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A baker’s dozen of strategies for monetising gaming apps

We all love to play – but gaming is a whole different game when you are being asked to pay for it, which leaves a headache for the developers who are trying to work out their strategies for monetising gaming apps. So how do you get the balance right – especially since it’s generally accepted amongst developers that the 5 per cent rules apply – i.e. that 5 percent of their users account for 95 percent of their revenue.

1) Choose your strategy

Firstly you have to decide whether to charge for the app as a premium app (which many gamers are reluctant to do), or offer it as a freemium model where you offer in-app purchasing (such as King’s Candy Crush where players can buy more lives or tools but also have to pay to advance to the next level at certain stages of the game) or whether they offer in-app advertising (which can be a turn off for gamers intent on having fun rather than viewing an ad).

2) Go after your customers

Building scale of course is vital to making money in any business and more so than ever in the gaming industry. Ensuring you have a game that will go viral is the quickest and best way to build a following and therefore revenues.

3) Include in-app purchases

Although developers have to decide whether to charge or not many advise offering some in-app purchases within the game whatever the decision in order to give greater flexibility for making money.

4) Give players something new and different

Of course there’s little point including in-app purchases if the customer isn’t going to want to buy them, so to keep users interested such in-app purchases have to offer advantages. This means that beyond extra lives or opening up levels developers could also offer options for sharable customisation, such as personalisation of an avatar.

5) Ensure purchases seem logical

None of us want to pay for things we don’t need or want and the same is true in gaming. Players therefore want to feel that such purchasing is an essential part of the game rather than them being forced into it, if they are to be willing to pay more.

6) Satisfy the customer to buy

As humans we inevitably like to feel good about what we have bought and if you are offering in-app purchasing this is more important than ever. The gamer has to feel happy with their purchase so it may be that it’s an extra satisfying level or offering a new experience above that which they have had in other parts of the game.

7) Think creatively and laterally

Once you have come up with your game then think laterally about what sort of in-app purchases you can offer that will deliver extra benefits or functionality to the player that they will enjoy.

8) Use data to learn more

Of course such apps deliver huge learning opportunities for developers so analysing the data that comes out of such games is vital. How are your gamers playing? What are they buying? What’s working and not working? Once you better understand your buyer’s behaviours the more likely you are able to develop more specifically for that market in the future and more importantly perhaps deliver the extra option they will buy to enhance their experience.

9) Use in-app advertising carefully

If you do go down this route you have to be careful not to be constantly bombarding your players with unwanted marketing messages – they are trying to play after all! If you must do it make sure it’s relevant and ideally infrequent. Of course the market is changing and several new advertising options are being developed to move the industry away from in app banner advertising to initiatives such as idle screen opt-in advertising where users are also rewarded. These may make advertising options more acceptable to users in the future.

10) Consider cross-marketing and affiliate marketing

This is another less exploited route for making money - either through cross marketing your own products, such as other games in your portfolio, or product placement within the game itself of course. The beauty of this type of marketing is that it’s more subtle than traditional advertising which many users block out.

11) Consider real money gaming

Many games are already offering virtual winnings to gamers but increasingly it seems the real winner is allowing players to play for hard cash. In the US a multiplayer tournament platform called Skillz, which allows players to play for real money in 36 states and for virtual currency worldwide launched in beta for Android last month. Many see the potential of RMG (real money gaming) as being huge. In the UK, where there are less regulatory restrictions on RMG it’s already a big market – especially in the betting industry.

12) Don't overdevelop

One of the beauties of the market is that you don’t need to develop the whole game but can instead just develop to a certain number of levels until you can see how well the app or game is doing and develop more if the demand is there using the data you are already getting from your players to develop the game further with new levels and expansion packs after.

13) Advertise yourself to build downloads and buzz

Rovio did it most effectively with Angry Birds after launching primetime ads in 2011. The advertising not only drove interest and uptake in the game but that interest led to merchandising deals for a wide range of products giving Rovio the chance to develop yet more. Similarly King’s TV advertising of Candy Crush is aiming to do the same.

Apps World Europe, which is being held in Earls Court 2 from 22-23 October, will feature a free two day conference on gaming which will include in-depth analysis and learning about gaming monetisation with talks from the likes of Clickfun Casino, Big Fish Games and Spilt Milk Studios.

The Gaming World workshop will feature everything you need to know about gaming from the future of gaming to the move to freemium models and include speakers from the likes of Sega, AppyNation, Endemol Games and BBC Worldwide.

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