2022.

BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS

Behavioral economics is a method of economic analysis that applies psychological insights into human behavior to explain economic decision-making. Creating an in-app purchase ecosystem begins with understanding and introducing the psychological factors which incentivize users to make purchases. For example, the $0.99 pricing model banks on users perceiving items that cost $1.99 to be closer to a $1 price point than $2. Reducing whole dollar prices by one cent is a psychological tactic proven to be effective for both in-app purchases and beyond.

Another psychological pricing tactic is to remove the dollar sign or local currency symbol from the IAP storefront and employ a purchasable in-app currency required to purchase IAPs. By removing the association with real money, users see the value of each option on a lower stakes scale. Furthermore, in-app currencies can play a major role in your retention strategy.

ANCHORING

Anchoring is a cognitive bias where users privilege an initial piece of information when making purchasing decisions. Generally, this applies to prices—app developers create a first price point as an anchoring reference, then slash it to provide users with value. For example, an in-app purchase might be advertised at $4.99, then slashed to $1.99 (60% off) for a daily deal. When users see the value in relation to the initial price point, they become more incentivized to buy.

Anchoring also relates to the presentation of pricing. We have all seen bundles and subscriptions present their value in relation to higher pricing tiers. For example, an annual subscription that’s $20/year, but advertised as a $36 value in relation to a monthly subscription price of $2.99/month. In order for your users to understand the value of a purchase, you have to hammer the point home through UI design.

OPTIMIZE YOUR UI

UI is very important when it comes to presenting your in-app purchases. A well-designed monetization strategy can be made moot by insufficient UI design. Users should always be 1-2 taps away from the IAP storefront where they can make purchases. The prices and discounts of each pricing option should be clearly delineated on the storefront.

Furthermore, make sure you are putting your best foot forward with how you present your prices. Anchoring increases the appeal of in-app purchases, but in order for the user to understand the deal, you have to highlight the value in your UI design by advertising it front and center in your IAP UI.

OFFER A VARIETY OF CHOICES

There are a number of IAPs trending across apps. In order to target the widest variety of potential buyers, we recommend offering a variety of options. Here are a few commonly employed options:

  • BUNDLES: Offer your IAPs either à la carte or as a bundle for a discount. Users are always more inclined to make a bigger purchase when they understand they are receiving an increased value.
  • AD FREE: Offer an ad-free experience to your users. This is one of the more common tactics and die-hard users will often be willing to pay to get rid of the ad experience.
  • SPECIAL OFFERS: Limited-time offers with major discounts are far more likely to attract user attention. Special offers create a feeling of scarcity as well as instill the feeling of urgency. Consider employing holiday specials and sending personalized push notifications to promote them.
  • MYSTERY BOX: Many apps offer mystery boxes—bundles often offered for cheap that contain a random assortment of IAPs. Users may elect to take a chance and purchase in hopes of receiving a major reward.

While offering users a variety of choices for IAPs is key, having too many choices can cause analysis paralysis and be stultifying to users. Analysis paralysis is when users are hesitant to make an in-app purchase because they’ve been given too many options. Restrict your IAPs to the most appealing options to make decisions easy for your users.

TESTING IS KEY

As with any component of app development, testing is the key to understanding your audience and refining your techniques. We recommend testing your app with a random user group and taking their feedback as well as having them fill out a questionnaire. A/B Testing, or split-run testing, consists of testing two different user groups with two different app experiences. A/B testing enables app developers to see how users react to different experiences and to evaluate what tactics are most user-effective.

There are many tactics to help incentivize users to make that big step and invest capital in an app. Savvy developers innovate every day—stay tuned on the latest trends to keep your in-app purchase strategy on the cutting edge.

Five Mobile Ad Platforms You Need to Know in 2021

For most mobile app developers, the majority of revenue comes from advertising. We have written in the past about the prevalence of the Freemium model and what tactics maximize both the retention and profits of mobile games. Another major decision every app developer faces is what mobile advertising platform to choose.

