The Definitive Guide for Marketing a Mobile Simulation Game in 2023

The Definitive Guide for Marketing a Mobile Simulation Game in 2023

by Andrea Knezovic

If you’re looking for an extensive guide on marketing a mobile simulation game, you’re in for a treat!

In this article, I explain how to get more users, break down video ads from top publishers, and analyze the most important statistics for simulation games.

Ready to learn how to reach the top charts?

Top 10 Simulation Games 

Google Play

Here’s a list of top-grossing card games on Google Play in the US. (SensorTower, free data)

  1. Design Home: House Renovation (Crowdstar)
  2. Klondike Adventures (VIZOR APPS)
  3. Fire Emblem Heroes (Nintendo)
  4. Family Farm Adventure (Century Games)
  5. Redecor – Home Design Game (Reworks)
  6. Fishing Clash (Ten Square Games)
  7. ISEKAI: Demon Waifu (TAPZEN)
  8. Chapters: Interactive Stories (Crazy Maple Studio Dev)
  9. Trading Legend (37games)
  10. Choices: Stories You Play (Pixelberry)

Apple App Store

This is a list of top-grossing card games on the Apple App Store in the US. (SensorTower, free data)

  1. Homescapes (Playrix)
  2. Project Makeover (Magic Tavern)
  3. Cookie Run: Kingdom (Devsisters)
  4. Gardenscapes (Playrix)
  5. Fishdom (Playrix)
  6. Township (Playrix)
  7. Design Home: Dream Mkeover (Crowdstar)
  8. 8 Ball Pool™ (
  9. Redecor – Home Design Makeover (Reworks)
  10.  Episode – Choose Your Story (Episode Interactive)

tips for marketing a mobile simulation game in 2020

5 Tips for Marketing a Mobile Simulation Game in 2022

Here are some practical tips that will help you with marketing a mobile simulation game.

1. Spy on Your Competitors

When you’re struggling to come up with a killer user acquisition strategy, it’s best to do some research first.

So to gain insights on marketing a mobile simulation game, study what your competitors are doing. What are their app store optimization strategies? Who is their target audience? Which ad networks do they advertise on? What makes their ads good?

You can learn a lot from that information and make better-informed decisions.

Don’t get me wrong.

I’m not telling you to literally copy everything your competitors are doing.

However, there are some strategies that have been proven to work and there’s a reason why everybody is using them. It would be foolish to ignore it.

Furthermore, by doing competitor and market research, you gain insight into current trends, which is also useful.

There are a couple of ways to get that kind of data. You can find out a lot by simply analyzing different pages on the app store or going through ads in Facebook’s Ad Library. However, if you want more in-depth data, you can try mobile intelligence platforms. Those offer app store, ad, and market intelligence which is perfect for this type of research.

2. Grow Your User Base Organically

Once you have a better idea of the market and how your competitors are approaching marketing a simulation game, you should focus on organic growth.

What that means is acquiring users through Google Play and Apple App Store. That’s why app store optimization is so important for developers – it’s the foundation of a smart user acquisition strategy.

ASO Tips for Simulation Games

The most important aspects of ASO are keyword research, choosing a great name and icon, writing an engaging description, and adding attention-grabbing screenshots and promo videos.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

voodoo woodturning app store optimization

Above, you can see the name and the icon of a popular simulation game from Voodoo. The game is a woodturning simulation, which is very clear from both the title and the icon.

Those two are the first things users see on the app stores, so it’s important to make it clear right away what your game is all about. Oftentimes, keeping it simple works quite well.

elvenar app store description

In the example above, you can see the Google Play description for Elvenar, a simulation game from InnoGames. The description is quite extensive and highlights all the best game features and benefits (trade with friends, advance your civilization, welcome new creatures, etc.)

The key is to let users know what your game is all about and why they should play it. Furthermore, it’s important to include relevant keywords in the description – it will improve your store ranking.

simcity app store optimization

Above is an example of a screenshot from SimCity BuildIt Google Play Store page. Screenshots are important for ASO because they give users a taste of the game. Just like with the description, the goal is to emphasize the best features and benefits of your simulation game.

