Why Being Charitable Can Help Engage (and Monetize) Mobile Gamers

Sometimes it pays to be generous.

Partnering with a charity is a great way to engage a mobile gaming audience—and it could prove to be a win-win: raising money for a good cause can also increase those ever-important KPIs.

U.K.-based Playmob is dedicated to connecting game developers with charities by running in-game fundraising campaigns using its “light touch” API. Chief executive officer Jude Ower—recently awarded an OBE for services to entrepreneurship—took the floor at London’s Mobile Games Forum to explain how Playmob has raised nearly $900,000 for charities, all while helping mobile developers better monetize their games.

Image via Playmob.com
Image via Playmob.com

The power of doing good

Playmob has raised a lot of money for charity over the past three years, teaming up with some of the biggest mobile gaming giants in the process, including Rovio, Miniclip and Electronic Arts.

Games running charitable Playmob campaigns have generally seen a net revenue increase of around 30 percent, says Ower, with around 50 percent of the players who spend doing so for the first time.

Getting some of those non-spending players—typically around 97 percent of all users—to actually invest in a free-to-play game is a huge deal. What’s more, those players tend to continue spending outside of the campaign, says Ower. In fact, games integrating Playmob campaigns see an increase in lifetime value (the expected contribution of a single player to a game) of around 30 percent.

We’ve seen about a 10 times increase on engagement and virality.

And players who buy something that’s helping a good cause are far more likely to talk about their purchase, helping to boost a game’s social media presence. “We’ve seen about a 10 times increase on engagement and virality,” says Ower. “More people are likely to talk about the good action that they did because it was for good. If you buy a coin pack and money’s going to charity, you’re going to tell people about it on Facebook and Twitter.”

Showing where the money goes

Rovio's Angry Birds Epic
Rovio’s Angry Birds Epic

Part of the power of Playmob’s charity campaigns is sharing the real-life impact they’ve had. A two week drive in Angry Birds Epic raised $85,000 to help educate children in the developing world. Rovio—which saw new spenders buying its “good deeds” coin bundle and an overall increase in player engagement—could then claim to have directly helped out 8,500 young people.

“It was a huge impact we were able to tell players [about],” says Ower. “Players feel good about it. It’s a really nice cycle.”

Pixelberry Studio’s High School Story

Ower cites Pixelberry Studio’s High School Story as another great example of a successful campaign. Originally intended to run for one month, Pixelberry’s push to help raise awareness of cyberbullying—something close to the hearts of its young demographic—ended up running for 15 months and raising $300,000 for The Cybersmile Foundation.

Being open and honest

The Internet is a cynical place at times, and gamers can sometimes question the value of charitable endeavors.

Ower says that it’s vital to communicate with players to help overcome this potential cynicism, explaining exactly how much money is going to charity and what it will achieve.

“Players have to feel that it’s authentic,” says Ower. “People will always make a comment about a cause that they care about because they get very passionate about it. What we’ve done with developers before is listen to the community.”

PerBlue—the studio behind DragonSoul and Titan Empires—started off providing meals to schools in Africa through charity SOS Children. But when the mostly U.S.-based players—who loved the original campaign—then asked, ‘What about feeding people locally?’ it sparked a collaboration with Help USA to provide meals for the homeless over Thanksgiving.

Perblue's Titan Empires
Perblue’s Titan Empires

Ower adds that it’s important to be transparent with how much of that in-app purchase money is actually going to a good a cause. “If an item sells for $5 and a dollar’s going to charity, that’s OK,” she says, “because [players] understand that there [are] platform costs and other costs going into it. But being able to show your social impact too is really powerful.”

For mobile developers, this ability to openly demonstrate the physical value of a charitable campaign not only fulfills the need for social responsibility, it also offers players a reason to spend money where they might not otherwise. And in an increasingly competitive mobile gaming market, that’s surely something to cherish.

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