The gaming and entertainment industry has erupted over the last decade. In 2022, the mobile gaming industry alone garnered $103.5 billion, which, as Statista says, “account[ed] for 53 percent of the global gaming market during the measured period.” Throughout this success, the way users interact with mobile games has evolved as well.
Step into a time machine and think back to the very first mobile game, Snake. Yep, that game where you collected blocks on a continuously growing string of blocks circling the screen on your old Nokia phone. That game first entered the zeitgeist in 1997 and, as VentureBeat pointed out, Snake came pre-downloaded on the phone. “Today, getting your hands on a mobile game requires searching, or browsing by categories, sometimes spending money, and then downloading it on your mobile device.”
For a mobile gaming or entertainment brand, the question becomes: how do you get people to not only find, but also download and use your gaming app?
The Challenges of Mobile Gaming User Acquisition
When you get a new phone today it does come with some pre-installed applications. You’ll have a calendar, a calculator, messaging, etc. Apps made for productivity and communication, not gaming. Users have to go out and actively search for, discover, and download mobile gaming apps. So, for brands to get users to install their apps, they need to not only be easy to find, but resonate with the users that find them. No small feat.
Mobile gaming user acquisition is also more expensive than ever. Because downloading a game isn’t a passive choice, like in the good ol’ days of Snake, but an active decision, gaming apps need to put in effort to reach the end users. But, with over 900K mobile games available in the App Store, the market has become highly saturated, making it that much more difficult for gaming apps to set themselves apart.
Overcoming the Challenges
As a gaming brand, the onus is on you to appeal to the customer. Because of the swath of gaming apps that exist, if a customer can’t find yours, they have plenty of other options. To set your app apart you need to:
- Understand your target audience
- Make sure your target audience can find you
- Define what success looks like to be able to adjust your strategy, if needed
Understanding Your Target Audience
Understanding your target audience is more than the simple demographic stats. You can create personas until the cows come home, but in addition to just who you think will use your app, you have to think about why and how.
As ContentStack puts it, “The rise of mobile gaming has created an entirely new type of gamer. Today, the market is the mom waiting in the school pick up line, the corporate employee waiting for a meeting to start, and regular folks looking to unwind after a long day at work.”
Consider the motivation behind your app download. According to Facebook’s Big Catch for Gaming, the top five reasons people play games are: relieving stress, passing time, feeling accomplished, defeating others, and being dazzled. Your audience could have multiple motivations, but including motivation in your audience analysis gives you the ability to segment your larger audience and create content specifically for these different groups.
Reaching Your Target Audience
Once you’ve established the who, what, and why of your audience, how do they find your app? Put simply, there are two ways to go about mobile gaming user acquisition: paid methods, and organic ones.
When we say paid methods, we’re mostly talking about advertisements. Think about all the times you’ve seen an ad for an app as you’re scrolling through Instagram or TikTok—boom. Acquisition tactic. According to Udonis, “mobile gaming accounts for 50% of user acquisition ad spending.”
Another form of paid acquisition is referrals. Getting existing users to invite their friends is a powerful method for not only gaining new users, but retaining them by building a community. It’s considered a paid method, while indirect, because the existing users are often rewarded for referring friends. (Think: credits, free features, extra lives, etc.)
As for organic methods for acquiring new users, this is all about making your app easy to find. Whether it be on search engine result pages (SERPs) or in the app store—via App Store Optimization (ASO)—you want your app to appear at the top of the list.
ASO, also known as App Store Marketing or Mobile App SEO, is similar to good old-fashioned SEO, but instead of search engines, the arena is app stores. Like Search Engine Journal says, “You may be surprised to discover that lots of the traditional search engine optimization tactics that work for search engine performance, such as Google and Bing, can also be directly applied to ASO.”
Paid and organic methods aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, we recommend a hybrid approach using both paid and organic to reach your target audience. Just be sure you know how to determine what works and what doesn’t.
Once you narrow down your audience and develop paid and organic marketing strategies, you have to determine what success looks like for your brand. Your segmentation strategy and marketing channels aren’t set in stone, but if you don’t know if they’re working or not, you won’t be able to adjust accordingly.
Let’s say you’re planning to launch a campaign. What are you expecting to happen in the first 30, 60, 90 days of this campaign? In the early stages, you’ll want to consider the obvious key performance indicators (KPIs), like number of app downloads. But in the later stages, look at the actual app usage. What are these users doing in the app? How often are they opening the app? Have they made any in-app purchases? Have they upgraded their subscription?
All of these metrics can help quantify the value of the users you’re acquiring. If they are downloading the app and not using it, or, worse, deleting it, maybe you need to adjust your audience or discovery tactics. Everything can be fixed, you just need metrics to know what needs to be fixed.
Acquisition is Just the Beginning…
If only it was as easy as just getting users to download the app. All that work and we’re just getting started because, unfortunately, apps can be deleted as easily as they can be downloaded.
Mobile gaming user acquisition—as we’ve just covered—is no small undertaking, which is why retaining customers is incredibly important and valuable. Stay tuned for the next part of this series where we’ll cover mobile gaming app retention strategies.
For more information on how Iterable can play a role in your mobile gaming app marketing strategy, schedule a demo today.