What strategy to adopt when monetizing mobile games?

You have created a mobile game that is playable, works, has no bugs, and is even fun for players! Well done! But if you've had to pay a whole team of people to do it...

But if you've had to pay a whole team of people to do it (or you've devoted yourself to it at the expense of your career), then it might be worth taking a moment more to implement various techniques for monetizing that production. This is because, unfortunately, "just having fun" won't pay your bills (although there are hopes for this thanks to technologies such as blockchain and NFT, that's rather a topic for a completely different article). Fortunately, the problem you are facing has already been recognized by other people before you and there is a whole range of possibilities that will make your game start generating revenue.

Below you will find some of the most proven and industry-used ways to monetize mobile games. If used wisely and thoughtfully, preceded by a lot of testing and analysis, you can achieve really great results and get a satisfying return on your production investment.

In-game advertising

Invariably since practically the very beginning of this branch of entertainment, it is the ads that still remain (and will probably remain for a long time) the biggest and most reliable source of income for mobile game developers.

The main advantage is the ability to make the game available for download for free, while you earn revenue from ads - simple math and a clear deal. Basically, anyone can join one of the many ad networks and make their game available as ad space, as each new exhibitor means new ad views from advertisers, as well as new users of their products.

Nevertheless, because of the ease of use, you should also use this form very carefully and make sure that the user experience does not suffer. If there will be more advertisements than the game itself and the players will be "bombarded" with ads, which are not very suitable for the profile of our production, in consequence, they will not spend too much time in the production. Consequently, the achieved revenues may turn out to be lower than estimated - more ads do not always equal more profit. In addition, each subsequent display of an advertisement (especially in a short period of time) becomes less and less worthwhile, so the most important thing is balance and testing.

Therefore, it is worthwhile to learn about the most important formats of used ads and get to know their applications - not every ad is suitable for every type of game.

  • Rewarded Video (V4VC)

Practically from the very beginning of mobile advertising networks’ existence, it has been the most popular type of advertising and this trend has been maintained (with minor interruptions) until today.

How do these ads work?

The user gets a reward for viewing the ad. What kind of reward? For example, extra virtual currency, extra life points, or whatever we offer him. The user will experience a real benefit from watching the ad. In addition, it will be due to the user's action and awareness that it will appear, which makes V4VC ads the least intrusive and the most liked by players.

This ad format is also known for its high view-through rate and high player engagement - although of course there is a real risk that the user is not interested in the advertised product/game in any way, and is just waiting for a reward. The overall benefits, however, outweigh this risk - rewarded videos can increase overall ad revenues by 20% to 40% compared to other ad types, and have the highest eCPM (of all ad types (from about $5-10 to even $50 per 1000 impressions, depending on the type of game and target audience).

Of course, so much in theory, while the practice requires as always a lot of thoughtful decisions.

Rewarded Video Ads won't work the same way in every case - it's very important to know how you're going to monetize your game in this way from the design stage so that the whole process feels like a natural process to the end-user, not something "forced" and "tacked on by force". It is very important to determine what type of rewards we want to offer players in exchange for watching the advertisement. Of course, the rules of the genre come into play here, but if, for example, you would like to use microtransactions in addition to ads (about which more later in this article), you must balance the number of coins/diamonds a player receives "for free", because if you offer them too much, then the chance that they will be interested in buying a paid package (from which, of course, your revenue will be much higher) decreases.

It is also important to set limits in your ad network for impressions of the same ad during one session - even if the mediation algorithm still indicates it as the one with the highest CPM rate for you. While this is good for the advertiser (it will cement your brand in the mind of the viewer), for your players it may simply become boring and make them not want to use this form of "help" in the game again and they will sooner leave the app than try to recharge lives or coins.

  • Interstitial Ads

These types of ads are full-screen ads that the user can skip after viewing them for a certain amount of time (set at the ad network panel level). It can contain both static content and video content.Depending on the ad network used, eCPM may reach even $20 (however, this applies only to Tier 1 countries, such as the USA, Canada, or Australia), while the most common values are around $4-$6 per 1000 impressions. As in the case of Rewarded ads, the final revenue is influenced by many factors, such as the genre of the game, the platform (iOS usually offered higher rates, although this has changed with changes in Apple's privacy policy in favor of the Android platform), the location of the player, and even the quality of the implementation of the application (no errors in transmission, proper implementation of encryption, etc.).

However, the most important thing is the right place to, de facto, interrupt the usage of the game. And it absolutely cannot happen during the game - a more appropriate place is, for example, the board of completion of a given level - especially if it was completed with a good number of stars, which will make the user more willing to read the content offered by the advertisement. What's more, users are very used to this place of placing this type of ads, so it seems quite natural for them in 2022.

As always - user experience testing is essential to maintain a good balance between revenue and gameplay quality.

  • Playable Ads

This is a type of advertising that is increasingly conquering the mobile advertising market. These are simply interactive Interstitial or Rewarded ads that the user can play.This type of ad is mutually beneficial for both users and advertisers - it is estimated that they work up to 8 times better than regular Interstitial ads. Users can test the advertised applications already while it is displayed, the ad is interesting (unless, of course, it appears for the 40th time and the user was not interested in it), and the user gained in this way is valuable. This of course results in very high CPI rates for such ads - much higher than for standard Rewarded or Interstitial ads.

