Presented by Anzu
The pandemic has seen millions of people turn to mobile gaming to pass the time, resulting in a huge influx of new players, propelling existing games to new heights, and turning new ones into household names overnight. This has prompted many studios to review their monetization strategies to ensure they have the right technology and tools to capitalize on the influx of traffic.
Lev Kommisarchik, Director of Mobile Games at Anzu, one of the world’s leading in-game advertising platform, recently spoke with Mi Nguyen, UA & Monetization Manager at Amanotes, SEA’s number-one mobile games publisher, to try to understand what success looks like for a mobile games studio in this new world.
They also discussed how monetization methods have allowed them to update and release new games regularly, and what advice they have for up-and-coming games publishers looking to make it in mobile.
Lev Kommisarchik: Your numbers are very impressive, with over two billion downloads and 120 million MAUs. Why do you think your games have been so popular, and do you have any takeaways or tips for developers who are getting ready to launch their first mobile game?
Mi Nguyen: Our success is humbly attributed to our music-loving users around the world. We truly believe that music is a strong differentiator between Amanotes and other publishers. Our portfolio also heavily focuses on increasing user value with gameplay improvements, new features, and playlist updates.
At Amanotes, we think doing something extraordinary has to start with doing something you’re passionate about. In our case, it was music. In others’ cases, it could be something you understand or greatly connect with. To the aspiring developers out there, constant testing is key. Not many people can build a hit game in just one try. Launch, market fit, evaluate, optimize. You should repeat this process even after your game becomes a hit. That’s how a music game like Magic Tiles 3 is still going strong four years after launch.
LK: The pandemic saw record numbers of people turn to gaming to pass the time during prolonged lockdown periods. Did you notice this trend within your games? And did you feel any pressure to develop new updates or games to meet this new demand?
MN: The pandemic has greatly affected the mobile app industry, especially regarding user behavior. We’ve noticed the active time in our games has changed. It is now scattered throughout the week rather than just focused on the weekend. Our competition has also become fiercer, as more publishers are fighting for users’ attention. The pressure is inevitable, yet we believe our musical focus, continuous improvement, and user obsession have done us a great favor, resulting in our second billion downloads milestone, just 14 months after the first!
LK: Your games use a mixture of monetization models, including in-game and reward-based ads, pay to play, and a subscription model. What was the decision behind this, and do you think one works better than the other, or do you find that a mixture gives players options to choose how they want to play?
MN: This mixture of monetization models enables sustainable growth for the business. We live in a world of “free choice,” where users have more and more power. If we force them to watch an ad to play games, they can always leave us for one of our many competitors. So instead, we will try to understand them, segment them, and provide different options. This is a win-win for both us and our players.
LK: You’ve been working closely with us at Anzu to implement our in-game ads which form part of the gameplay, appearing alongside courses that players have to navigate within your games, naturally adding to the gameplay rather than interrupting it. What made you decide to implement them, and how did you decide on a partner?
MN: As part of our strategy, we always want to improve the user experience and grow the business at the same time. In-game ads are perfect for increasing revenue and avoiding user experience interruption. When it comes to partnerships, we prefer to go with well-established partners who can share expert advice. Anzu was the perfect partner in that sense. We also look for both maturity in technology and demand scale, which can help us minimize the risk for integration and grow faster.
LK: What kind of success have you had with in-game ads and how have they performed compared to other ads?
MN: In-game ads are still very new to us. Right now, we couldn’t say that they could completely replace our interstitial or rewarded video ads. However, they have brought a different opportunity to the table by balancing user experience and business performance. We have seen a positive uplift in both user engagement and revenue with in-game ads, which we are exploring further, to elevate our user value.
LK: What impact have in-game ads had on the UX and overall gameplay?
MN: We worked with Anzu to figure out where the best spots in our games were to capture the users’ attention. One of our common practices is making in-game ads blend in the UI of the game. We need to strike the right balance to ensure our games provide the best user experience and this often means experimenting with different methods to see what works best.
LK: What do you think about the future of advertising within games?
MN: I believe in-game advertising will be a force in the world of gaming as we move into the future. I think we will also begin to see the presence of diversified formats and content in in-game ads. We should also remember that, as well as the advertising industry, the game industry is transforming and we are seeing new innovative gameplay and truly immersive experiences begin to emerge, which will continue to nudge ad networks to find new ways to fit into this ever-evolving landscape.
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