Mobile advertising represents 72% of all U.S. digital ad spending. Publishers have a variety of ad platforms to choose from, each with individual pros and cons. Here are the top mobile advertising platforms to consider for 2021:

Google AdMob

google-admob

Acquired by Google in 2010, Google AdMob is the most popular mobile advertising network. AdMob integrates high-performing ad formats, native ads, banner ads, video, and interstitial ads into mobile apps.

AdMob shows over 40 billion mobile ads per month and is the biggest player in the mobile ad space. Some users criticize the platform for featuring revenues on the lower side of the chart; however, the platform also offers robust analytics to help publishers glean insights into ad performance.

Facebook Ads

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Facebook’s Audience Network leverages the social media platform’s massive userbase toward offering publishers an ad network designed for user engagement and growth. Like AdMob, Facebook Ads offers a variety of ad types, including native, interstitial, banner, in-stream video, and rewarded video ads.

With over 1 billion users, Facebook has utilized their massive resources to build out their ad network. Facebook Ads provide state-of-the-art tools, support, and valuable insights to grow ad revenue. Facebook Ads sets itself apart by offering a highly focused level of targeting. Facebook collects a vast amount of data from its users, thus Facebook Ads enables app publishers to target based on a variety of factors (interests, behaviors, demographics and more) with a level of granularity deeper than any other platform.

InMobi

InMobi Logo

InMobi offers a different way of targeting users, which they have coined “Appographic targeting”. “Appographic targeting” analyzes the user’s existing and previous applications rather than traditional demographics. If a user is known to book flights via an app, then related ads, such as that of hotels and tourism will be shown.

The InMobi Mediation platform enables publishers to maximize their ad earnings with unified auction solutions and header bidding for mobile apps.

TapJoy

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TapJoy has received increased consideration from mobile game developers since the platform integrates with in-app purchases. Studies show that mobile players will engage with advertisements if offered a reward. TapJoy has capitalized on this by introducing incentivized downloading, which provides mobile gamers with virtual currency through completing real world actions. For example, a user can earn virtual currency in the game they are playing by downloading a related game in the app store.

TapJoy provides premium content to over 20,000 games and works with major companies like Amazon, Adidas, Epic Games, and Gillette.

Unity Ads

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Unity, the popular mobile app development platform, launched Unity Ads in 2014. Since then, it’s become one of the premier mobile ad networks for mobile games. Unity Ads supports iOS and Android mobile platforms and offers a variety of ad formats. One of the major features is the ability to advertise In-App Purchases displayed in videos (both rewarded and unrewarded) to players.

On a targeting level, Unity Ads allows publishers to focus on players that are most likely to be interested in playing specific games based on their downloads and gameplay habits. Many of the leading mobile game companies use Unity to build their app and Unity Ads as their ad platform.

CONCLUSION

These are not the only mobile ad networks, but for app publishers looking to stay current, they are the premier platforms to research. Other platforms like media.net, Chartboost, Snapchat Ads, Twitter Ads, and AppLovin also merit consideration.

When it comes to advertising, every app and app publisher has different needs. Since advertising plays a massive role in generating revenue, mobile app developers set themselves up for success when they do the research, and can find what ad platforms are best suited to their product.

Maximize Profits with the Top Freemium Tactics of 2020

The global gaming market is estimated at $152 billion, with 45% derived from mobile games. The mobile game market is constantly evolving, new tactics and even platforms, like Apple Arcade, are being introduced. As a mobile game developer, being dynamic and staying up on the latest trends is of the utmost importance. Staying on top of these trends will help make a more engaging and profitable mobile game.

Keeping this in mind, below are the top freemium tactics of 2020:

RETENTION IS (STILL) KING

Mobile game developers must remember that freemium games begin and end with a good retention strategy that keeps users engaged.

