Searching for an ultimate guide to mobile game marketing?
Look no further.
In this extensive article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about marketing a mobile game to get more users, including paid and organic user acquisition strategies.
Let’s dive right in!
Paid vs. Organic Mobile Game Marketing
Before we go any further, it’s important to differentiate between paid and organic mobile game marketing.
Paid marketing includes paid advertising campaigns on different ad networks. Organic mobile game marketing is a term that describes all free marketing strategies that can result in more users. For example, optimizing the app store, posting on social media, maintaining a website, etc.
A good user acquisition strategy includes both.
Paid Mobile Game Marketing
In order to market your game with paid advertising campaigns, there’s three things you need to master. You need to understand your target audience, come up with top-notch creatives, and learn how to run successful advertising campaigns on different ad networks.
The very basis of any marketing strategy is identifying and understanding your target audience. The same goes for marketing a mobile game.
Developers can’t simply target mobile gamers as a whole because that’s a very large and diverse group of people. One has to be much more specific than that.
Naturally, the target audience depends on the game genre, specific game features, and markets the game is available in.
Start narrowing down gamers according to their location, age, and gender, i.e., player demographics. For example, the main target audience could be 21-34-year-old female gamers from the US. You can choose several such groups to target.
However, knowing the age, gender, and location of your audience is just a starting point. Next, you need to figure out the type of gamers you want to attract, according to their motivations and interests.
Here’s how you do it.
It helps if you write down the main characteristics of your game. For example, a simple-to-play casual match-3 puzzle game with design and décor meta elements. This alone tells you a lot about what type of gamers you should target.
In this case, it’s casual gamers, puzzle gamers, and gamers with interests in design and décor.
We can go even further.
The main things that motivate players to play a match-3 puzzle game are thinking, solving, exercising cognitive skills, passing time, relaxing, etc. Thus, you can target players with these specific interests.
According to player motivations, GameRefinery identified eight player archetypes. This can also help you narrow down your target audience as well as understand them better. Later in the article, you’ll see how useful this is when creating ads and running ad campaigns.
Here’s an overview of each player archetype.
For expressionists, it’s all about expressing their identity through customization, decoration, storytelling or role-playing.
King of the Hill
King of the Hill players are focused on competition and playing against others – this is what drives them when playing mobile games. They feel most satisfied when they outperform friends or random people and come out on top.
For Networkers, gaming is a social activity and working together with others towards a goal is what they enjoy the most. Co-op playing and community building are game features that will catch their attention.
When they play mobile games, Skill Masters are always trying to improve their skills and appreciate a steep learning curve.
As the name implies, this type of gamer enjoys strategic thinking and planning in mobile games. Making the best out of available resources, planning, and executing tactical maneuvers is what they do best.
Thinkers want to engage their minds while playing mobile games. Thus, they enjoy brain teasers, puzzles, and anything that will improve their cognitive skills.
For Thrill Seekers, gaming is all about excitement and action. The adrenaline rush of a fast-paced game is what they enjoy the most.
Exploration is the main motivation of Treasure Hunters – they want to learn what’s out there. Furthermore, they like to collect items and grow their collection of valuables.
Now that you understand how to identify your target audience, the next, and most important, step in a paid user acquisition strategy is creative production. It refers to creating ad creatives that will help you market your game.
For mobile games, video creatives work best and have the highest conversion rates.
Creatives need to be interesting enough and present the game in a good light to grab viewer’s attention and make them download the game.
The Process of Creating a Video Ad
The process of creating a video ad consists of market research, writing a script, and creative production.
Thus, the first step is to do some research and analyze competitors’ ads. You can do that on Facebook’s Ad Library or use intelligence platforms. Furthermore, try to identify creative trends for a particular genre.
By doing this, you’ll get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t. Remember, top publishers meticulously test every creative, so if it’s working for them, there’s a big chance something similar will work for your game as well.
Then you need to write a script. This consists of outlining each scene, as well as adding notes for editing.
Once that’s done, it’s time to actually make the video creative.
