Athletics and Recreation

Mobile Game Development Explained [2020]

Mobile Game Development Explained [2020]

Mobile games represent the largest segment
of the gaming market, and that space is tremendously competitive as a result. We’ve heard from our community that they
want to know more about how to succeed on mobile platforms, so this is part one of a
series on the basics of mobile games, how they acquire users, and how they make money. We are Ask gamedev and this is mobile game
development explained. Welcome back! We make videos on how to elevate your game
development and inspire others. If after watching this video you want to continue
the gamedev conversation, check the video description for a link to our Discord server. Traditionally, console and desktop games have
been monetized through premium pricing – you spend a set amount to receive the full game
experience. In the early days of mobile handheld gaming,
the premium pricing approach continued on platforms like the Gameboy or Playstation
portable.. With the global adoption of smartphones, we
saw a lot of changes to the gaming landscape. This included the mainstream move to freemium
game experiences, where consumers could access mobile games for free, with in-app ads and
purchases acting as the most common routes to user monetization. As expected, this change in user monetization
has had a ripple effect on how mobile games get developed. Historically, games were released for PC or
console on disk or cartridge, and that meant developers essentially finished developing
the game before shipping. For the most part, they had no intent to touch
the build again. Customers were monetized one time only – and
typically at the point of initial sale. Mobile games changed that approach, and development
teams have embraced the liveops structure that has become popular in many areas of software
development. This involves shipping an efficiently developed
but viable product, with the intent to iterate and improve the experience based on live consumer
data that shows where the game is succeeding and failing. These live improvements aren’t just focused
on gameplay – but increasingly on the game economy and monetization strategy. In detail, the liveops lifecycle is similar
to traditional development in that a pre-production period kicks things off – with a focus on
exploration and proving of gameplay assumptions around making an experience that is fun. This is followed by a production period where
the team creates the launch features, monetization and analytics framework, and live event infrastructure
to allow for updates to the software after release. After an internal bug-fixing and tuning period,
Mobile games typically release in a limited territories list, or a soft launch. This way they can get live crash data and
address major issues in the build before going to a worldwide release and a larger audience. This is also a good time to gauge base level
retention and conversion metrics. Once in full launch, most freemium mobile
games drive monetization through live events – which are scheduled periods where special
gameplay or rewards are offered to users for a limited timeframe. Offers and promotions to boost monetization
or re-engage players are commonplace during these periods. It is popular for developers to focus live
events on major holidays or themes – like Christmas, Easter, or Halloween. Live events are typically the primary point
of monetization for mobile games, so they are a huge part of the release strategy. They often coincide with user acquisition
campaigns and introduction of new features or content. Live events are also important as they typically
provide great user data, and can inform user acquisition budgets. As with any game, a mobile title has a finite
lifespan. Metrics will show when core users start to
increasingly depart the game for other experiences, and developers typically combat this reality
by developing similar or complementary titles to sell-in to their existing user base. This allows the developer to continue to monetize
the users beyond that first piece of software. For more information on the liveops lifecycle,
Playfab has a great overview of it that we recommend and will link to in the description. Now let’s talk about Mobile games monetization
in detail. There are three models that have been the
most popular – IAP, IAA, and paid apps. In-app purchases, or IAP, is the monetization
model of choice for a huge portion of mobile game developers. Only 4% of gamers actually make in-app purchases
– but those paying customers are the core focus of freemium developers. IAP typically includes three different categories
of purchasable items: Firstly, Consumables. These are purchases that are made, then consumed
within the app, such as extra lives, additional moves, or in-game currency. Users typically purchase consumables to further
their progress through a game. A user can also buy non-consumables, sometimes
called entitlements, which are often used to unlock access to features or content within
the game. Think of additional customization options
for your characters that are often cosmetic in nature and don’t normally enhance game
progress. The final type of IAP, is subscriptions – which
is probably more typical in general applications as opposed to games. Apps will often use subscriptions to upgrade
users to a higher tier of functionality after initial use. The subscription model is most beneficial
for the minority of apps that consistently provide ongoing value to loyal users via regularly
updated features or content. IAP and monetizing your audience is a deep
topic that we will cover in depth in part two of this series, so check that out if you
want to learn more. In- app advertising or IAA is probably the
most popular form of monetization for Indie game developers. It’s easy to setup and doesn’t typically
require development of a complex economy structure within your game. You simply integrate with an existing ad platform
that will serve ads in your game – and you receive payments if your users engage with
those ads. If you have a lot of users, this can be a
worthwhile strategy. Rewarded video, in particular — has proven
itself as a legitimate business model in the game economy. If you want to integrate ads in your game,
there are lots of ad networks available. Popular ad solutions include MoPub, AdColony,
Admob and Adsense. Again, check our part two of this series where
we will dive deeper into IAA and strategies for optimizing your ad revenue within your
mobile games. We’ve talked a lot about freemium monetization,
but there are lots of games that make money on mobile through the old-school premium model. People pay once up front for the full game
experience. Many console or PC games that port to mobile
follow this approach. If you check the top paid apps charts on iOS
on Android, you will often see a lot of familiar names from traditional gaming platforms. The paid app approach means less development
time around live events, and in comparison to a freemium title has less post-launch support
requirements. How do mobile games get users? Well there are two methods – they either pay
for them via advertising in other apps, or they gain them organically. Organically is always preferred, as the users
are gained for no cost. These are typically users who heard of your
game via word-of-mouth or other media. Paid users are acquired by placing in-app
advertising in other apps. Social media sites like Instagram and Facebook
are popular ad-spend destinations, but you can also use ad-networks like Admob. The best choice really depends on the audience
you are looking to attract to your game and where they already exist. Users are commonly bought on the basis of
how qualified they are. On one side of the spectrum are very unqualified
eyeballs, and you pay for them on a cost-per-impression basis. This means that the ad network simply guarantees
that the users will be shown your ad and nothing beyond that. The quality of these users is typically low,
and you will often only see a small portion convert to users of your game. That said, this can be a cost-effective way
to get acquisition data and can help to provide your game with an initial user base. As you become more confident in your retention
and monetization metrics, you may look to increase the qualifications of your user acquisition
spend, by looking toward cost-per-click, cost-per-install, or cost-per action campaigns. You will only be paying for users that perform
certain actions with these approaches. But keep in mind that you will pay much more
for that certainty. The typical user acquisition strategy of a
mobile developer is to efficiently test and analyze their various ad campaigns so that
they can be more certain of their key metrics before making large ad spends. If you can determine that the lifetime value
of a user in a specific cohort is greater than the cost to acquire that user, you are
well on your way to user acquisition success. ROAS, or return on advertising spend, is a
good metric to track with these efforts. ROAS measures gross revenue generated for
every dollar spent on advertising and gauges the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns. ROAS is equal to the revenue from ad campaigns
divided by the cost of an ad campaign. Developers typically A/B test all of the different
variables in a campaign – target audience characteristics, ad copy, target platform,
etc – in an effort to continually optimize ROAS. Developers will also regularly adjust their
in-game economies based on the user data they see once users are in the game. You’ll want an analytics solution to make
sure your ROAS is on point – we recommend Kochava amongst the various third party options. If you know anything about mobile game or
app development, you know that there are a lot of acronyms around the popular metrics
used to evaluate performance. We’re going to quickly go through some key
things to track. So how many people are playing your game? That is measured via your Daily active users
metric, DAU, or Monthly active users metric, MAU. How you define ‘active’ is up to you – but
it usually involves booting up your game. ARPDAU is up next – and it stands for average
revenue per daily active user. This will help you understand the revenue
potential of an active user, and will inform your user acquisition strategy and what you
can pay to gain a new user. Retention indicates how good your game is
at bringing people back to play it. Specifically, this metric shows the number
of unique users who came back to your game at future points after first opening the app. The most commonly cited points are day one,
or D1, Day7, or, D7, and D30. Some people track D3, or D28, or D90… it’s
all specific to your game and what the typical lifecycle of a user is. The key point is that you should know your
dropoff percentages so that you can see where you can optimize your gameplay and extend
user retention. The users that keep coming back are usually
the ones who are most likely to monetize. Any modern user analytics solution should
provide the aforementioned metrics. If you developed in the Unity engine, we have
found the Unity analytics package is easy to integrate and pretty comprehensive. If you have developed in other engines, Flurry
is a popular option. We have also found that Crashlytics is a good
option for additional user insights – specifically around crashes, session data, and overall
user behaviour. Another respected option is Playfab, as it
provides user management analytics in addition to excellent data on back-end performance. Check out part 2 of this video series where
we dive into mobile user acquisition in detail. Also, if you want to make your own iOS or
Android game – check out this video on the best game engines for making mobile games.

