How to Monetize Mobile Gaming Apps Without Churning Users

August 12, 2016 - 2 minutes read

Remember Angry Birds? Then you probably also remember the annoying, repetitive ads for the ill-fated Windows Phone.

Angry Birds was easily one of the biggest mobile app development stories ever, but the story might be different if they’d launched today instead. Today’s users are much more averse to blatant advertising — particularly among gamers, some of the most adapted to in-app purchases.

Instead, app developers have to find ways to include ads in a way that doesn’t remove players from the app experience, because once the spell is broken those users are much more likely to churn. To make matters worse, gaming app users have a short shelf life — a month or so on average, as the game is completed or dropped in favor of the next “thing.”

One way that gaming developers have traditionally used advertising is as an “alternative” to in-app purchases. For example, users can be offered a choice: spend a dollar on added powers, or watch an ad to “earn” the reward. This also solves the problem of unfairly advancing paid players, which can create resentment among younger users, who are accustomed to getting digital products for “free.”

That said, diversity and creativity are still key to showing ads without annoying users. UX-minded San Francisco app developers make sure to place advertisements at non-crucial points in the gameplay experience.

It’s important to keep the state of mind of potential users in mind. Is it smart to show an ad at a moment between two tense, difficult levels? Probably not, since the player is likely to be highly engaged or even frustrated by the experience.

Frustration can be healthy in a good game — but users should never feel frustration when they see an in-app ad.

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