Here are some tips that will help you.
Tips for Creating High-Performing Ad Creatives for Mobile Games
- When writing the script, consider game genre and features, as well as the target audience. Think about what would appeal to them based on their motivations and interests. Furthermore, take into account market research – if you identified an interesting creative trend, try it out.
- Do a thorough research on your competitors’ ads and see what works, and what doesn’t. Also, you will gain inspiration and see new trends.
- Always include gameplay footage in ads – it makes it more authentic. However, make sure the scenes are edited in an exciting way – otherwise, they can get boring.
- User cinematic scenes sparingly and strategically (if you decide to use them at all). That way you avoid the risk of misleading players.
- Develop each creative around one game feature/player motivation. That allows you to target different groups of gamers based on their interests.
- Make the ads short and simple – 15 to 30 seconds is the sweet spot for mobile game ads. People’s attention spans are getting lower as we speak, so anything more than 30 seconds would be testing their limits.
- Start with a bang – video ad creatives should grab viewer’s attention in the first few seconds. Otherwise, they’ll just keep scrolling and you’ll lose them. There are many ways you can go about it. Many ads start off with an exciting gameplay scene that gives them an adrenaline rush, others pose a challenge to the viewers to pull them in. You can split test different intros to find out what keeps viewers glued to their screens.
- To make the video creative more appealing, be smart about editing – it can make or break the ad. Furthermore, make sure to add music, sound effects, and captions where needed.
- Editing, other than the video itself, can also include editing down your script. It is important to know where to draw a line. Yes, it can be hard to fit everything you want to show in 15 to 30 seconds, but keep editing until you’re left with the most important parts.
- It’s important that the tone and atmosphere of the video creative makes sense with the game. For example, if you have a slow-paced puzzle game, the ad should have a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere. On the other hand, fast-paced creatives with fast tempo music and tons of sound effects are more suitable for action games.
- Every video ad should end with a call-to-action. Whether it’s a simple “Play now” or something more customized, it directs viewers to download the game and start playing.
- Don’t think you can make a couple of ads and call it a day. Quite the contrary – your creative output needs to be high. Not only do you need to come up with many unique ideas, but also create many variations of each ad.
- Keep in mind that no matter how hard you try to make the perfect creative, you’ll never know what works if you don’t test it. Everything else is just guesswork. When you produce many ad variations, you can A/B test them and identify the top-performers.
Examples of Top-Performing Mobile Game Creatives
Now that you know the basics of creating a video ad that converts, here’s how that looks in practice.
I’ve picked top-performing ads from popular mobile games and analyzed them to show you what makes a good creative.
In this variation of the Coin Master Kardashian ad, we see Khloe spin the wheel. She gets to raid Scott’s village and steal some coins. But then, her mother Kris attacks her village. Khloe attacks her back and destroys Kris’ village.
In the ad, we see both Khloe, along with her commentary, and the gameplay.
So, what makes this a top-performing ad?
Well, the main appeal of the ad comes from, of course, the Kardashians. It’s attention-grabbing – people see Khloe in the first few seconds of the ad and it makes them keep watching instead of scrolling past it.
Love them or hate them, they’re known all around the world, and featuring them in a mobile game ad was bound to garner attention.
Furthermore, their popularity makes them the perfect influencers – many people value recommendations from the Kardashians and want to be just like them.
However, I want to emphasize that it’s not enough to have a celebrity or an influencer in an ad. Them just randomly appearing in the ad will not magically get you more users.
It’s important to come up with a great ad concept and make the influencers look like they’re truly interested in the game.
This is one of the top-performing Archero ads. Let’s see what makes it so good.
This ad presents a new game event – the ancient maze that brings different features to the game and includes room portals. As shown in the ad, players can choose which portal to go through. Once players choose a portal, they encounter different enemies.
Through a series of quick gameplay scenes, we see different dungeons and levels. Additionally, we’re shown different upgrades that become available.
What’s good about this ad is that it reflects how exciting and fast-paced this game is. That should always come across in ads in order to pique the viewer’s interest.
