How to Integrate Video Ads Into Your Mobile Game
Mobile game video advertising is big business. A recent survey shows that 35 percent of mobile game developers are already using video ads to generate revenue, and that number will only increase — in March, for example, video spend is three times what is was in January.
Breakout hit Crossy Road is perhaps the most recent example of mobile game video advertising done well. Developed in just 12 weeks, it generated $10 million in revenue in its first 90 days — $3 million of that from opt-in, rewarded video advertising. Fun Run 2 found similar success using rewarded videos. Including opt-in ads that boost in-game earnings was a big factor in the frantic multiplayer racer’s 70 percent revenue increase over a single month. The secret to these mobile games’ video ad success? Integrating ads carefully and thoughtfully — keeping players engaged even when a video pops up. So what lessons can we learn from mobile games that not only keep their players happy, but also make them want to watch those ads?
Give your ads value.
If you’re rewarding players for watching opt-in videos, those rewards need to have real value. You’re asking your players to give up 15 or 30 seconds of their time, which is a big deal. “That’s the most important thing,” said Crossy Road co-developer Matt Hall at a recent talk. “If there’s no good reason for them to click that ad, they will never, ever click it.”
Crossy Road creates this sense of value by implementing a very simple in-app purchase structure, where every character unlock costs a dollar. Alternatively, you can earn coins to unlock random characters by watching ads.
“By doing that, we’re trying to create an actual value so people associate a character with a dollar,” Hall said. “So [the players] start to think about the fact that watching five ads is a dollar. It creates value within their own perception.”
When done right, players can see video ads as something that enhances a game, rather than detracts from it. “The feedback on [our] video awards is that players want to watch them as they receive something in return,” Aurora Klæboe Berg, vice-president of business and development at Fun Run 2 developer Dirtybit, said in an email.
Choose your ad-type carefully.
Choosing between interstitial video ads and opt-in ads is a big decision (something you could certainly do some A/B testing around). Ultimately, your choice needs to be a good fit with your game. Mini-game collection Dumb Ways to Die 2 succeeds with interstitial videos, for example, because of its frantic nature. The game throws a fast succession of mini-games at you, and the video ads offer a natural breathing space between the hectic rounds. Interstitial can also be ideal for players who are not as engaged or are scattered in different locations.
On the other hand, David March, co-founder of Disco Zoo developer NimbleBit, found that interstitial videos damaged his player retention. The popular zoo simulator makes 50 percent of its revenue from opt-in ads — the other 50 percent come from in-app purchases. Opt-in can also help with user retention.
“We have not gotten a single complaint about opt-in ads, except for people complaining when they aren’t showing up,” he wrote in a guest post on Touch Arcade.
Timing is everything.
Because interstitial video ads pop up without the player choosing to watch them, they can potentially monetize players that wouldn’t otherwise make in-app purchases or watch opt-in videos. If you’re going to use them, though, they need to be perfectly timed so they won’t break the user experience.
The paramount rule is that the ads should never pull the player out of the game.
“Do not ever, ever interrupt a user when they’re playing the game,” said Pieter Kooyman, director of advertising at developer MiniClip, speaking at Casual Connect Europe. “Don’t show them an interstitial…until it is at a very natural point.”
Don’t be ashamed of your ads!
Some mobile games hide rewarded videos away in the depths of the in-game store. This isn’t a great idea, as not every user will see the ad opportunity. If a player has already decided she’s not buying anything in your game, there’s no reason for her to visit the store.
Instead, you should look to integrate ad opportunities — particularly opt-in videos — as a core element of your game design.
“[You] need a game designer to actually accept that this is a viable part of the game experience,” online advertising veteran Oliver Kern said at Casual Connect.
Mobile shooter game All Guns Blazing does this by taking players to a virtual drive-in movie theater to watch rewarded ads, while monster-fighting game Monster Legends includes a cinema on the world map with a light to show when videos are available.
Meanwhile, Crossy Road continues to offer opt-in video ads that its players are thrilled to see — none less so than my son, who gleefully says, “Ooh, coins!” whenever one appears.