Retargeting Across Mobile Game Genres

Headshot Zachary Gray
Zachary Gray | May 6, 2020
Associate Director of Retargeting Strategy

For mobile games, the coronavirus crisis has created a gold rush of engagement. Gaming has seen astonishing growth since Shelter in Place restrictions were enacted. Taking note of the specific game genre when retargeting for your mobile game is key. Maximizing growth through a strong UA campaign that includes re-engagement from the start is also key. Here’s what mobile game marketers need to know to better re-engage users during this time.

Mobile Gaming Gold Rush

The amount of people playing games, the amount of time they’re playing and the amount of in-app purchases they’re making, have gone up across the board

Over the last three months, the number of monthly mobile gamers grew by 46%, from 1.2 billion to 1.75 billion people. Total hours spent playing games grew by 62% to over 90 million hours, compared to the same period in January.

Source: GameAnalytics

In-app purchases have seen impressive growth as well. IAP rose from 5% to 30% in Europe and North America during mid-March. This rise in IAP makes sense given the rise in playtime. The longer people play, the more likely they’ll spend to unlock new levels and power-ups. Across genres, games have seen a small drop in conversions of about 1% since the beginning of the year, indicating that it’s time to start retargeting new users to maximize engagement.

Source: GameAnalytics

Rather surprisingly, game apps invest the least in retargeting campaigns compared to other verticals. This seems like a massive missed opportunity since 90-95% of players are currently not making in-app purchases. Also, retargeting has been shown to generate revenue uplift of over 50% among paying users in the gaming category, more than double the industry average. Given these stats, any game that has the foresight to invest in retargeting will stand to gain a lot.

Know Your Players’ Value

Regardless of game genre, user segmentation to identify and acknowledge your most valuable players is vital. With millions more apps available and rising user expectations, competition for people’s attention is fierce. As we noted above, only 5-10% gamers make in-app purchases so identifying your power players who actually spend is very important. Although few players make purchases, the players that do are extremely valuable because once active in a game, their spending continues to rise. In fact, paying gamers in the United States spend, on average, $20 by day 7, and up to $49.33 by day 90.

User acquisition is important, there’s no doubt about it, but volume doesn’t always lead to value. It’s crucial for marketers to improve engagement and re-engage with their most valuable users. Finding the right balance between targeting new users, re-engaging paying users and retaining light users is crucial (and something we can help you with).

The Times They Are A-Changin’ and so is Player Behavior

It’s true that people are playing games more than ever. But because of this, time-frames are getting squeezed. Where a player would spend a month on your game prior to the pandemic, now with more time on their hands, they can get through the same content in a week.

To see how extended time-frames might be affecting your app, take note of your retention stats. During the pandemic, day 7 retention has dropped slightly from 30% to 26% across the mobile gaming industry. It’s always been important to know when users drop off in your game. Take note of changes in your lifecycle retention to decipher how extended playing times could be affecting the rate at which players consume your content. 

Different genres of mobile games are going to be affected differently by the changes in playtime. All games should keep watch of these changes and shift their retargeting strategy accordingly.

Adventure Games

Currently the genre driving the highest growth in engagement and revenue are adventure games. Playtime is typically longer for the adventure genre, which makes sense given the more involved experience. Playtime for the top 2% of adventure games have grown by 25%. In fact, the most avid players are now playing a staggering 4 hours (245 mins) per user on average. It would seem that with more time on their hands, people are opting to play longer, more in-depth games to keep themselves occupied.

For adventure games, incentivize players to come back to your app and continue the journey through well-timed retargeted ads. As always, user segmentation is key. For players who are just embarking on the adventure, send messages luring them to continue the journey ahead. For users who are at higher levels of game play, remind them of the power-ups they could use to unlock more advanced levels. Focus on the players who have made in-app purchases or clock the longest playtime. If you’ve noticed a lot of players dropping off at a certain level, serve ads that give a simple ‘how-to’ with a tip or trick to beat it. Reward them with a power-up to spike their motivation to keep going.

Hyper-casual Games

Play time for hyper-casual games has grown from 8% to 10% since January. For the top 2% of hyper-casual games, play time per user increased from 71 to 81 minutes.

The comparatively small rise could be because content is more limited for this genre. While adventure games consist of a longer, journey-focused narrative arc, there may not be enough content to entertain users during extended periods of boredom during Shelter in Place. Players don’t want a short and sweet, “snackable” game when they’re starving for stimulation. 

YouAppi VP of Strategic Partnerships, Meiry Vaknin, notes that game developers should utilize attribution data to prolong engagement. 

“With attribution data, game developers can re-engage players which exhibit the usage patterns of high Lifetime Value users, even if they’ve since abandoned the game. And for developers with multiple hyper-casual games, re-engagement is also an opportunity to cross-sell users on the games they’re most likely to enjoy based on the attribution analysis of their game playing patterns.”

For hyper-casual games, the issue is pacing so incentivize players to come back to your app in ways that re-inspire game play though content might be static. This could be holding limited time events with increased points or expanded game features. Time your ads to grab users’ attention when they will be more likely to want a short and sweet game break. That might be in the middle of day when players are on their lunch breaks or right after work as they’re winding down. Reward your most valuable players with extended lives or ad-free playing time.

Puzzle Games

While other game genres have seen boosts in play time, puzzle games saw a slight 2% dip. Again, this could be due to extended periods of play. 

To drive re-engagement, offer special game play events with enhanced points and features. Adding special contests or competitions to your game that incentivize players to compete against each other could also be effective. Try adding new backdrops and colors to freshen up the user interface of your app. Retarget users with new feature and content announcements. Something as simple as changing the background music of your game could add a sense of novelty for players. 

Takeaways

For mobile games, the coronavirus crisis has created a gold rush of engagement. Here’s what mobile game marketers need to know to better re-engage users during this time:

  • Mobile gamers, game playtime and IAP, have increased across the board.
  • Retargeting has been shown to generate revenue uplift of over 50% among paying users, reflecting that game apps that invest in retargeting of their most valuable users stand to gain a lot.
  • During the pandemic, day 7 retention has dropped slightly from 30% to 26% across the mobile gaming industry. Take note of any changes in your retention and shift your retargeting strategy accordingly.
  • Changes in playtime across game genres should be considered when building effective retargeting strategies.