Daily Tasks: Set-up daily tasks that pass the Starbucks Test. One of them can be opening the app on a daily basis. These should be fairly simple to complete and offer a reward, encouraging users to integrate gameplay into their daily lives.

Rewards Pack on User Birthdays: Give users some kind of bonus on their birthday to enrich their personal relationship with the game.

Challenge Dormant Users: After 3 days, give users a special, temporary challenge to reengage them with the app. Temporary promotions can be an effective way to instill a sense of urgency in the call-to-action and trigger users to open the app.

Promotion Before Subscription/Free Trial Ends: Tempt the user to sign-up or to extend their subscription by offering a temporary promotion 24-48 hours before their free trial/subscription ends.

When it comes to measuring retention, check out the model retention rates below from The Tool (Performance-Based Mobile ASO):

  • Day 1 Retention – 40%
  • Day 7 Retention – 20%
  • Day 28 Retention – 10%

Retention can also be tracked hourly instead of daily where Day 1 Retention will be the percentage of users who returned within 24-48 hours from the install. Here’s how it might look in analytics systems such as devtodev (via The Tool):

Retention-Analytics

OUTSTREAM VIDEO ADS

Outstream Video is a new type of video ad unit, referred to sometimes as “native video”, designed for targeting mobile users.

Outstream Video ads do not require placement within a Youtube video. They play with the sound off on mobile screens when more than 70% of the ad is visible. The user can tap the ad to turn the sound on and restart the video from the beginning, or they can continue scrolling. When less than 70% of the ad is visible, the video pauses.

Advertisers such as the Hong Kong tourism board have had great success using Outstream Video ads, delivering 30% incremental reach with a 40% lower cost per completed video and 85% lower CPM.

REWARDED ADS PAY OFF

When it comes to monetizing a mobile game through advertising, rewarded ads remain at the top of the food chain. A recent survey of app publishers asked what their most successful monetization method was. Rewarded Video Ads won with 75% of the vote.

By offering users some kind of in-game reward, such as an extra life, a bonus item, or a new avatar, app developers can improve UI and engagement while encouraging ad views without bothering the user. Rewarded ads remain the ad unit with the highest earning potential.

LOOT BOXES

A loot box is a randomized box of in-game prizes. Users pay for an in-app purchase, but there is no guarantee of whether it will contain gold or pennies, the user has to make the decision to purchase in exchange a random reward. While this tactic is somewhat controversial in Europe where Belgium and the Netherlands have cracked down and labeled it gambling, it remains a popular tactic. Loot boxes are particularly effective for  Whales, wealthy mobile game users who will readily pay to improve their performance in the game.

SELL YOUR DATA

The collection and sale of data is a massive industry. If your app offers the technical means to collect user-generated data such as geolocation, it may be worth it to acquire user consent to license that data.

Applications like Waze & Foursquare receive community-generated data from their users and effectively leverage it to monetize their applications. Waze licenses data to businesses placing location-based ads, whereas Foursquare licenses point of interest geolocation data to Google & Apple for their first party GPS apps Apple Maps & Google Maps.

CONCLUSION

It is important to keep in mind that monetization is the icing on the cake—without an engaging game that hooks users, there will be nothing to monetize. However, making key decisions in the development process with the monetization strategy in mind will *literally* pay off in the long run.

Check out our previous blogs on Mobile Game Monetization for an overview of the fundamentals.

The Masterful Audio of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The original Legend of Zelda came out in 1986 on the NES. Games were evolving from endurance tests to simple narratives in the Socratic tradition. Having recently stunned the world with Super Mario Bros in 1985, legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto set-out to create a game with a world. Miyamoto grew up in Japan exploring the fields, woods, and caves of Kyoto. He designed the first Legend of Zelda to be “a miniature garden that players can put inside their drawer.” He combined Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and the Arthurian legend of the sword in the stone to create what would become one of Nintendo’s greatest franchises.

