What All App Publishers Can Learn from Mobile Games

By Brian Wong, Founder and CEO, Kiip

Brian Wong of Kiip
Brian Wong is the CEO and co-founder of Kiip and author of The Cheat Code.

In a mobile-first world, perhaps no one has things figured out quite like mobile game developers. The numbers don't lie: These days, the mobile gaming industry accounts for about half of all of global gaming revenue, not to mention 80 percent of all app revenue from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. That’s big money on small devices. No other app category comes even close.

OK, so why? It’s not as simple as “people love gaming.” Of course they do. But the fact that people have so heavily transitioned their long-standing love of gaming to their most personal devices means something else: It means they specifically love the mobile gaming experience—ads and all. In fact, gaming apps are among the least deleted apps on mobile devices, bested only by finance apps (which can feel more like an obligation than a choice).

Here’s the thing: There’s nothing stopping app publishers in other verticals from tapping into some of the secret sauce that makes mobile gaming apps so beloved. It’s all about putting the user first, and that’s exactly what mobile game developers are doing. And—believe it or not—putting the users first does not mean thumbing your nose at a robust stream of ad revenue. Consider:

In-App Economies Work

One of the most impressive accomplishments of the mobile gaming world has been its ability to create value in the intangible. By offering in-game items and powers that unlock new levels of competition and amusement within the game environment, game developers have created micro-economies that encourage the same type of earning, saving and spending we see in the real world. It might be via real currency, yes, but more often it’s through the accruement of achievements and points.

This is absolutely a dynamic that other apps can and should be harnessing. With a little bit of thought, nearly any app experience can encourage deeper interaction and information sharing by offering points that can be exchanged for rewards, be it content or in-app upgrades. Creating a virtual economy also allows you to…

Make Your Ads as Rewarding as the Games Themselves

Creating a virtual in-app economy opens up a ridiculous amount of new opportunities when it comes to your advertising experience. And here’s the thing: The types of advertising enabled by virtual economies can actually help retain and deepen engagement with users, rather than driving them away. In-app economies aren’t necessary to enables these types of ads. But they do add benefits for the publishers.

In recent years, mobile game developers have increasingly embraced rewarded ad experiences that bestow users with in-game prizes in exchange for their attention. An impressive 62 percent of game developers have reported that rewarded video ads in particular have increased or stabilized user retention. The same is possible within any app experience when you swap intrusive ad experiences with value-add ones.

Your Users Are Superstars

Finally, never underestimate the power of making your app users feel special. In mobile gaming, bragging rights are everything, and the best gaming apps give their users the opportunity to tout their accomplishments every chance they get—high scores, new levels, you name it.

Sharing is an integral part of many mobile gaming experience, and its power can be leveraged more broadly. We see a lot of fitness apps catching on to this trend, letting people share their run times and distances to their friends and social networks. This sharing activity can even be built into rewarded ad experiences by letting users post about the new sweet deals they’re constantly unlocking through their activity.

As people continue to spend more of their time in-app, the mindset of these users is becoming more ubiquitous. The experiences that appeal to them when in-app transcend the type of app. Users want value, rewards and recognition. So give it to them. And be sure to take advantage of the premium ad experiences—and revenues—that such experiences enable.

Brian Wong is the CEO and co-founder of Kiip and author of The Cheat Code.