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27 Jan 2014

Making Money With Mobile Games

It’s no secret that companies are making money with mobile games – in fact, the top developers on the App Store/Google Play are making a killing. It’s possible to get a piece of this proverbial pie, but to do it, you need to start with the basics. Last week, I provided some tips to building your first game and beginning your indie career and making games without programming, and to start the week off on a productive note, I feel it is helpful to continue with the basics and discuss the best way to make money with your mobile games.

So you’re getting ready to develop your first game thanks to the tips in the posts linked above. That’s great. But you need to know what to do after you finish that stellar game. In short, you need to know how to make money so you can fund your next game, and so on and so on until you’re ready to take more bold steps (whatever that may be). Thus, follow the tips below to learn how to make money with mobile games.

Premium or Free-to-play?

It’s a choice you are going to have to make, and it pays to know the benefits of each. Premium-priced games have traditionally been the standard model for mobile games – although with more and more free-to-play games hitting mobile marketplaces all the time, premium games may aren’t the staple model that they once were. Nevertheless, premium games are still worthy of your consideration.

With premium games, the developer takes 70% of the sales and Google/Apple receives 30%. Of course, your premium game will fail to get as many downloads as a free game, but by making your game free for one a day (or even a week if it’s successful), you’ll get many more downloads than normal which will bring in new players, thus spreading the word further about your game to others and increasing the chances of your game being purchased.

When releasing your premium game, you certainly have to ensure that it’s as bug-free as possible. You literally only get one good shot at releasing your mobile game, and if it isn’t as close to perfection as possible? Your game is going to be hounded with poor reviews, and it’s going to be difficult (extremely difficult) to overcome these reviews by patching the game and getting more people to download it. That’s why it is so important to hire playtesters to play your game and improve it.

Initial bad reviews will certainly equal less than stellar sales, and from there, it will assuredly be a steep, uphill climb for you to reaching your sales goals (if you are unsure about proper sales goals, do some research to find what mobile games in your niche are earning).

Thus, you need to have tight plan and stick with said plan in order to have a successful launch and to reach your sales goal. It may sound like a ton of work, so what about free-to-play games?

Making money via free-to-play games

You have a lot more flexibility when it comes to going the free-to-play route – and bad, initial reviews will not necessarily harm the life of your game either! That isn’t to say that your game shouldn’t be as bug-free as possible before launching (thus, hiring playtesters is still important), but they aren’t game killers as with premium games. With that being said, you have to ensure that you integrate your free-to-play strategy into your game as soon as development begins, and one of the best strategies? In-app purchases.

In-app purchases

Will players want to purchase new items for their avatar? Will they want to purchase new items, DLC, and so on regularly in order to get the most out of your game? Does this make sense to use with your free-to-play game?

You need to ask yourself these questions and more in order to use in-app purchase effectively. As another example, you can allow players to purchase in-app currency in order to have them purchase new upgrades, items, levels, etc. in order to progress through the level faster, and with the money you will earn via in-app purchases? You can use it to continue evolving the game, adding new levels, challenges, and so on to ensure that players continue to play, experience new things, and hopefully spend more money.

As you can see, this makes your game not just a ‘game,’ but instead a platform. Yet in-app purchases are not the only way you can make money via free-to-play games. In addition, you can also use ads to earn a sizeable income.

Using ads

There are varieties of ad networks that are ready to pay you to put ads into your game. You can also be paid in a few different ways as well, from whether the players actually sees the ad, clicks on the ad itself, or installs the app that was featured in said ad (cost-per-impression, cost-per-click, and cost-per-install, respectively). Yet you cannot just throw an ad into your game at the last second, sit back, and expect to make money.

You need to know how to integrate your ads into your game during the initial development phase. I touched on this in a post a while ago that states how to integrate ads effectively so players don’t feel overwhelmed with an ad inside of their game, so refer to that to get some pointers on how to utilize ads effectively inside of your mobile game. In addition, you also need to know which ads your players want to see. Again, I touched on this in a post a while back, but allow me to explain the importance of it a bit further.

By determining what types of ads your players want to see, you can use ads that interest them the most, which will greatly increase the chances of the player clicking the ad, thus bringing in more revenue to you. It makes sense when you think about it: ads that interest players the most will receive more clicks than ads that don’t. Thus, determine the interests of your players via the niche your game falls into (again, my post above describes how to do this), and use in-game advertising to your advantage.

Clearly, I’ve only touched briefly on how to make money with mobile games, so I’ll throw it over to you guys. Do you have any tips to making money with mobile games? Let us know in the comments below!

3 Responses

  1. Carmen Nunez

    Hello Dusty! I’m from the Dominican Republic, so I’m doing my best with english LOL. I want to congratulate you, first because I love the way you write, and second because your writings are very inspirational. I am a journalist, and I am interested in investing in the app industry, but here in my country we are crawling on that topic. So I have to build on information from other countries to know more about this topic. I have already an idea of the first game that I want to create, but I found it difficult to find someone to confide my idea and of course, my money. I entered and talked at freelance.com with some developers from China, but do not know if they are the ones to do this work, I do not know if I’m being charged the right thing, or maybe it’s best to hire someone from the US. If you can guide me about it, I will be very grateful.

  2. Petar

    Hi, so I am planning to publish my game.I have one strategy so if you could advice me is it bad or good.I have 15 stages and I am planning in free version put only first 5 stages and ads and in premium version all 15 stages and ads-free it is.Can I publish two version of same game ( fremium and premium)? Thanks, Visual Madness Team

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