Zelda Creator Shigeru Miyamoto

Zelda Creator Shigeru Miyamoto

31 years and over 18 iterations later, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch to widespread critical acclaim—many publications have declared BOTW to be among the greatest games ever created.

As any game designer knows, audio is vital to providing an audience with feedback. As with every element of the game, Nintendo has taken Zelda’s audio to a new level with Breath of the Wild. Here is our review and breakdown of what makes the audio of BOTW so special:

MUSIC

Nintendo composer Koji Kondo initially intended to use Maurice Ravel’s Bolero as the theme music for the original Legend of Zelda in 1985, but upon learning the copyright was intact, he composed the legendary “Zelda Theme”. Nintendo has always dedicated a large amount of time and care to the music of Zelda, but with BOTW, they’ve taken things to the next level.

Acute Zelda-philes will recognize the integration of electronic and orchestral instrumentation as innovative to the franchise. Music has always been used to give the user feedback regarding the setting— Dungeon Theme, which plays when Link is in a dungeon level.

In music, this technique is called a leitmotif: a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.

In BOTW, music is used to delineate location, themes, characters, and even special enemies! While the combat theme plays fighting most baddies, anyone who has played BOTW will recognize the infamous Guardian Theme and of course the Hinox Theme.

The first time the player hears these songs come on, it is scary and immediately invests you with a bombastic sense of imminent danger.

Music changes by location and by time of day, as demonstrated by the Gerudo Town Day and Night songs.

In the Korok Forest, when entering uncharted territory, the user hears an eerie tune that gradually increases in volume until the user is transported back to the start of the forest, as demonstrated in this video:

https://youtu.be/7FgZw1geaHw

Shards of stories are told through musical sequences sung by Kass, dispersing exposition about the world and clues to the puzzles the user must solve.

All told, The Legend of Zelda Soundtrack has about 211 songs! Dedicated players can easily invest hundreds of hours into an open-world RPG, so diversifying the music is vital to keeping players engaged and preventing  the game from feeling repetitive. Big, sweeping orchestral soundtracks like these are saving symphony orchestras, according to the Wall Street Journal.

SOUND DESIGN

Longtime composer and sound supervisor Hajime Wakai oversaw the sound of BOTW. While audio cues for sound effects in the Zelda series traditionally have had a very lo-fi electronic feel, BOTW uses fully orchestrated, live-performed instruments, investing the user with the feeling of watching a live performance. Wakai recorded over 10,000 different sounds for the game. In the Nintendo blog, he explains the many different types of footsteps.

“I mixed various kinds of sand so to get good footsteps. We searched for a combination of materials and how to apply them for the sound of the equipment. Ice boards melt and crack each time they walk and have to be replaced. The studio is full of stinky smells as you continue stepping on the grass. There were various hardships.”

Check out these photos from inside the sound studio:

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The intricacies of the sound design are on full display in BOTW, with different sounds for hitting flesh creatures, hitting bone creatures and the very notable sound of the Master Sword clashing against a Guardian:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXkmknLZiFE&feature=youtu.be

The sound of BOTW enhance the experience and helps the user FEEL the game. Perhaps no better example of Sound Design doing this is the sound effect made when a user breaks their weapon:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9QLzmH4CFI&feature=youtu.be

Perhaps the biggest departure from the Zelda series is the use of voices. While Zelda games traditionally only represents dialogue with text and strange grunts, BOTW includes cut-scenes with fully-voiced Zelda, Daruth the Goron, Mipha the Zora, and more. BOTW incentivizes accruing these cut scenes or “Shattered Memories” by having them be collectable. Only after collecting all of the “Shattered Memories” can the user watch the story of the game in full from front to back.

OVERALL

Given the grand scale of BOTW, it’s no surprise that the game overdelivers when it comes to its soundscape. Nintendo’s first major entry into the Zelda series in 6 years is a masterpiece. Game designers take note of what is perhaps the best sound design ever created for a video game.