Furthermore, since it consists only of gameplay footage, viewers get a good idea of what the game is about and how to play it.
In the first second of the ad, we see a young girl in a swimming suit. She has hairs all over her body, which is emphasized for shock value.
When the camera zooms in, we also see that her face is covered in pimples. And just like the girl in the previous video ad – she smells bad.
The first step in the makeover is the waxing of the armpit, which is unsuccessful and leaves her in so much pain.
The makeover continues with horrible black eyeliner, which makes the girl look even worse.
Looking like that, she approaches a guy on the beach who is shocked and rejects her.
All Project Makeover ads follow a similar formula – a girl who is not looking up to a certain standard is given a bad makeover and rejected by her crush.
Psychology tells us that people like watching fails, which is the starting point for these ads. If I could use one word to describe Project Makeover ads, it would be – schadenfreude.
Rise of Kingdoms
In order to instantly capture the viewer’s attention, the first few seconds of a video ad need to be catchy and out of the ordinary.
This Unity ad for RoK accomplishes just that. We see the popular Rise of Kingdoms mascot having his mugshot taken.
Ok, I’m interested. It’s a great video hook.
The character tells us his story – he starts as a criminal. After he’s been left stranded on a desert island, he begins collecting resources, expanding the island, and building a city. In other words, he ends up extremely successful despite his initial hardship.
It’s a dramatic story about overcoming adversity.
There’s a couple of things I want to unpack here.
Notice that the ad tells a dramatized emotional story about this character. Moreover, he has a distinct personality. When I watch the ad, I feel connected to him and I want to see him win. That’s exactly the point of this ad – to get people invested in the story. It targets gamers who love narratives in games.
Furthermore, this ad is all about starting over and using your creativity to accomplish something outstanding. Thus, it speaks to gamers whose main motivations are creativity, resilience, being the odds, and building something from scratch.
Another thing I want to emphasize is that this ad, just like most other RoK ads, is all about cinematics and not gameplay scenes. I rarely saw any actual gameplay footage in RoK ads.
This is tricky.
Yes, cinematic scenes look infinitely cooler than gameplay footage. That can result in more users. However, by using cinematics, you’re misrepresenting the game. That can result in players being disappointed once they download the game.
In other words, it’s risky not to include gameplay footage.
This is an example of a classic Homescapes mini-game ad everyone has seen. There are so many variations of it.
The premise is always the same – help a character avoid a catastrophe by moving the pins and solving the puzzle. The ads always end up with a fail, even though the puzzles are mind-numbingly simple. It most likely makes viewers think they’re smarter.
The only thing that changes from ad to ad are the puzzles.
League of Legends
The first 10 seconds of this 30-second video ad include high-production-value cinematic scenes. When I say high-production value, I truly mean it – the scenes look exquisite. This is the perfect way to hook viewers in right from the start. They depict an adrenaline-fueled fight between champions.
Then the creative transitions to gameplay footage, which is commendable. Many publishers opt for cinematics only, which tends to misrepresent the game.
Riot Games went a different way. While there are cool cinematic scenes at the beginning, there’s also gameplay footage that shows players what the game looks like. It’s refreshing to see.
The gameplay footage is equally exciting and demonstrates how fun MOBA games are. To finish off the ad, there’s a short scene depicting Jinx, looking badass with her weapon.
This ad has everything – cool cinematics, exciting gameplay footage, and an array of champions. It’s fast-paced, dynamic, and exhilarating – just like the game.
Slotomania’s official commercial, from late 2020 features the popular actor John Goodman, best known for his role in the TV show Roseanne. He’s also featured in other Slotomania ads and in the game.
Here’s why John Goodman is the perfect pick for advertising Slotomania.
As we have established, the target audience for Slotomania are Gen X and Baby Boomers, i.e., mature players.
These demographics know very well who John Goodman is. Many remember him from back in the 80s and 90s when he was at the peak of his career and adore him for his larger-than-life characters. Born in 1952, he also belongs to the same generation of many Slotomania players.