Reader Comments

  1. As a solo Indie Mobile Game Developer I have to say this one was very useful and I am excited for the rest of the series ! Thank you!

  2. Is there game engines for mobile ( I mean engines that I could use on my mobile and code with it ) also what are the best websites to learn coding thanks in advance

  3. I highly recommend all mobile game developers check out the site Deconstructor of Fun. It is the gold standard in breaking down mobile game mechanics and monetization strategies.

  4. first off make a trash mobile game ad like example mum vs dad or can you beat this level or 99% of players cant beat this can you??? and make the game look incredible in the ad but the game is just some crappy ass game basically clickbait them to download your game and done.

  5. I've been waiting for this topic for. I've been trying to work on mine, but never had a good guide. Thanks Ask gamedev.

  6. My consultant has told me that a viable strategy is to shit out crap games, or SOCG. If you do that enough times, you might accidently shit out a game that is fun for half an hour and makes players watch the ads for other crap games, which were paid for by rich Chinese who see Mobile Gaming as an investment sector. But what do I know, I'm only a low quality user.

  7. I wouldn't really recommend AdSense or AdMob purely due to their lack of support, you won't get human support if you use those services. It's just my personal preference; I've been burned bad by both of them

  8. Great job guys.This channel seriously helps me a lot in understanding about game development.

    I would be glad If You guys made a video on where to find good free courses on Godot Engine and How to transport the game into an apk for android.


  9. While a still adore your videos, I don't think you have any content that's truly aimed at noob like myself. I think your channel needs a better beginner playlist, as most your tutorials don't really teach what I'd consider the fundamentals of game dev, or the process beginner should use.

  10. Mobile games are so populated by big companies..and it is highly impossible for a indie game to succeed without any marketing or publishers

  11. I've been developing an adventure/platforming game for mobile for more than a year. But the design doesn't include IAP. Any paid improvement would break the gameplay. IAA is also hard to implement, the question is when to put them without taking out the player of the gameplay. Is my only chance to go for Paid App approach?

  12. Marketing and sales make me sick. This isn't treating people with dignity or respect. I'm planning on changing this for my games. I may not make as much money, but I'm going back to pay one price get the game for my games or maybe even making the game free and let people pay me if they want to. In my opinion IAP have destroyed mobile gaming and is the reason the stores a full of crap

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