GameDev Protips: Mobile Game Marketing 101

No matter what type of mobile game you make, you will always need to effectively market it if you want to see returns for your effort. Mobile gaming requires an even more careful eye on marketing because your results tend to be much more explosive; unpopular games will be nearly abandoned whereas the most popular games (most oftentimes with large paid acquisition budgets) will be making millions. Knowing this, there are several tips that can be mentioned that will minimize the risk of your mobile game flopping, even though with a mobile game, the chances pretty darn high.

Mobile game marketing is a combination of paid and organic traffic. Paid marketing involves calculating your lifetime value (LTV) for each player and spending less than that. Once this is calculated, you’ll likely realize that it is much lower than you would’ve liked it to be. Since the cost of acquiring new users runs extremely high in English speaking markets, you’ll either have to add things in your game to increase your LTV for every player or you won’t be able to use paid ads at all.

Organic traffic is those who find your game naturally through any unpaid channels. This will include app store optimization (ASO) so that your game is seen through a search with general game terms. This is why so many games have incredibly lengthy or needlessly descriptive titles like RPG: Quest for the Sword of Heroes; you have many more words in the title so it’s more likely to be found in a search. Good keywords include ones that will be searched for regardless (such as “puzzle” or “shooter”) and ones that are in already-popular titles (such as “Clash” or “War”). You could always market the game yourself through social media, forums, or reviewers, but these will not have a significant impact. The best source of organic traffic is through official recognition by Apple/Google or already being on a top app leaderboard.

General rule-of-thumb says that about 20%, if not more, of a company’s budget should be used for marketing, even in the case of having a small budget. Larger companies can afford to spend money on marketing to multiple channels (including TV, social media, or media outlets), but smaller companies won’t be able to afford this and thus will need to choose their channels carefully. Investing in the wrong marketing channel has a high chance of being an expensive mistake, but there’s a bit of a catch-22 involved in that you really have to experiment with different channels in order to figure out which one gives you the best return on investment. Obviously, you need to do your market research before you begin marketing. If you don’t know where to start, find someone who is making a game in your genre that you can talk to about and see what’s working or not working for them. Regardless of how you communicate with them, the information you receive will be invaluable in the future. You can never ask enough questions either!

Even with a ton of research, it is hard to hit the perfect balance of luck and unknown factors that will cause your game to explode in popularity, and it can’t be planned for as a result. Since you want to ensure that your game development outfit can survive, you have to either make games where people can spend massive amounts of money and play for a huge amount of time (which will increase your LTV and your marketing budget), or you have to make a game cheaply so that very little will go wrong in the case of a few downloads. One of the best strategies is to make a few games that are well-received with a small but steady player base, then using that to get your games featured and catapult your popularity as a result. Don’t be afraid to target a super small niche.

Now, once your marketing plan is in action, you need to ensure that you’re watching the results constantly. You can use the data you receive from one plan to help your efforts in the future, such as noticing that most people are coming from Facebook or most paying customers are from YouTube and thus directing your marketing to those locations. Ultimately, your first mobile marketing plan is a stepping stone for the rest. As you constantly improve your technique through analysis of your plans, you’ll keep reaching new users and growing your revenue for your mobile games for years to come.

Important Takeaways: Mobile game marketing is very hit-and-miss, so it requires lots of planning. First, you should check to see if you can support paid ads for your game, and if you can’t you’ll either have to redesign the game in a way that can or accept that you won’t be using them. Next, you should work on making your game as easily findable through organic means as possible, such as having popular words or generic words in your title. After that, you have to carefully perform market research in one way or another so that you know which channels to market to; failure to do so can result in very expensive mistakes. When in doubt, find another developer or publisher and ask what has worked or not worked for them.

Even if you have a detailed and comprehensive action plan, luck and other unknown factors will likely be the deciders of your game’s end popularity. Because of this, you’ll have to design your game in a way so that it can accommodate potentially not being popular, whether this is through having whales keeping your game afloat or just having a cheap development cost in the first place. Using your successes as advertisements can help increase your popularity as a whole. Once you’ve put your plan into action, you should look at the results and find out where to market in the future from them. Just like your indie game itself, it’s all about the iterative process. Never stop measuring and learning from your efforts. Each marketing plan is a stepping stone for the next, and as long as you’re learning from your mistakes, you’ll constantly find new users and grow your mobile game revenue in the future.