To add additional info and make it stand out, you can add captions to screenshots.

Finally, the app store promo video is what usually seals the deal. Above, you can see a great example from Nanobit’s My Story: Choose Your Own Path game.

App store promo videos are usually longer than video ads and are more like a product pitch. They often include info on how to play the game, recorded gameplay, features and benefits of the game, and a call to action.

3. Start Advertising on Social Media Networks

Growing your user base organically is a great start. But if you want to take your user acquisition strategy to the next level, paid advertising is the way to go.

Here’s the thing.

App store optimization can only get you so far. Once you start running ads, that’s when a large number of users will start coming your way.

Begin by advertising on social media networks, Facebook being the most important one, but Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok as well.

You might be surprised to find TikTok on this list, considering this is a very young platform. However, TikTok has experienced rapid growth in 2020, especially during the coronavirus outbreak.

TikTok has reached more than 2 billion users in May 2020. That means there are many opportunities for advertising. With TikTok Ads, you can reach a large global audience that’s ready to play your simulation game.

4. Advertise on Google and Other Ad Networks

Don’t stop with social media – expand your advertising strategy to ad networks like Google, AppLovin, Unity Ads, ironSource, Apple Search Ads, Mintegral, etc. Running ads on multiple ad networks makes a user acquisition campaign more effective because it allows you to reach a wider audience.

What’s crucial when running paid user acquisition campaigns is that you test your ads. It’s impossible to know which ad will convert the most users without A/B testing.

Furthermore, you need to consistently optimize ads and make sure they’re effective. If something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to change things up and try something new.

mobile game video ads

5. Learn How to Create Superb Videos – or Hire Someone to Do It

The final piece of the puzzle is knowing how to create attention-grabbing videos. This includes promo videos for both app stores as well as video ads.

It’s hands down one of the most important parts of any user acquisition campaign.

Here are some tips for creating a great video ad for your simulation game.

The secret is in coming up with a winning formula for videos you can use over and over again. The only way to do that is to create many different video ad variations and test them until you find out what works and what doesn’t.

Here are the main components of video ads that you need to test:

  • Composition
  • Different video elements
  • Music
  • Colors
  • Video captions
  • Intro and outro cards
  • CTA’s
  • Ad copy

Also, it’s important to note that one or two videos are not enough. In order to pull off a successful user acquisition campaign, you need a lot of videos. Create as many variations as you can and don’t forget to split test all of them – this will improve the effectiveness of the campaign.

Once you figure out what types of video ads get the most users at the lowest price, simply repeat the whole process over and over again and watch your user base grow.

However, know that this takes a lot of time, knowledge, and effort. If you’re struggling, it’s best to outsource it.

Marketing a Mobile Simulation Game: Video Ad Analysis

As it was mentioned before, analyzing your competitors can be quite insightful and helpful – you can learn a lot.

To show you how top simulation game publishers advertise their games, I have analyzed their ads. This will give you a better idea of how video ads for simulation games should look like.

Dragon City (Socialpoint)

Ad Duration: 00:20

Platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, Messenger

Ad Copy: 🎖Collect 100s of Dragons! Play this game!🎖

Video Ad Analysis

What’s instantly clear from this ad is that Dragon City is mostly geared towards a younger audience. You raise cute dragons, collect them, and build a dragon city.

However, this ad is focused on raising the dragons (it is also emphasized with the caption above). We see the process of feeding and grooming your dragon, as well as improving its surroundings. It’s a good strategy to focus on one game feature/benefit per ad.

Furthermore, collecting dragons is another important feature of this game, which is highlighted in the ad copy – “Collect 100s of Dragons!”. There is also a call to action at the end of the video – “Collect them all”. This shows you that the call to action doesn’t have to be the standard “download now” or “play now” – it can reference a key game feature or benefit.