App Promotion Strategies and Best Practices

As app developers, retaining an adept understanding of the marketing side of the business is of the utmost importance. An improperly promoted app, whether it’s good or not, will falter in the 6 million apps in app stores. Some larger companies can afford to outsource this work. Independent developers and companies developing apps for clients must have the knowledge to guide projects from development through release regardless of their expected level of involvement in enacting a release strategy. When developing your app, take into consideration our overview of app promotion strategies and best practices.

APP STORE OPTIMIZATION 

App Store Optimization is the bread and butter of all app marketing efforts. App stores are the largest driver of downloads for the vast majority of apps. When enacted properly, ASO will drive tens, hundreds, or even thousands of daily downloads from app stores depending on the search traffic of the keywords. Experienced developers create ASO strategies before they begin the programming process.

Selecting keywords is the first and most important process of ASO. Searches in the app store are typed out with thumbs rather than a full keyboard, thus thinking of key shorthand terms is vital to improving search rankings. Developers must evaluate the amount of search traffic for each keyword and how competitive that search traffic is. Pursuing high traffic search terms can backfire because apps can falter against the high level of competition. Developers should continually refine their keywords and have a strategy ready for when their apps improve in search rankings. Over time, apps grow stronger in app store search and can eventually rank for more competitive keywords. It’s vital for developers to constantly refine their ASO strategies and build toward more competitive search terms. Many companies create one strategy for when their apps are first entering the store and a separate strategy for when they improve in ASO strength and can compete with higher volume search terms.

ASO does not end with the release. Engagement signals like retention, number times people open the app, and length of usage increase app store rankings. Developers must constantly be working toward improving the UI of their apps, as retention will boost ASO.

PAID ADVERTISING

While paid advertising, specifically social media ads, can be a major driver of app downloads, it’s important to understand where paid advertising factors into the equation. Before enacting paid ads, developers should have established a proven revenue model and overall business model. How much revenue an app generates per download will dictate the paid advertising budget. Without a model for revenue per download, app promotion can quickly become too expensive to maintain and end up in the red.

THE BENEFITS OF A SOFT LAUNCH

A soft launch is when developers make their app available in app stores without any promotional push. The small set of users you acquire through a soft launch can act as an initial beta user group that will inform your understanding of how consumers are using your app.

App developers often come to realize a major disconnect between why they think their app is good versus the opinion of their users. Experienced developers make the most of their analytics and continuously dedicate resources to the iterative process of improving their apps.

THE DANGERS OF CROSS-PROMOTION

While cross-promotion is a popular tactic, it’s also one that can backfire. App developers find partners with relevant but separate audiences and promote traffic to one another’s pages or content. The key to cross-promotion is finding a partner with an audience that is going to give an equivalent amount of exposure. The potential pitfall is that when users redirect out of the app, it reduces retention, ultimately damaging ASO.

Rather than partner with another app or company, some developers elect to develop feeder games and alternate apps which cross-promote to one another, maximizing downloads without detracting from outside marketing efforts.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

Many app developers promote their apps through their website with Google SEO, social media, content marketing & more. While some apps treat their website as a landing page with a large download button, there is much more that can be done. For example, hosting Youtube content or a blog on your site will draw users in to your brand and retain them on the web page.

Enacting SEO for your app store URL can be even more effective than for your website. App Store URLs can outrank websites in SEO because of the authoritative domain of iTunes and Google Play.

PUBLICITY AND OTHER ENTREPRENEURIAL METHODS

While effective ASO and app promotion can be done on a relatively low budget, app promotion doesn’t have to begin and end on the tech side of things. Many developers make a point of developing their public persona through social media and external publicity in order to foster an audience to whom they can later market their products.

THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

Ultimately, the road to success is not smooth, but bumpy. With the right mix of expert development, continuous maintenance, vigilance and dedication, an app can break through the sea of competition and become a profitable enterprise.

