Indie games are known to be setting the tone for mobile market trends and it’s worth to taking a look at their equally innovative marketing approaches. So what better place to meet Europe’s mobile game developer scene than Casual Connect? I attended the event in London last week to chat with people about their user acquisition strategies, and to get insight on the latest disruptors in the mobile gaming industry. Let’s review.


Key takeaways

Mobile marketing opportunities

Mobile marketing was seen in a positive light, and a necessary aspect to succeed in mobile gaming. Playable ad formats were one of the commonly discussed opportunities.

Game development with the user in mind

Big players emphasized the importance of avoiding tunnel-vision in game development. What game devs have to ask themselves is, are you making it because YOU love the game or because the community loves the game? The next emphasis made by the big gaming studios is to use sophisticated methods to reward user behavior. Following advanced methods will yield significantly more uplift in engagement and retention when used in tandem with traditional rewards systems (level or task completion rewards).

Nintendo Switch is changing the industry

Game developers shared insights about how Nintendo Switch is affecting the industry. The Switch is one of the first consoles to put a very large emphasis on independent game developers. This is attracting developers who have experience in the mobile space, and could be important to the success of mobile game devs who can extend on developing cross-platform games.

Sony and Nintendo game stores have a lot of catching up to do to become as efficient as the Google Play and iOS app stores though. Sony’s and Nintendo’s vested interest is selling their consoles and the large game releases. As a result, the user experience of Nintendo’s and Sony’s virtual stores take a back seat compared to selling big-name game titles. This makes it rough to navigate and discover new games, which poses a risk to Nintendo Switch game developers. However, marketing companies can seize the opportunity to be the first to find ways to help these developers gain more exposure in Nintendo’s online store.


Speaker insights

Women in gaming

For diversifying your user base, great points were brought up during various discussions.

If you localize your game to certain audiences, they will adopt it more than the average player base. This includes females adopting games with female or gender neutral leads.

Software developers themselves still face a low female employee base. Therefore, they called for a greater effort to be made in pushing female engagement in early(ier) education to encourage more women to join the industry. Also, supporting their interest in computers/software/game design in general is vital.

How to make it big as a small independent game studio

First, make a game that gamers actually like to play. Do this by engaging the community early on in the game development to see which aspects gamers like the most and emphasize that aspect.

Second, focus on those aspects and develop the art and mechanics around the key defining feature of the game. Speakers emphasized the importance of building the game around what aspect about the game the community loves the most.

Third: Marketing. How to make that possible if you are a young game company? Aside from seeking the attention of Venture Capital funds, there has been a growth in companies that lend money to independent game studios to spend with on marketing and user acquisition. Seek these avenues for more information on how obtaining capital to spend on marketing can be a defining aspect of how your game can compete within the crowded app stores.

How to retain gaming users

Start by implementing a task-and-reward system by rewarding players for reaching certain achievements within the game. Secondly, create timed content and run promotions like a discount on the weekend or certain slow points during the day. Lastly, optimize the task/reward and timed promotions by measuring how the promotions have worked over time. If optimized properly, promotions will yield higher average user engagement.

Sophisticated vs. non-sophisticated gaming user targeting

Non-sophisticated targeting methods saw a 10% uplift in user retention. This method suffices for a simple level reach or mission completion rewards.

Sophisticated targeting methods achieved a 47% uplift in user retention. 

As an example, you can track and analyze user data to determine trends in user play frequency. This will allow you to send promotions and offers at crucial times when users usually drop off. For that, make sure you analyze your data significantly – CRM tools are highly recommended to analyze gamer profiles and track behaviors in order to be able to implement effective task/reward systems.

New forms of revenue models

Two revenue models have grown in attention in the mobile gaming space: Episodic and Subscription. Episodic, for those unaware, is a game released that is typically much shorter in length than a conventional release, that is designed as an installment to a continuous larger series. The challenge here lies in the model which normally dictates the game design. So, it is highly difficult to adapt this model to existing games. The second model gaining traction is Subscription (think of the Netflix of games). Here again, developers need to adapt their game design to fit the business model. Whether subscription games are successful can be evaluated on “session days” or how much the game is being played relative to other options in the subscription service.

Both of these models, however, have not shown as much success as the free-to-play model that has dominated the mobile space. The bottom line is, just like free-to-play, your strategy should start at building a game design around the revenue design. Episodic won’t work for a Match 3, and a free-to-play Match 3 will likely not work within a subscription model.

Streaming is the name of the game

What is streaming used for in the gaming world you wonder? Having players stream their gameplay online to garner interest in the game. At the conference, a streamer was invited specifically to live stream the winning game at Casual Connect. Having become a wildly popular trend online, having gamers live stream gameplay can push the game’s boundaries to its limits. While this isn’t actually a revenue model per se, it has been shown to be a market size increaser. Though it cannot be ignored that streaming takes high cost to deliver growth, and it is risky to rely on it in the long term.

Challenges in working UA beyond social

What is the sentiment towards mobile advertising companies that violate client company ad policy? Game studios speaking at the panel encouraged open but firm communication with advertising companies to offer a chance to remedy the situation. There are common instances where violations can occur outside of the ad company’s control. If the problem is identified, it can be relatively simple to remedy, and the ongoing business relationship can continue.

Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of the advertising company to maintain the integrity of the ad placements and to inspire trust in their clients. Both diligence and open, honest communication is the key.

That’s a wrap! If there are points that seemed interesting to you, and you want to chat more about gaming app campaigns done right, you can find me on LinkedIn here.