SimCity BuildIt

Ad Duration: 00:10

Platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, Messenger

Ad Copy: Build skyscrapers, parks, landmarks, factories, and much more! Place buildings strategically to keep the taxes flowing and your city growing. Solve real-life challenges like traffic, fires, and pollution. 🏘️ BRING YOUR CITY TO LIFE 💭 PUT YOUR IMAGINATION ON THE MAP ️👑 BATTLE YOUR WAY TO VICTORY 🥰 CONNECT AND TEAM UP

Video Ad Analysis

This video ad for SimCity BuildIt uses the tried and tested noob vs. pro ad strategy. It’s a split-screen ad showing amateur vs experienced gameplay. You might have seen variations of this in ads for many different games – it works for all genres.

Here’s the basic psychology behind it.

First of all, noob vs. pro video ads present a challenge for the user – everybody wants to be better than the noob and get to the pro level. Competition is what motivates players.

But there’s more.

These split-screen ads allow developers to show off different levels/themes/skins side by side to grab viewers’ attention. In SimCity’s ad, on one side we see a basic city with a few houses on one side – that’s how your city looks like when you just start playing. On the pro side, there’s a developed city full of skyscrapers, parks, and landmarks, which is something that can’t be achieved immediately, but by playing for a while. That’s basically two very different stages of the game showcased in the ad side by side.

Clever, right?

It’s a great strategy for marketing a mobile simulation game.

Another thing you can notice is that the ad copy is very comprehensive. Pretty much all SimCity BuildIt features and benefits are included, which gives users a really good idea of what this game is about.


Ad Duration: 00:25

Platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, Messenger

Ad Copy: Your story. Your choices. Your journey.

Video Ad Analysis

Choices is a popular story-driven game where your, you guessed it, choices determine the outcome. These types of games are all about romance, relationships, and drama. Most are geared towards a female audience.

In the ad, you can see a short scenario – a woman is about to surprise her boyfriend with a marriage proposal only to find out he’s cheating on her. Players are presented with two options – “throw the ring at him” or “make him regret this”. When the latter is chosen, the player gets to pick a sexy outfit for the heroine who then proceeds to flirt with her boyfriend’s brother to make him jealous. Finally, the players can choose between options “kiss his brother” and “continue the guilt trip”.

The video ends with “what’s your choice?” which can be considered as a call to action.

For this type of simulation game, it’s essential to portray that drama and intrigue in the video ad – it’s what people who play these games are looking for. The best strategy is to choose the juiciest bit of the story for the ad because that will get the most reactions and create an interest in the game.

Statistics for Mobile Simulation Games

To help you benchmark the performance of your simulation game, I’ve put together statistics based on key mobile game metrics.

I cover the following metrics:

  • User retention
  • Average session length
  • Stickiness
  • Average revenue per paying user
  • Average revenue per daily active user
  • Conversions

Let’s get into it!

User Retention Statistics for Mobile Simulation Games

User retention is an essential metric that’s usually measured for days 1, 7, and 28. It tells you how many users are still playing your game.

day 1 user retention statistics for simulation games in 2021

Day 1 User Retention Statistics for Simulation Games

Day 1 retention looks at how many players return after 1 day of playing a game. You’ll want to use this KPI to get a quick impression of your game’s potential.

As you can see from the chart, there were no major fluctuations in day 1 retention for simulation games. 

For the top 2% of simulation games, day 1 retention was between 47.81% in July and 51.06% in March. 

Day 1 retention for the top 25% of games didn’t vary much either, with 27.66% in November and 28.79% in March. 

Day 1 retention for the simulation games that were in the median 50% category ranged from 18.25% in October to 19.76% in March.

Finally, the bottom 25% of simulation games managed to retain players at day 1 retention from 11.25% in October to 12.93% in March.

day 7 user retention statistics for simulation games in 2021

Day 7 User Retention Statistics for Simulation Games

Retaining players after a week is a challenge, even for the most successful of simulation games.

For the top 2% of simulation games, day 7 retention peaked at 20.53% in March and dropped the most in August, when it was 17.30%

When it comes to the top 25% of simulation games, they retained between 5.29% users in April and 6% in January on day 7. 

The average performing games retained from 2.31% players in March to 2.85% in November on day 7. 

