Mobile user acquisition is still a hard slog. Listen to what the experts say about it.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood gives you the chance to play the game of fame.

Above: Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is one of the top mobile games out right now.

Image Credit: Glu Mobile

GamesBeat: If you look at iOS and the top downloads, you’ll see that the list keeps changing every month or so. The list that doesn’t change is the top grossing apps. There’s been one change in the top five, the addition of the Kim Kardashian app. I wonder what you think about the user acquisition behavior you see among the top five, and how everyone else can deal with it.

Birnbryer: What you can see from these top game pubs, the reason they’re in the market is because they put emphasis on spreading the word. I’m not just talking about doing app installs. There’s a lot of ways to drive users. You want eyes on your game. You want people talking about your game. You have to have friends playing the game so you can compete against them.

One of the biggest factors I’ve seen is the social competition. I play Candy Crush because all my friends play it and I want to beat them. My boss is level 500-something and that carrot keeps me going. It’s an addictive quality, having that aspect where you compete against your friends, and you’re more likely to spend. It’s about creating a game that’s exciting. That, in turn, will drive revenue. The games you guys build are so addicting that people have to spend money. “The only way I can keep going is to spend.” That’s the type of engagement feature you’re looking for in games.

Peng: The top-grossing games, you’ll see ads for them everywhere because they have big marketing budgets. All of them have different strategies. They’ve spend a lot of time and money to get there.

Storm8 has consistently had six apps in the top 100 grossing. We have a bit different strategy in terms of staying on the grossing charts. Even though we can afford to pay more, we view user acquisition as a business. Just because we can pay more doesn’t necessarily mean we will. Virality and marketing budget is still key for visibility, but I think it’s still possible for smaller players to make it by buying on an ROI positive basis and focusing on the core economics of your game.

Bruch: We’ve seen some app developers who are lower on the charts out-compete some of the higher players, on our side. In terms of doing things right on the creative front, we’ve seen a lot of times that the size of the app can have a huge impact on how many installs you get on a platform. We’ve had people bidding twice as high on our platform and getting fewer installs, because some of the smaller players come in, take a lot of pride in what they’re making, put more effort toward the banner ads and things like that — the things users are seeing before they get inside the app. We’ve gone to studios before and they have this huge creative team working on the inside of the app, but we’ll say, “Where’s the banner ad? Who’s making that?” You have to focus on the front end. You have to get the user in the game first.

Mobile apps are taking off.

Above: Mobile apps are taking off.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

GamesBeat: What would you consider to be something creative on the business side, in the face of all these obstacles for user acquisition? There’s a lot of creativity on the art side, creating a game, but what gets you excited on the business side?

Birnbryer: I have to echo what Matt said. A lot of people think that because you spend a lot of money, people are going to play your game. That’s not the case. That’s part of the reason some of these UA costs have gone up. People don’t spend the time to focus on the creative. They just dump in money and think it’ll happen. “If I show my ads enough times, people are going to download it.”

Take the time. If you’ve made this passion project of a game – if you have all these artists on your game developing all these cool features and engagement and all that stuff – put that into the banners. Or give us and Matt and some of these other guys the PNG files and we can build it out. But don’t just expect that if you have banner with nothing engaging in it that people will want to go download. You have to have something that looks cool, that looks exciting.

Some of our best performing games have fairly low CPIs because it’s a fun game. James isn’t out here spending a ridiculous amount of money on every title. But he’s built a cool game and spent the time and the creative effort to make it seem exciting and fun before you even play it. If you can mimic that experience before we’ve started playing the game, you’re going to get someone to go into the game and say, “Wow, this looks really great. I want to play it.”

Peng: Another aspect you can spend time on, creative is obviously the top of the funnel, but what about the bottom? Focus a little bit on extra optimization. Think about elements that expand the bottom and help you to fill more users in. You can spend a lot of time optimizing your creative, but that’s applicable directly to your advertising spend. What about what people see once they engage? There are lots of ways to apply your resources and get users into your network.

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