However, because of his famous role in Roseanne, many younger players know him as well. For example, many Millennials remember watching this TV show when they were kids.
In other words, he attracts a broad audience, which makes him the perfect choice for this commercial.
But what makes this commercial stand out, apart from featuring a famous actor?
Well, the fact that John Goodman’s face is on a finger.
Yes, it’s creepy. And yes, it’s weird and disturbing. But that’s the whole point. It draws your attention immediately.
This ad went viral and so far it has more than 12 million views on YouTube.
Judging by the YouTube comments, the viewers love it. One commenter says, “Finally. A creative ad amongst a mountain of boring, poorly made ads.”
And that’s the main takeaway from this ad – game studios need to come up with creative and unique concepts to get noticed in this saturated market.
Paid Advertising Campaigns
Once you have done some research and have creatives ready, it’s time to start advertising on different ad networks.
To start, I recommend you go with Google and Facebook.
On Google, you’ll need to create a Universal App Campaign. It allows you to promote your game on different Google properties. What’s great about Google’s app campaigns is that you don’t need to design each individual app in a campaign. Google does that for you. All you need to do is upload your assets and set the language and location of the ad. Google then tests different asset combinations and ads that perform the best are served more often.
On Facebook, I recommend that you go with Automated App Ads. What makes them different from manual app ads is that they require less input, just one ad and ad set per campaign, has machine learning adjustments, and dynamic creative testing. Furthermore, you can optimize for goals in an easier way and there’s a new optimization type called App Installs with Events.
You can also run Automated App Ads along with standard Facebook app ads. The basic strategy for this approach is to identify winning creatives and optimizations with standard campaigns and then run AAA to scale them.
Best Ad Networks for Acquiring Players
According to AppsFlyer’s newest Performance Index, the top ad networks for acquiring players who retain are:
- Google Ads
- Unity Ads
- Apple Search Ads
- Ad Colony
Check out more ad networks for acquiring gamers here.
Organic Mobile Game Marketing
Along with paid user acquisition, you can also market a mobile game organically. Organic user acquisition is primarily the result of good app store optimization. However, publishers can also market their game by using content marketing strategies and influencer marketing.
In this section, I explain each one and give you some practical tips to get you started.
App Store Optimization
A well-optimized app store page can improve the visibility of a game on Apple and Google and thus bring many new users – for free. If the game is good enough, it might even end up on different lists or as an Editor’s Pick game, which is an additional boost. Plus, ASO supports paid user acquisition because people are sent to a game’s app store page after they click on an ad.
For those reasons, it’s worth your time to master app store optimization.
Here are the basics.
The main app store elements are game title, icon, description, keywords, screenshots, and an app promo video. All of them work together to improve the visibility of your game as well as entice users to download your game.
Here are some tips for choosing a title for your game. It’s best that it’s two to three words long. According to Appbot, this is found in most apps.
Make sure that the title is descriptive or at least creates an association to the game. You can even add some keywords.
Your title should reflect the style, theme, and of course, the story of your game.
Also, you can include some words that could showcase the genre of your game.
The genre might be important to certain players since some of them search for games similar to those that they already played and liked.
Of course, you don’t need to include the words “adventure” or “action” or “RPG” in your title. But, try to think of words that you associate with that genre and check out your competitor’s game titles.
Also, make sure that your title is unique, which also proves how important it is to do a thorough research of your competitors.
If you see that the name you’ve chosen is too common, try to change it because you might have issues with being found on Google.
But, don’t go too far with uniqueness, such as including special symbols. Even a simple + can make it difficult for people to find your game, especially with Google’s search algorithms.
Of course, you should also check the terms and conditions of the app store that you’ve chosen for your game. You don’t want your game to be removed because of inappropriate word choice.
Another suggestion for selecting good and relevant game titles is to pay attention to localization.
If you want your game to be popular worldwide, you should stick to English names, or words that are completely made up, but easy to pronounce. Good examples of this case are Pokémon, Roblox, both very popular franchises.