The Business of Emojis: How Top Companies Monetize Emoji Apps

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Emojis have become a staple of text communication in the 21st century. According to Digiday, over 6 billion emoji messages are sent per day. iMessage, Facebook Messenger, GChat, Snapchat & more have all integrated unique emojis into their platforms. Where there is popularity, there is money to be made.

An Emoji is defined as a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication. Emojis evolved from emoticons, which are pictorial representations of a facial expression using ONLY punctuation marks, numbers and letters. The first intentional use of an emoticon has multiple origins depending on your source. In 1857, historians documented the use of the number 73 to express love and kisses in Morse code. Some credit a New York Times article covering an Abraham Lincoln speech in 1862 with introducing the phenomenon. The first documented use of “:-)” and “:-(”  overtly to express emotion was in 1982 at Carnegie Mellon.

As online chat became popular, so did the use of emoticons. In an era of computer-mediated communication, emoticons help communicate nonverbal cues in digital threads. From emoticons, emojis emerged, eschewing the punctuation and using images to directly convey emotion. The first emoji was created in 1998 or 1999 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita. Emoji was first integrated with iMessage in iOS 5. Snapchat recently bought BitMoji for $100 million. Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and G-Chat are all following WeChat’s lead in creating their own visual keyboards. iOS 10’s iMessage App Store pushes stickers, opening up a new visual possibilities for app developers and advertising.

With big money on the line, here’s how top companies are monetizing their emojis:

DOWNLOAD FEE: Some emoji companies sell their apps with a download fee. For a flat rate of $1.99, the user receives access to all emojis. Most users will find it hard to justify paying for an emoji app unless they have a pre-existing relationship with the brand, thus this technique is best for major brands like Kimoji, Amber Rose’s MuvaMoji, the newly released Mike Tyson emojis, etc.

EMOJI PACKS/PREMIUM CONTENT: A more popular monetization method than a download fee is the individual pricing of emoji packs and premium content. Both paid and freemium apps can enact this monetization method. A company may offer one emoji keyboard for free with download of the app, then offer premium content, potentially sponsored by another brand, for a fee. Emoji> is among the top purveyors of this strategy.

BRANDED CONTENT: Perhaps the most effective monetization method for emojis is branded emojis and stickers. Fortune recently profiled a start-up named Swyft that generates revenue creating branded emojis & sticker packs. A sticker pack they created for Gwen Stefani’s album Spark the Fire was downloaded almost a million times and resulted in 41 million impressions in 10 days.

App developers looking to push their own emoji packs can generate revenue with branded partnerships after establishing popularity. BitMoji built up an audience over time with a seemingly endless keyboard of expressions. Upon attaining popularity, BitMoji was able to acquire tons of sponsored sticker packs to generate revenue. BitMoji’s success led to Snapchat’s decision acquire BitMoji and integrate an established brand rather than create their own unique emojis.

RETENTION: In order to build an audience and monetize, emoji keyboards must retain their users. Ads aren’t a popular monetization method for emojis since users like their digital conversations ad-free. Animated Emoji Pro integrated games into their app in order to increase user retention and ascend in ASO rankings. Users get lost BitMoji’s vast selection of icons, increasing usage time.

LOCALIZATION: Localization is another major way of enhancing retention on an emoji keyboard. A study by SwiftKey found radically different patterns of emoji usage depending on geographic location. Creatively utilizing geolocation services to localize the user experience for an emoji keyboard can be a vital tool in building and retaining a national or even global audience.

Succeeding with an emoji app requires innovative thinking, attention-to-detail, marketing & careful consideration of audience. Like TV, print, & web messaging, well-crafted emojis require good creative, and meaningful visuals that convey emotion. With 45 billion messages sent per day in the US alone, there is great potential for a well-crafted emoji app to become profitable business with the right combination of concept, execution, and an experienced app developer.

