Blog The latest user acquisition strategies f...

The latest user acquisition strategies for mobile games

User acquisition (UA) in mobile gaming is more competitive (and expensive) than ever. By 2024, global mobile ad spend is projected to reach US$495 billion, an enormous 431% increase from 2019. To stand out from the hundreds of ads users see daily, app marketers and developers should develop a solid mobile game user acquisition strategy involving much more than campaigns. So, we’ll review what user acquisition is, how it benefits your app’s growth, and share best practices when marketing mobile app games.

What is user acquisition?

User acquisition is the process of driving new users to a mobile app. Marketers can utilize several different channels to generate interest in their apps to promote app installs.

Types of mobile acquisition campaigns

Paid user acquisition: Any marketing actions that promote your app using monetary resources fall into the category of paid user acquisition. Because this method requires money, it’s essential app marketers utilize mobile attribution to understand which channels are driving the best users to make cost-effective decisions on ad spend.

Organic user acquisition: Rather than spending ad money, organic or owned media marketing is defined as any user acquisition activity where an app business utilizes its own resources, like blogs, social media, word of mouth, and more to attract interest and generate installs. Note that organic installs tend to be the most high-value users because they are more educated on the app before installing it.

Current UA benchmarks

It’s vital to stay on top of the latest industry benchmarks for your gaming app, and this includes the average user acquisition cost for mobile apps. Per Adjust data, here are the latest user acquisition costs (in terms of cost per install) for gaming apps.

  • Global gaming app user acquisition cost: US$1.93
  • Android gaming app user acquisition cost: US$1.59
  • iOS gaming app user acquisition cost: US$2.26
  • North America gaming app user acquisition cost: US$2.93
  • Europe gaming app user acquisition cost: US$1.18
  • APAC gaming app user acquisition cost: US$1.49
  • Latin America gaming app user acquisition cost: US$0.34

Top 7 user acquisition metrics for gaming apps

Below are the essential metrics gaming app marketers should track for their UA campaigns.

1. Installs

Like all verticals, installs is a key metric of the acquisition cycle. An install occurs when a user has downloaded an app and opened it for the first time. Installs allow marketers to assess the success of their UA campaigns and the overall appeal of their gaming apps.

Through installs, marketers can determine which sources deliver the best traffic to their apps and optimize their campaigns accordingly. Many marketers opt to utilize a Campaign Automation solution to do this.

2. Daily active users

Defined as a user who uses an app within a 24-hour period, the metric daily active users (DAU) helps measure your UA campaigns' long-term success. As DAU encompasses both new and returning users, it reveals whether or not users are engaged with your gaming app.

If your DAUs are low overall, the game may need to improve functionality or its core features. However, if your installs are much higher than your DAUs, something’s likely wrong with your data. To ensure your gaming app isn’t unnecessarily losing users, put fraud prevention measures in place and a successful app onboarding.

3. Lifetime value

Lifetime value (LTV) reveals the profit margin a gaming app will earn from an average user over the entire time they’ve used it. By seeing how much revenue your app will generate from each acquired user, you can better scale your app as you’ll know the amount you can allocate to your UA efforts.

4. Cost per install

Cost per install (CPI) is the fixed rate an advertiser pays to an ad network upon a user’s installation of an app and can be thought of as the user acquisition cost for mobile apps. This KPI is a must for marketers as it helps them to measure their advertising budgets to assess whether or not their UA campaigns are on budget. The average CPI is highly dependent on your app’s subvertical and target market. For example, compared to other subverticals, hyper casual games don’t monetize as much through in-app purchases (IAPs) and, therefore, tend to have lower CPIs than puzzle or action gaming apps.

5. Sessions

The number of sessions is a great indicator of user engagement with your app, as it shows how often a user interacts with your app post-install. Sessions is a valuable metric for gaming app developers as they can use it to uncover which levels of the game are the most popular. Note that Adjust defines sessions as a span of activity separated by at least 30 minutes, with the requirement that the app is open in the foreground. The frequency of sessions paints a picture of how often a user opens an app per day.

