User Acquisition for Games: The Basics (Part 1)

Let's get ready for some User Acquisition!

Let's get ready for some User Acquisition!

You have been working 24/7 for as long as you can remember - it took YEARS to get your game ready. Finally, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel: you’ve tested your game, you’ve set it live in the app stores, and now it’s time to invest some real marketing dollars in order to get players for your game.

Whether you plan to jump into the deep end and manage everything yourself, or to look for a partner that can help you out, user acquisition (UA) is a complicated and time-consuming task. You need to know some basic concepts and KPIs to navigate through this stage as successfully as possible. Acquiring quality users, having a solid game mechanic, and having a clear monetization strategy is key for your game!

So what do you need to know about User Acquisition?

There’s a surprisingly large number of places (acquisition channels) where you can promote your game.  Indeed, once the ad networks and similar channels come across your game, be prepared to be overwhelmed by the number of offers you will receive to promote it. There are social ads, affiliates, ad networks, ad exchange sites, direct deals, and more and more new options each day. That’s why it’s imperative for you to choose the right channels and partners - first impressions count!

First, let’s define the needs and goals of your User Acquisition strategy. Ask yourself:

  • What’s my marketing budget? This is a crucial question. Your answer to this question will drive your UA plan, and it’s the starting point to define your “channel mix.”
  • Do I need to target a specific audience? By now, you should already know your audience. If you still need help, Facebook Analytics or any number of analytics tools can help you find out  who your ideal user is.
  • Are you optimizing towards volume or a specific KPI? Is your goal to gain a high number of installs at the lowest price in order for your game to rapidly climb the charts? Or are you looking for more top quality users (i.e. the ones who will be most valuable to you), even if it means the cost might be higher? You can optimize your marketing dollars towards attracting users who will be most likely to do what you most what them to in your game, such as make a purchase, complete a tutorial, keep coming back, etc., so long as you are able to track the behavior of your users.
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What’s your current UA team size? A one-member team can easily manage your initial campaigns if that person is familiar with UA. However, according to the AdColony Q3 2016 App Install Marketing Survey, you’ll discover that 75% of UA teams have more than 4 people managing their campaigns.

If you need to scale your campaign and/or manage different channels and you don’t have the people or the expertise in your company to do it, you’ll need to look for some help.There are different options out there to assist you with your game’s promotion.

On the one hand, you can look for a marketing agency. There are many who offer campaign management, in-app optimization, and online tools to monitor results. Typically, these agencies work on a fee-basis on top of your marketing spend and will not put any of their own dollars into the marketing budget. The entire marketing investment will come out of your pocket.

On the other hand, you can look for a publisher who will help you not only with up-front marketing investment for your game’s promotion, but will provide you with a UA plan, which the publisher can execute on your behalf. That should allow you time to focus solely on developing the best game ever!

Some upsides to working with a publisher:

  • Your game has a higher chance of getting featured in the store - thanks to the publisher’s contacts.

  • You should need to spend less marketing your game, as your publisher will help you to retain current users, increase virality within the game, and help you re-engage your players.

  • You’ll work with a team consisting of a diverse mix of industry professionals who are passionate about all aspects of mobile gaming.

If you’re still determined to do it by yourself, or if you just want to better understand what your publisher is doing for you, keep an eye out for our future blog post on UA for gaming, where we’ll dig deeper into some basic definitions and KPIs.

Until then, contact us to learn more!