5 Essential Mobile Game Monetization Strategies to Keep Your Pockets Full

A recent study by Venture Beat showed that less than 1% of mobile game players contribute 48% of total revenue to game publishers. Inability to effectively capitalize upon this hyper-concentrated group of revenue drivers leaves many mobile game developers in the red. The rise of the Freemium model has essentially killed the paid gaming app, leaving many developers scratching their heads on how to turn a profit out of their passion. Here are some of the best methods for mobile game monetization:

1. SEGMENTATION Without a price to download, app publishers can no longer rely on a single method of monetization. Thus segmentation, the division of profit streams, is key to any mobile game monetization plan. App monetization revenues stem from three major categories: in-app purchases, subscription-based premium upgrades, and ad revenue. Highly-successful games can also bring in money through sponsorships, merchandise, and even big-budget Hollywood movies, but the bulk of app developers generate revenue from inside the phone. Experienced mobile game developers use their understanding of each of these revenue streams and how they relate to their target audience to leverage multiple revenue streams within their games.

2. REWARDED AD FORMAT Ads and in-app purchases are both great assets to mobile game developers looking to monetize, but what if you could play them off each other to increase both sources of revenue? That’s the idea behind the rewarded ad format. In exchange for watching full ads during breaks in gameplay, users receive in-game rewards, power-ups, lives, etc. The incentive increases video completion rate, as well as ad revenue, and preview premium features to entice more in-app purchases. While the rewarded ad format can lead to a surge in both in-app purchases and ad revenue, it still requires strategy. Keeping the audience in mind by ensuring the user base will find the content of the ad interesting will increase completion rate. Strategic rewarded ad placement is also key to keeping users engaged. Rewarded ad overkill will alienate users and prevent them from playing the game.

3. FREEMIUM The popular Freemium monetization method entails developers offering a free download of the most basic form of the app to entice the user, then premium services and features available for purchase or through a subscription fee. The Freemium model drives revenue through in-app purchases, premium features available through subscription fees, and ads. Apps like Tinder and Candy Crush have capitalized on their massive user base by enticing users to make in-app purchases and update to premium accounts. Candy Crush also uses social media to allow users to receive premium features in exchange for sharing with their friends.

4. NATIVE ADS Native ads are advertisements designed to match the form and function of their surroundings. TwitterFacebookGoogle, and Instagram all offer native ads and tools to help developers create and customize their ads. Native ad placement increases the chance of engagement by seamlessly blending the design of the ad in with the UI of the app. While many ads stand out in the context of a mobile app, native ads look like they are a part of the app rather than an advertisement. Some say native ads are unethical and deceptive, while others praise the improved customer targeting and enhanced content. Effective native ads blend seamlessly with the surrounding UI. The number one rule of native ads is to know your audience. If the developer can incorporate relevant content rather than ads for products that do not interest the user, native ads can appear to become more of an enhancement than an interruption.

5. FEEDER APPS Feeder apps are simple games with addicting gameplay which app developers utilize to spread brand awareness. Feeder apps often feature such simple gameplay, in-app purchases and ads would feel intrusive. Instead, push notifications and links in the main menu redirect users to their company website or another one of their games in iTunes. Many mobile development companies develop a network of feeder apps as a part of their publication and monetization strategy. By utilizing a well-integrated native ad for the company or game the developer intends to monetize, developers can turn viral feeder apps into profits. This comprehensive article by Scientific Revenue offers a great example of how feeder apps can function effectively. ZeptoLab cross-promotes their featured app King of Thieves through their feeder app Cut the Rope.

CONCLUSION Succeeding in the world of mobile gaming requires the same intense flare for competition which fuels mobile gamers. Experienced game developers know the stakes and come out swinging, ready to capitalize on every strategy they can to create a revenue stream. With the right combination of smarts, app developmentpromotion and strategy, mobile game developers can capitalize on their user base to rake in the big bucks.