The bottom 25% of games experienced an average day 7 retention that ranged from 0.88% in May to 1.18% in November.

day 28 user retention statistics for simulation games in 2021

Day 28 User Retention Statistics for Simulation Games

Day 28 retention for the top games varied throughout the year and had constant ups and downs throughout the year. The top 2% of simulation games managed to retain from 7.83% users in August to 10.12% in January.  

Retention for the top 25% simulation games varied from 1.50% in May to 1.77% in November.

Day 28 retention for the median 50% of simulation games ranged from 0.41% in April to 0.60% in November.

There was no data for the bottom 25% of simulation games. 

From all of this, It can be concluded that the majority of simulation games reached peak short-term retention numbers in March 2020, during the first coronavirus lockdown. However, when it comes to long-term retention, games performed best in November 2020.

average session length statistics for simulation games in 2021

Average Session Length Statistics for Mobile Simulation Games

Average session length looks at how long users play a game, from the moment they open the app to when the session is closed and sent to the background.

Session lengths for the top 2% of simulation games were significantly higher in the beginning of 2020 than at the end of the year. In January, sessions reached 1 hour and 3 minutes, while they were about 15 minutes shorter in November. 

For the top 25% of games, the curve was steady at 7 minutes, with the exception of August, when it had a 1-minute drop. 

Play sessions for the median 50% and the bottom 25% of games, on the other hand, remained completely unchanged during the year. The median 50% of games stood still at 4 minutes, while the bottom ones were at 2 minutes. 

Generally, there was a significant gap in session lengths between the top 2% of games and all others. The one-hour gap between the top and bottom games was somewhat expected.

arppu statistics for simulation games in 2021

ARPPU Statistics for Mobile Simulation Games

The average revenue per paying user statistics reveal how much users spend on mobile games. This metric is crucial for mobile game monetization.

ARPPU or average revenue per paying user is an indication of how much revenue a single paying user brings in during a certain period.

Simulation players that played the top 2% of games generated from $79 in September to $108 revenue in January and May. There were no major seasonal trends that affected spends. Instead, the spending curve had peaks and drops throughout the year. 

The top 25% of games had player spend that ranged from $13.04 in February to $15.07 in November. For most of the year, it was over $14. 

In the median 50% of simulation games, ARPPU averaged at $6.5 with no major changes during the year. 

The bottom 25% of games almost reached $2 in January, with a $1.94 player spend. During the rest of the year, they averaged at $1.5.

arpdau statistics for simulation games in 2021

ARPDAU Statistics for Mobile Simulation Games

ARPDAU, or average revenue per daily active user, gives us an average revenue generated by an average user, including both paying and non-paying users.

The top 2% of games made the most per user in the middle of the year, when ARPDAU reached $1.02. In February, it was basically half that, $0.56. 

The top 25% of simulation games ranged from $0.09 to $0.12, keeping the yearly average at $0.10. 

The ARPDAU for the median 50% of games was between $0.02 in November and $0.04 in January. It didn’t change much for the rest of the year, averaging at $0.03. 

In the bottom 25% category, there were months when ARPDAU didn’t go over $0, and when it did, it reached only 0.01$.

conversion rate statistics for simulation games in 2021

Conversion Statistics for Mobile Simulation Games

Conversion data for simulation games had plenty of changes over the year. 

The best performing games were the ones with the biggest gap between lowest and highest conversion percentages. In February, they were at only 3.63%. After that, the conversion rates kept on growing and reached a peak in October, when 10.48% players converted!

The top 25% of games weren’t nearly as successful, with conversion rates going from 0.85% to 1.05%.

The median 50% of games had no major peaks, remaining at about 0.5% throughout the year. 

Finally, the conversion rates for the bottom 25% of simulation games ranged from 0.2% to 0.26%.

Final Thoughts on Marketing a Mobile Simulation Game

I hope this guide was helpful. Now I want to hear what you have to say about marketing a mobile simulation game.

Is there something I missed? What do you struggle with the most? Let me know in the comments below!


About Udonis

Udonis is an independent full-service mobile marketing agency that acquired more than 200,000,000 users for mobile games since 2018.

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