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How to monetize your game in mobile app business?

Aug 16 2021


How monetization works in mobile gaming and what common case studies are in the market. First, we’ll look at the types of paid advertising, and then we’ll analyze specific examples of how monetization works in popular gaming apps so that you can choose the right way to monetize your own app.

How paid games are monetized

With paid apps, everything is simple, so we won’t dwell on them for long. There are two models: a one-time purchase of all game content, or a renewable monthly subscription. Both models make the entry threshold significantly lower, and their presence in stores keeps decreasing. Paid gaming apps are becoming a niche product.

Most often, this type of monetization is used by quests or console or PC games ported to mobile — that is, the games that barely use procedural rhetoric that makes us perform the same actions every time to get a reward, and are primarily focused on the plot.

Statement 1. It would be more correct to say that the paid game model is suitable for video games with end-to-end content, that is, the video games where the ending matters most.

For example, the developers of Lifeline, a real-time text quest, report at the end of the key plot that they have several more stories that have the same mechanics and, to give it a try, you could buy a DLC. There are no other marketing touchpoints in the game, since the users have paid for their immunity right at the start.

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How to monetize free games: Principles and mechanics

Today’s apps are mostly shareware to expand the potential user base. According to statistics, such users can pay more money in the long term as related to fixed full cost at the start.

The main types of free app monetization can be divided into two main groups: In-App Ads (IAA) and In-App Purchases (IAP). Each of them has its own mechanics that can, and should, be efficiently combined.

Integration of a relevant monetization tool that fits into the app context not only can affect profit growth here and now, but also has a positive effect on the internal app metrics like Retention, Daily Active Users, or Average Session Time, which will ensure long-term steady growth in organic traffic in App Store or on Google Play.

Several types of In App Ads

Rewarded Video Ads. To get a valuable resource, gamers can watch 5 to 30 second long videos that advertise another service or mobile game.

Offerwall. Users can take a range of actions to get the product for free; for example, connect their social media. Should they take action, the advertiser pays to the site.

Interstitial Ads. Videos in this format show up randomly and do not give the users any rewards. You can often skip them after the first 3 to 5 seconds.

Playable Ads. This format means interactive ads with gameplay elements to give the users an idea of what awaits them.

Native Banner Ads. Native, or natural, ads are less common in mobile gaming. They include the type of videos where popular streamers show how passionate they are about the game. The problem is, mobile game streamers aren’t as well known as PC and console streamers.

Rewarded Video Ads, Offerwall and Playable Ads, unlike other advertising tools, are usually only used in gaming apps as they often suit the most mobile games. Some players are ready to watch a short promo video to get in-game resources or an additional attempt. 

This type of advertising can satisfy not only the developers, but, more importantly, the users, since they will not have to spend real money on valuable gaming resources. 

Watching Rewarded Videos is voluntary, so users are less likely to be annoyed with such ads compared to pop-up banners that show up once you complete a level.

According to the Facebook Audience Network, nearly 80% of mobile game developers believe that Rewarded Video Ads is the most effective and promising ad format. More than 50% of gamers admit that they played the games longer that had this type of advertising and the opportunities it opens up.

In recent years, in-app purchases (IAP) have been divided into several major types:

Extended access, paid subscriptions. In general, an app stays free; still, a one-time payment or an installment is required for some content to become available (or so that you’re able to remove ads).
Unlockable items and resources. This format is suitable for mobile games that introduce paid characters, weapons, equipment or paid attempts to resume the game from the moment of failure.
Battle Pass provides access to extra content through the leveling system. If users play a lot to reach the maximum pass stage, they can get access to the next battle pass absolutely for free. The mechanics have recently proven to be efficient in most online action games. 

This format encourages gamers to spend more time playing the game. This influences the majority of internal metrics, and the store algorithms consider the app as one with good standing.

Piggy Bank. Along with the walkthrough, users get items or in-game currencies, but they will be able to access them only after a one-time payment. This format is often combined with Battle Pass: some content becomes available for free once you level up, while other content stays unavailable until you purchase the Battle Pass.

Loot Boxes. Items that help you get a random item, which can be either not very valuable or very rare.

Ratings and reviews


What is the difference between IAA and IAP?

In-app purchases are more relevant for mobile gaming apps. As a rule, the more content you get, the more significant opportunities to introduce a variety of monetization models you’ll have. 

For the greatest efficiency, you may want to use and combine several techniques. 

The most important thing is to stay focused on users. They should neither feel annoyed by abundant ads nor dissatisfied with the fact that the gameplay becomes much more interesting and fascinating compared with the base game once they’ve bought an in-game item. Otherwise, why would they come back?

How monetization works in mobile games of different genres

Here we’ll look at four case studies of different monetization models that are most often used by mobile game developers. In this section, we’ll continue to draw statements relevant to today’s GameDev industry.

Things to sum up based on the case studies

Use the type and tools of monetization depending on your game genre. If you’re up to making your users experience a real adventure where the plot comes first, go for one-time purchases.

For free games, Rewarded Videos, Playable Ads, and Offerwall are probably the most powerful way to monetize. Gamers love rewards and are willing to click ads when they feel comfortable or when ads are part of the game. Pay attention to the resource system as it can be a crucial growth point.

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