The nGen platform is part of a growing trend of consolidation among the mobile middlemen who serve the business side for mobile-app and game developers. Its aim is to simplify the mobile ecosystem that has grown so complex because of the difficulty in getting apps discovered and the challenge in monetizing free-to-play mobile apps.
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“We made a lot of changes in 2013 with new product launches,” said Steve Wadsworth, the chief executive of San Francisco-based Tapjoy, in an interview with GamesBeat. “This is a transformative moment for Tapjoy, and it culminates in the nGen platform.”
The company made the announcement in advance of the Game Developers Conference this week in San Francisco. Tapjoy, like its rival PlayHaven Kontagent (now rebranded Upsight), aims to drive consolidation across the mobile monetization market by offering one platform that combines the offerings of many different competitors.
With nGen, developers have an end-to-end solution for monetization and reward-based advertising. Tapjoy enables developers to engage and monetize a larger percentage of their user base through means such as incentivized offers and video ads.
With free-to-play games, users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods. Mobile apps typically only convert 5 percent or less of their users to purchasers. They can monetize the rest of their audience through advertisements.
Tapjoy’s roots were in special ads known as offers, where players can receive the virtual goods they want if they accept an advertising offer from a broad selection, known as an offer wall. Tapjoy calls its offer wall the Tapjoy Marketplace. Tapjoy still provides that, but it has expanded to deliver a wide variety of monetization solutions — rich media, full-screen interstitial ads, video ads, or simple messages to users — that are contextually relevant. That means the ads hit the users after a game event, such as completing a boss fight or a level.
If a user runs out of currency, Tapjoy’s nGen platform will detect that and make an offer. The same will happen if a user tries to access premium content that comes with a fee.
“It’s about getting the right ad to the right user,” said Jeff Drobick, Tapjoy’s chief product officer, in an interview.
Tapjoy’s platform already reaches more than 450 million users each month. Wadsworth hopes to grow that further with nGen, which took a long time to pull together.
“During the past year, we saw there was a huge opportunity, but we had to do a lot of things to take care of that opportunity,” said Wadsworth, who was the former head of Disney’s Internet and game businesses and became the CEO of Tapjoy in November 2012.
“I started to make substantial changes so we could become the leading solution for mobile-app publishers,” Wadsworth said. “We had to build more robust, scalable, and flexible technology that was data driven.”
Like rewards company Kiip, Tapjoy is more focused now on offering the contextually relevant ad at exactly the right moment in the user’s app experience, like a natural pause, a moment of failure, or an achievement point, Drobick said.
In beta tests, the nGen platform has helped publishers boost ad conversions dramatically. The elements include audience intelligence, segmentation, events, and optimization. The nGen platform helps a developer decide when to run a house ad, promote a virtual good, or run a third-party ad. And it has more types of ads than in the past. These ads are increasingly more “native,” or look like they were designed by the developer to be part of the game.
“We drive 30 percent of total revenue in apps with rewarded ad units, but we want to be additive to the experience,” Drobick said. “But developers are only monetizing 5 percent or 10 percent of their users.”
Concrete Software has been able to use nGen to boost its average revenue per daily active user by 130 percent in its PBA Bowling Challenge app. Keith Pichelman, the chief executive of Concrete Software, said in an interview that his team was able to identify many more moments within the app to serve users ads that seem like they are a part of the game experience. When a user did not qualify for a “League Night” challenge, the platform would show an ad that offered a way to get over the hump. A user could watch a video ad in order to qualify.
Pichelman said that 30 percent of overall revenue for PBA Bowling Challenge comes from Tapjoy, which targets users who don’t buy things in the game. PBA Bowling Challenge, which has 7.3 million installs on Android, now monetizes 6 percent of its daily active users, compared to 2 percent before nGen. There is also a 20 percent increase in in-app purchases thanks to the messaging. That’s a huge difference, Pichelman said.
The nGen platform is available through the Tapjoy software development kit 10.0, which is available now. The company will demo it at the GDC. Drobick said the technology is flexible so that developers can control when ads get served and implement it without changing an app’s or game’s code. You can insert messages on the fly from the nGen dashboard.
Tapjoy’s investors include J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Rho Ventures, North Bridge Venture Partners, InterWest Partners, and D.E. Shaw Ventures.