Making Money in Freemium
Planning on making a free mobile game? You are not alone. There are many developers who have switched from making paid apps to making free ones.
To help you generate revenue from your free to play game, I have put together a list of 42 tips and tricks to help monetize your mobile games and increase revenues. Hope you find it useful.
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#1 Banner ads
These usually cover part of the screen and can turn $2-$3 CPM. Not a huge revenue generator and somewhat annoying for users, but they are very easy to implement.
#2 Interstitials between levels
These full-size ads turn higher CPMs that can reach $10. If placed correctly, they can be less annoying to the users compared to banners.
#3 More games button
An easy way to get money from bigger gaming vendors. The user clicks on the button and gets a list of related games he might be interested in.
#4 Game Exit
Once the user finishes playing, you can present him one last full size ad.
#5 Icon drop
This option is available only on Android. The idea is simple, your game is authorised to send push messages to the user and these can be used to promote other games. Airpush is one company who specialises in that.
#6 Sell the data you collect
Advertisers are on the lookout for consumer insights. In-game behavioural information can be used to predict user behaviour in the real world.
Editor’s Note: Although there’re ways to legitimately monetize your own data, this area has become a lot more complicated post-GDPR, and might not be the best option. Learn more about GDPR here.
#7 Incentivized downloads / Offerwalls
Simple transaction where the user gets in-game coins in return for downloading and trying other apps. When this happens, you get paid by the developers of these apps. Here are a few providers of offer walls.
#8 A Second Offerwall
Since offerwalls are actually offering value to the user (he gets coins) there is no risk of annoying them. Having two offerwalls will generate more revenue than having only one.
#9 Coupons offers
The idea here is to reward a user in-game by offering him a discount on something he might want. What could be more fun then getting a 10% pizza discount after beating that really hard level? Kiip is one company who will pay you to add this to your game.
The user watches a video ad, he gets in-game coins, you get real cash. Simple and preferred by most users. Adcolony is one company that can help you get there.
This is an easy way to get an average of $12 per 1,000 downloads. The user will get a search app installed along with your game. Startapp is offering this. Android only.
#12 Branded virtual goods
For games that have virtual goods in them, you could offer a branded version of them and get paid by advertisers.
Selling Content (DLC)
#13 Premium version
If you just moved away from making paid games, this could be an easy option. You release a light version of your game and allow users to upgrade to the full version via an In-App Purchase.
#14 Level packs
This is an advanced version of the former item on the list. Break the game into a few packs of levels and sell each one independently.
#15 Worlds (visual customisations)
With this option you create and sell a customised version of the original game by modifying the look and feel of the game.
Some users will like your game so much, they will buy a wallpaper for their phone.
If you composed an original music for your game you could sell it in your store.
#18 Remove ads
A popular item for many games. Once you have a version with ads in it you can sell a version without ads. Usually goes for $0.99.
#19 More Energy/Life/Turns
Energy mechanics means that your game is limiting continuous game play. Usually the limit will be at around 5-10 short sessions. Anyone that wants to go over the limit and continue playing needs to pay.
#20 More Time
Games that requires the user to finish the level in a certain time can sell more time to complete the level.
In-game economies are driving more than 50% of the revenue in mobile games, so they deserve a big chunk of the list. I tried to break it down to components that you can mix and match rather than closed models.
#21 Characters / Avatars
If your game has a character that users can identify with, it makes sense to introduce more options in this category. It works better if the characters have unique attributes – e.g. one is stronger while the other one is faster.
#22 Training / Tuning
If your game has characters, you can allow users to buy training. If your game is about cars you can sell tuning.
#23 Advantage giving items
Weapons or gear that give the user more abilities can be sold for real money transactions. Be careful with this one. It might bite back. Here is how to prevent pay to win.
#24 Upgrades for virtual items
Games that has items the user can own will benefit from allowing the user to upgrade these items.
About 20%-25% of the users are interested in customising the look and feel of their character, car, weapons, …
Resources are items that can be accumulated and consumed by the user. They are usually the life blood of a game as they get users engaged in the shopping experience. They can also serve as a balancing mechanism.
#27 Manufacturing items
These are usually buildings that allow the user to obtain resources automatically over time or convert one resource to the other over time.
#28 Double coins
Adding a double coins ‘cheat’ to your game for $0.99 can help you squeeze a bit more revenue. Some games allow the user to double more than one time.
#29 Save me
“If you must cheat, cheat death”. Games that requires the user to start from square zero every time like endless runner would normally be a good candidate for this.
#30 Discoverable items
While most items users buy are owned by them, discoverable items require the user to also find them in the game.
#31 Surprise boxes
Users buy an item but don’t know whey they will get until they purchased. These are big in the Far East.
#32 Limited editions
Once you have a good set of items users like you can sell a limited series of one of the items. This gives the buyer an opportunity to feel special. You could also combine it with an auction.
#33 Seasonal items
Use the holiday spirit to boost sales. This trick is especially easy to implement if you use a SOOMLA store.
While Google and Apple provide the main billing services, they don’t have full coverage in international markets. Most people in Brazil, for example, don’t have a credit card, so making in-app purchases becomes very hard for them.
#34 Carrier billing
This option is available only in Android. The purchase is added to the bill users get from their carrier. Fortumo is one company that will help you get there quickly.
Codes that can be purchased offline or online and redeemed in the game for coins. Supported by both Apple and Google.
#36 Wallet Payments
Think PayPal. Users might have a balance they are looking to get rid of. This option is available only for Android. If you are interested in this option, you might want to partner with an aggregator like PaymentWall.
Your fans want to show how much they love your game? You can sell t-shirts in your game.
#38 Lunch boxes
Popular Merchandising option with kids games.
#39 Branded cases
What could be a better match for a game then a shield for the user smartphone.
Even a game that is completely free can turn into a cash machine when you let users compete for prizes against each other. Nextpeer can help you get there quickly.
An extension of Duels with more participants. Requires a bigger user base or some marketing efforts. Works best when the game simulates a real world game that has real world tournaments.
Give users the option to give coins or virtual goods to other users. Spending $0.99 on a gift might make more sense to some users compared to spending it just to get ahead in the game.
Share this list on Twitter…? 42 Different Ways to Monetize Your Mobile Game #GameDev Click To Tweet
Think we missed one? It’s entirely possible. Please reach out to GameAnalytics on Twitter to share any suggestions of your own. If you have a specific experience (good or bad) with one of the options in the list feel free to share as well.
P.S. I received a comment (via email) about a 43rd method: Caller ID advertising. This is an Android only option that basically puts an ad when you make or receive a call from an unrecognized number. It’s a nice way to get paid with no impact on your app experience.
? Further Reading: 10 Essential Mobile Game Monetization Tips