But, if you plan on conquering non-English speaking markets, you can localize your title and other ASO elements according to the languages of these particular countries.
Along with the game title, the game icon is one of the first things users see on Apple’s App Store or Google Play. That’s what makes it really important.
There are many icon styles you can choose from like cartoonish, anime, realistic, pixel/retro, etc. Some depict game characters or mascots, while others depict objects related to the game (e.g., slots, weapons, cars, dice).
All of that depends on the game genre and specific game features. For example, an icon trend for strategy games is to show a sideways portrait of a game character or a mascot (e.g., Clash of Clans, Lords Mobile). Many role-playing games also feature game characters.
When working on your game icon, make sure to do some research and explore what competitors in your genre are doing.
In the image above, you can see some of the current trends when it comes to style, objects, and colors. (GameRefinery)
Cartoonish and modern styles are the most popular, along with blue, grey, and brown colors. Most icons feature an animal/mascot character or a person (face/bust).
In the description, you need to lay out what your game is about, its main features, updates, etc.
On Google Play, make sure to include relevant keywords as that can improve the game’s rank and visibility.
On Apple, there’s a designated keyword field. Add features that describe your game, its functionalities, and features.
It also helps to do some keyword research beforehand and see which keywords your competitors are using.
App Promo Video
An app promo video is perhaps the most important app store element, especially when it comes to mobile games.
Well, because it’s in video form, it’s very immersive and has the power to give viewers a real taste of the gaming experience. Furthermore, an app promo video allows publishers to show off their game in the best light and demonstrate its best features.
All that tends to drive conversions.
Find out how to create the perfect app promo video here.
Images are another visual app store element, along with game icons and app promo video. Their purpose is to illustrate the main game features.
There’s also a lot you can do with content marketing. This includes posting on social media channels, getting featured in articles, and maintaining a website for the game.
Here are some tips for each one.
Even though most users search for mobile games on app stores, some discover games through websites. That’s why it’s worth having one.
Furthermore, a website is a great place for displaying different information about the game that’s perhaps not available on the app store pages.
For example, many publishers post updates, behind the scenes footage of the game was made, and even talks with developers on their website. That type of content not only attracts new players, but engaging existing players as well and creates a community around a game.
And, of course, you should also have the basic info on your website like a game trailer, explanations of different features, and App Store and Google Play links.
Social Media Channels
Another way to get the word out about your game is by posting on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Additionally, this can help you build a community.
By this, I don’t mean paid advertising campaigns I’ve talked about earlier, but simply posting interesting content.
For example, some developers post info about new updates, introduce characters, post user-generated content, talks with developers, etc. Basically, anything about the game that users might find interesting.
This, of course, encourages sharing and engagement, which is how other social media users might discover your game. Discord is another great place for engaging fans and building a community around your game.
Furthermore, it can be beneficial to post videos on YouTube and even stream on Twitch. However, for streaming platforms, it’s best to collaborate with influencers.
Finally, let’s talk about mobile game influencer marketing. According to MediaKix, 90% of advertisers say ROI from influencer marketing is as good or better than other marketing channels.
The most viral mobile game influencer collaboration is the aforementioned Coin Master campaign which included celebrities like the Kardashians, J.Lo, and Cardi B.
Furthermore, esports are becoming more and more popular in the mobile gaming genre. There are many gamers streaming their favorite mobile games, among them are a lot of influencers.
For example, Habby partnered up with PewDiePie for Archero. The famous influencer filmed himself playing Archero with his girlfriend.
Granted, smaller game studios might have the budget to hire someone like the Kardashians or PewDiePie. However, there are micro influencers they can collaborate with.
Final Thoughts on Mobile Game Marketing
As you can see, there are countless ways to promote a mobile game and get new users. We advise that you try a mix of paid and organic user acquisition strategies for best results.
Additionally, make sure to try different approaches and test everything – that’s the only surefire way to find out what’s working and what’s not.
If you need any help with mobile game marketing, make sure to reach out – it’s what we do best!