Game Design Techniques: Significantly Increase Ad Revenue with a Sharp Core Loop

Due to the budgetary, software and hardware limitations of mobile games, developers must hook audiences with a well-built game incorporating layers of psychological strategy. The core of any mobile game is the Core Loop. The Core Loop is the main facet of gameplay. It’s the beating heart upon which all progress is precipitated. In sports games, it’s the matches. In Angry Birds, it’s launching the birds to destroy the pigs. In Candy Crush, it’s the levels. The Core Loop is the obstacle that users willingly take on with the intention of overcoming in exchange for a feeling of accomplishment. While retention techniques can reinforce that feeling and can add to the experience, no game can survive a poor Core Loop. In some cases, a great Core Loop doesn’t need any sort of extravagant retention technique. Flappy Bird, which took 3 hours to make, can accrue $50,000 a day in ad revenue purely off the Core Loop.

THE BASICS

A good Core Loop for a mobile game generally entails a simple, enjoyable, repetitive action which triggers a reward when executed properly. This reward is something in-game which triggers a dopamine rush for the user. The rewards can be anything from gaining points, getting lives, advancing levels, power-ups, unlocking characters and items, and so forth. These rewards are tiered and the dopamine rush should vary depending on the level of accomplishment. For instance, the main action of Fruit Ninja is slicing fruit. Slicing one fruit triggers a dopamine rush, but clearing a level of fruit triggers a larger dopamine rush, and getting on the high score list triggers yet a larger one, etc. Retention tactics can dictate how these rushes are tiered, but the action which produces the rush is the most important thing: the Core Loop.

LOOPING

Rule number one of the Core Loop for mobile games is to actually loop. After one loop completes, another loop begins. The user completes a level and begins at the next level with their score intact, or they fail to complete the level and begin at the start of the same level with their score reset. Even rewards apps for retail stores rely on Core Loop to hook users. Console games are monetized through retail, so they can craft larger budget, more intimate single-player experiences, but mobile games are generally monetized through the Freemium model, which means ad-revenues will make up the bulk of their profits. Ads come at the end of the Core Loop, so the more loops per user, the better. Thus, mobile developers generally invest in simple but rewarding, well-crafted, repetitive gameplay systems.

PROGRESSION AND REPETITION

Pac Man Level 1 Vs. Level 2 via GitHub

While a Core Loop must loop, it also must instill a sense of progression. If the user doesn’t feel like they’re making progress, they will likely quit. Users want the satisfaction of accomplishment, and both satisfaction and accomplishment require a sense of finality. Arcade games are popular on mobile devices because they thrive on repetition. Level 2 of Pac-Man is not much different from Level 1, but it is different, and that minor difference instills a sense of progression; the sense that a new challenge must be conquered with skills accrued in past gameplay experience. Memories unconsciously become technique. In games like the aforementioned Flappy Bird, the goal is simply to get a high score. There are no levels, but a sense of progression is still built purely through how one’s high score builds. If the high score weren’t displayed, Flappy Bird would still have a Core Loop, but nobody would play it since one couldn’t measure one’s progress. It wouldn’t feel like a game. The beauty of high scores is they represent a single player game with a social release, which is also great for social media promotion.

SESSION LENGTH

Session length is a vital aspect of the Core Loop. The Starbucks Test entails that the user should be able to have a meaningful experience with the game in the time it takes the barista to make them coffee. A concise session length will get users coming back often in the empty pockets of their day.

DUAL LOOP

The Dual Loop is an advanced game development technique that can deeply enhance gameplay. At the end of the first loop, the Dual Loop technique offers the user the option to stop their session and enter into a mini-loop which enhances the next loop, which is a continuation of the first. When you play Clash of Clans, you can battle, which is the main loop, but you can also collect resources or build and train your army in between battles. The dual allows the user to add quick 30-second interactions which pass the Starbucks Test and increase their investment in the competition.

One of the best ways to enhance your ability to develop a Core Loop is to play and analyze other games. A well-designed Core Loop can lead to mobile gaming success on minimal budgets, and massive success on larger budgets.