6. Session length

Measuring the amount of time a user actively spends in a gaming app, session length is a crucial metric to understanding user engagement with your app. As such, session length is tied to retention, as users who engage for longer periods of time with your app are more likely to return. However, session length also relates to UA because if you’re monitoring session lengths of users from different channels and audiences, you can pursue those with higher session lengths in future UA campaigns.

Session lengths vary among verticals. For example, our Mobile app trends: 2023 edition reported role-playing games had the highest session length, with an average of 41.49 minutes per user per session. In contrast, casual gaming apps had an average of 21.59 minutes per user session.

7. Retention rate

A user acquisition strategy for apps will always incorporate an app’s retention rate.

While UA is about obtaining new users for your app, retention is about keeping them. Retention rate is the percentage of users who still use an app after a certain number of days post-install. By knowing where users with higher retention rates are coming from, gaming app marketers can distribute more of their UA budget towards those sources and fine-tune creatives and messaging. For a deep dive, check out our guide User retention: How to successfully keep users to grow your app.

Why is user acquisition important?

In a perfect world, all users would organically convert thanks to great thought leadership and excellent word of mouth. However, with over a combined 5.6 million apps available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, most gaming apps need marketing promotion behind them to stand out. With the right user acquisition strategy for mobile games, gaming apps can grow large user bases while significantly increasing their revenue and engagements.

Did you know user acquisition managers are rising in importance?

Despite incredible innovation and automation in campaign management, the role of user acquisition managers is still highly necessary, given the latest privacy changes. Learn why marketing teams need an expert to guide them in the article Why user acquisition managers are more essential than ever post-IDFA.

User acquisition: 8 best practices for gaming apps

User acquisition. Mobile games. Strategy. There are multiple tactics gaming app marketers can employ to strengthen their UA efforts. We’ve listed them here for you.

1. Explore new advertising formats with testing

Today’s gaming app marketers have more advertising formats at their disposal than ever before!

From rich media banner ads to playable ads to CTV advertising, many channels and ad types offer thrilling possibilities for user acquisition strategy for mobile games.

Check out these statistics on different ad types from 2022:

  • Video ad game revenue grew by 7% from the year before.
  • CTV ad revenue increased by 32%.
  • Social media ad revenue went up by 16%.

So, are you convinced to try something new in advertising? Our advice: Don’t do it without testing your efforts! You’ll want to know which creatives, channels, and partners deliver high-value users for your gaming app.

For instance, mobile gaming studio Widogame used Adjust’s Datascape to view all its UA data—including multiple campaigns and channels—in one place. The company was able to expand from one advertising channel to 10 channels. Additionally, by focusing on LTV and return on ad spend (ROAS), Widogame narrowed down the best channels for user acquisition and soon saw a 4,900% increase in installs. Get all the details of this inspiring UA games marketing success story here.

2. Don’t be scared of SKAN. Embrace it!

SKAdNetwork (SKAN) attribution data doesn’t have to fall under your list of unknowns. Marketers can still succeed in their iOS campaigns. Adjust created robust iOS Solutions that enable marketers to leverage conversion values to build insightful and strategic reports for SKAN campaigns.

For example, our Conversion Hub’s Smart setup provides marketers with an all-in-one solution for easy and effective conversion value mapping. The best part? You can tailor the conversion value mapping to your gaming vertical and monetization model. In short, gaming apps should not miss out on the user acquisition insights available via SKAN.

3. Automate for greater efficiency

As Adjust’s CPO, Katie Madding, noted in her recent article How to stay on top of your app campaigns in 2023, today’s marketers are tasked with doing more with fewer resources. To save time and maximize efforts for strategy, marketers should consider adding automation to their marketing tech stack.