Although it is somewhat of a "double-edged sword" - the user may leave our app "once and for all", nevertheless, we will be compensated by the high revenue we get for his "move to the competition". Well - he probably hasn't deleted your application yet, so there is always a chance for him to come back - this is a task for other tools such as, for example, regular use of push notifications (but this is a topic for a completely different article).

  • Banner Ads

Once widely used, today they are used less and less - due to the fact that they generate much less revenue and users "don't see" them - over the years, they've become such a natural part of mobile gameplay that players have developed a natural ability to avoid them.

So, if they can't be considered a primary source of income, yes you can always consider using them as a source of additional income - a small one, but always some.

The most important thing is to place it in such a way that it does not interfere with the gameplay - thus it is common to place it, for example, at the bottom edge of the screen. Another common tactic is that it appears only in the menu and disappears during gameplay, or returns during the level summary menu, pause menu, etc.

Then we minimize the risk of accusations of "covering" our production with ads, and accusations of excessive greed - which later look bad in the reviews in Google Play and App Store.

  • Offerwalls

The last type of "ads" worth considering is also the most controversial - mainly because it is often frowned upon by Apple AppStore reviewers. Nevertheless, being used wisely and sensitively can be quite a substantial additional source of income for our application.

We are talking about offerwalls - a format somewhat similar to rewarded ads - the user receives a reward in exchange for performing some action. Sometimes it is watching an ad, sometimes installing another app, sometimes a specific action in another app, or buying a product.

So if your game relies heavily on virtual currency, for example, because it is an extensive RPG game based on the philosophy of limited resources, this solution is a great option for players who do not want to spend their real money on virtual coins. Especially among players who have already spent quite a long time in our production and need more resources to progress in the game.
The benefit for us is definitely the eCPM values we can get - they can reach up to $1600 (if our game is an RPG, in other cases it is much less, but not less than $250) - but remember that getting players to do the tasks on the list is not that easy.

Players just don't like this form - they think that the tasks take too much time in return for the reward they receive. Sometimes it causes feedback in the form of making players spend real money in microtransactions, but of course not always. For this reason, a lot of ad networks have withdrawn this type of advertising - but you can still find it in ironSource and Tapjoy networks, among others.

As always - everything should be tested, and monetization through this path (as well as others) is not a bed of roses. However, if we conduct a lot of tests and draw the right conclusions - our income should be satisfactory.

Microtransactions (IAP)

It may seem like "nobody buys virtual items" in video games. Maybe you've never bought one, or any of your friends. But the numbers speak for themselves - analysts predict that gamers will spend little more than $150 billion on microtransactions in the App Store and Google Play stores in 2022. Is it little or much? Comparable to the GDP generated by Hungary or Kuwait in 2018.

If you haven't figured it out yet - the player downloads a free game and can optionally purchase additional content that will make the gameplay easier or more attractive - additional lives, power points, coins, diamonds, and so on.

This model has taken over the mobile market, especially since making these transactions is very easy - most users have attached a credit/debit card to their account in Google Play or App Store. This makes it much easier to make - let's agree - quite impulsive decisions about topping up your life points with small amounts.

Therefore, to be successful in this model of earning you need to think very strategically - offer a variety of price options (the more the better the conversion rate per piece), offer products in packages, and also use limited-time offers - for example, offers a very attractive package of coins available only for the next two hours.

It is also important not to put so-called paywalls in front of the player, and not to use "pay-2-win" tactics. - this can quite strongly reduce the rating of our products and will bring negative reviews. As always, balance is important - additional items should improve gameplay, but a less wealthy player should also feel like someone with a chance to win, especially in multiplayer games.


Another piece of the puzzle that allows you to achieve revenue in mobile productions is the use of the subscription model.

In a nutshell - it is simply a regular payment, for example, monthly, and in return, we have access to a specific part of the production, we can play without ads, we get a certain number of items regularly, we have a multiplier of coins - the possibilities are almost endless.
The dominant trend in subscriptions has become the so-called battle pass (due to the mega-popular mid-core productions such as Fortnite or PUBG Mobile). Buying this subscription gives us access to unique things available only in a given season - the storyline, items, and the possibility to receive unique badges and rewards - available only in this game. This gives us a de facto opportunity to buy a game within a game - albeit one that operates on the same mechanics.

Of course not everyone will be willing to pay monthly and regularly even those few zlotys - that's why this is a (profitable) but rather an auxiliary monetization tactic. It's important to implement this properly on a programmatic level - including saving progress in the cloud so that players don't lose their progress and purchasing privileges (for example, if they change their phone to a newer model).

We've already mentioned several ways to monetize, but the most popular is the last one. And it is nothing else but - using the three above in one application simultaneously. A very important technique, in this case, is the mechanism of users' segmentation - the automatic study of users' behavior in our production and automatic control of monetization methods proposed to the player.

If the player does not show "willingness" to buy items for money - we increase the number of interstitial ads and offer to click on Rewarded Video Ads, if he bought something - we offer attractive packages, reducing the number of interstitial ads and calls for Rewarded actions. Examples can be multiplied and the number of rules can start to resemble a large decision tree - especially with complex productions.

As mentioned in each chapter - the most important thing is always to test and try different methods, looking for new ways, techniques, advertising networks, and media. Everything thrown in blindly - may simply not work.

If you need professional help in the field of monetization - contact Playstrict and as part of a soft launch campaign (or monetization), we will also work together on this element of the production so that it earns you solid money ;)

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