A Campaign Automation solution will automate budget and bid optimization to save marketers valuable time and money. Automating your campaign optimization will save you time and help your team adapt to results faster, increasing the chances of your campaign’s success.

Additionally, don’t spend an hour every day scanning campaign data when you can set up smart alerts for your KPIs with a solution like Adjust’s Pulse. This alert automation frees you from the manual labor (and error) of sifting through your campaign data, looking for insights and anomalies. Pulse will send you alerts—via Slack or email—to keep you informed of the metrics that matter most to your app growth.

4. App store optimization is still paramount

App store optimization (ASO) isn’t the newest UA tactic on the block. However, ASO is often underutilized, so we recommend all gaming app marketers revise their ASO strategies regularly.

Review the following ASO questions:

  • Do my screenshots accurately represent what users can expect upon download?
  • Should I localize my screenshots?
  • Do my app’s short and long descriptions contain the right keywords?
  • Does my app icon need a rebrand to attract more attention?
  • Have I added a quality preview or promo video?
  • Is it time to get more reviews for my app?

For further insights, check out The mobile app marketer’s definitive guide to app store optimization.

5. Cross-promote your mobile app games

Many gaming studios find success in cross-promoting their apps. If you have more than one app, it makes sense to advertise both apps via in-app ads. For example, if you have one of the best paid mobile games, why not see how those users respond to your free-to-play app? You might discover that users for your gaming app niche are willing to pay for a thorough story and rich gameplay, or you might learn that you can monetize your app better with in-app purchases (IAPs) on a free-to-play gaming app. Not only is cross-promotion of your own mobile app games cost-effective, as you are both the advertiser and the publisher, but it also gives you a greater understanding of what your users enjoy. Moreover, the IDFV allows you to measure users across all apps within your publishing suite on a given Apple device and cross-promoted users have higher ATT opt-in rates.

6. Contemplate building a hybrid casual gaming app

Given the status quo of gaming apps (particularly hyper casuals) in mid-2023, hybrid casual games are trending among gaming app developers this year. This new subvertical is, as the name suggests, a combination of two different gaming genres. It takes the “tap-to-play” accessibility of hyper casuals with more advanced gaming mechanics like social features or collection systems of mid-core games that tend to retain users better. By making your mid-core game easier to start playing, you can improve initial user interest. For more details, read Hybrid casual games: The new kid on the gaming app block.

7. Protect your budget from mobile ad fraud

From click injection to SDK spoofing, fraudulent activity will affect your game’s marketing budget if you do not have fraud prevention technology. Not only will your ad spend go to fraudsters, but your UA strategy will be based on compromised data. This could lead to additional spending on a channel where fraudsters easily take more and more of your ad spend. Therefore, it’s critical to work with a mobile measurement partner (MMP) with a trusted Fraud Prevention solution in place.

8. Dive into our user acquisition guide

That’s right, Adjust has an entire guide on growing your app via two main user acquisition channels: ASO and paid advertising campaigns. Inside part 1 of our guide Scaling your app to 1 million users, we’ll illustrate the connection between ASO and paid user acquisition, discuss common advertising mistakes to avoid, and cover how to run paid ads on self-service channels and ad networks. Oh, and as a bonus, we cover influencer marketing. With 75% of companies building budgets around influencer campaigns, it’s something to consider adding to your mobile game user acquisition strategy.

Adjust and user acquisition for mobile gaming apps

To jump-start your mobile game user acquisition, you need a measurement partner to help you collect, analyze, and optimize all of your marketing data in one place. At Adjust, we help over 135,000+ apps grow their app with our mobile measurement and analytics platform.

Many of our gaming app clients, like Duolingo and Mamboo Games, use Adjust’s Mobile Attribution to identify their best users and channels and Datascape to view all their data in one place. Plus, with our Fraud Prevention solution, our clients’ data and budgets are proactively protected against fraud.

If you’re looking to level up your mobile game user acquisition marketing, schedule your personalized demo to see how Adjust can help accelerate your app growth!

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