This sponsored post is produced by LEDO Interactive.

When it comes to mobile game user acquisition, I call it “the art of growing the game profitably.” However, it’s unfortunate that, in terms of user acquisition, “growing the game” doesn’t always mean getting higher revenue and, therefore, better profit — there are many games in the market that grow their user bases, but fail at growing revenue.

In fact, getting the highest ROI from user-acquisition campaigns is becoming more challenging each day. The cost is increasing steadily given the intense competition between game companies. They know that there’s no magic solution to achieve high ROI from the user-acquisition campaigns they implement for each game.

My previous experience in lead product management taught me that increasing retention and monetization is relatively easy: Simply look at other games and see which features they use, then measure their impact using some intelligence tools.

However, when it comes to user acquisition, it’s another matter entirely. It’s not easy to do benchmarks and learn from other games, because almost everything happens behind the scenes. Instead, we have a situation where everybody is learning by trial and error — and sometimes those errors lead to catastrophic results, such as having to shut down a game because you don’t have enough additional cash to get things back on track.

Depending on the game genre, strategies for user acquisition are changing. For instance, role-playing games (RPG) require a different user-acquisition strategy. Because the these games are comprised of massively competitive and deeply collaborative gameplay mechanics, if your RPG doesn’t hit a audience threshold high enough to generate a meaningful ACU (average concurrent user), then your game mechanics will likely fail. In turn, that results in poor lifetime value (LTV) and, subsequently, low ROI from your user-acquisition campaigns.

To help you with your own mobile-RPG strategies, I put together a list of 5 key points you should be considering to build up your user-acquisition efforts.

1. Your new players don’t fall into the same bucket

Most RPGs — especially those coming from Eastern countries, such as China, Korea, and Japan — have servers in different regions, a strategy that offers publishers a couple of huge benefits toward extending the game’s lifetime:

  • Improved Gameplay Experience: RPGs require real-time collaborations or competitions (team dungeons, co-op missions, etc.), so high lag will completely destroy the gameplay experience. Distributing mirrored servers in key geographic regions — such as SEA (Southeast Asia), Europe, Russia, North America, and South America — should reduce the lag that your players will face, because the distance between these players is shorter.
  • Increased User-Acquisition ROI: Most of the time, mobile RPGs feature Arenas that offer no matchmaking whatsoever. All players, from Level 1 to your level cap, try to compete against each other in the same arena. After a while, more regular players on the server become highly powerful and can kill “newbies” in mere seconds. While this is something that’s good for mature players, it’s unfortunately something that newbies hate, which can become a good reason for some players to stop participating. However, if you open a new server, all of your new players on it will start from scratch with the rest of the players on that server. It’s a process that will create a better competitive environment and enable you to monetize your less-experienced players much better.

While having multiple servers in different regions provides some advantages, it also creates a big layer of user-acquisition complexity. Let’s say you get 1,000 installs per day, it actually breaks down into an average of 250 installs for each region. So, while you may be happy that you’re getting a lot of installs, it actually might not translate into good performance if you look at it on a per-server basis. The 250 installs per server might not be enough for servers to reach a critical ACU (average concurrent user), which results in a more entertaining gameplay segment. Maintaining an optimum number of new daily users while trying to remain ROI positive is a big challenge — and should never be underestimated.

2. Mobile RPGs are all about events and huge expansions

Most RPG games reach their peak ARPU (average revenue per user) when there’s an event underway, whether it’s some limited-time offer or to introduce fresh game features through completely new gameplay and other player benefits. During these times, product teams and user-acquisition managers should collaborate to plan out everything in advance. If a big expansion is coming and is expected to target mature players — so you can increase the ARPPU (average revenue per paying user) by the end of the month — then user-acquisition campaigns should start two-to-three weeks in advance of the expansion’s launch. Players that are newly acquired will be matured in 2-3 weeks’ time and become ready to spend. This is a great way to increase LTV from acquired players on a mid- and long-term basis.

3. Know where your high-quality players are coming from

While this is not specific to mobile role-playing games, RPGs are more niche products when compared to other game genres — so figuring out where your high quality players are coming from becomes more crucial for the success of your user-acquisition campaigns. Most user-acquisition managers look at a campaign’s performance from a high level, and if the campaigns are not doing well, you either stop working with the ad partner or lower your bids.

However, there might be some treasure lying in the data if you look at the campaign results by your ad partners’ publisher performance. Using mobile-attribution tracking tools (such as TUNE) makes it very easy to see which ad partners’ publishers are bringing in the spenders. Conversely, you can ask your ad partner to blacklist the ones that are bringing no spenders to your game, so you can pull new users to your game that’ll maintain your ACU at meaningful levels, but also keep the main gameplay fun for everyone — from newbies to veteran players.

4. Video ads vs. image ads

Mobile RPG are usually deep games with a lot of features and plenty of content to play. Videos are the best way to showcase those features when compared to image ads. As the conversions become better, your costs will also be lower per acquired player. Creating videos definitely takes more time and effort compared to image ads, but in terms of ROI, it’s worth investing in time and money to create an arsenal of video ads.

5. Get your “whales” back

Considering the cost of user acquisition for niche games is much higher than other casual games, making sure that you get your “whales” (your most lucrative consumers) to play long enough is very crucial for high ROI user-acquisition campaigns.

Most of the time, whale players churn because there’s not much competition left in the game as a result of new servers opening. As new servers open, most new players join those debut servers, which means the inflow of new users on the older servers decreases significantly. This results in less and less competition for the whale players on the old servers as the days go by. Therefore, when you have a server merge or new server opening, it’s also a good time to execute re-engagement campaigns that can highlight the fact that new servers have been launched or that existing old servers were merged. This is a good way to entice lapsed/churned players into becoming active members again.

There are plenty of ways for a mobile-game company to maintain an engaged, active user base while at the same time driving new business through well-thought-out acquisition campaigns. The five aspects listed here should give you some inspiration for how you can shake things up to try and keep your game fresh, as well as improve your product’s overall ROI across its lifespan…but it doesn’t have to end there. Be creative in discovering ways that you can keep the buzz going in your community, and you’ll reap the rewards by putting longer tails on your games.

Sertac Picakci has worked as lead product manager and user-acquisition manager at some of the world’s leading game companies (such as Electronic Arts and Zynga), and has managed multi-million dollar budgets to acquire users from all over the world. He’s currently working at LEDO Interactive in Beijing as Director of User Acquisition, where he’s working on Clash for Dawn and another upcoming title. He can be reached at or on LinkedIn.

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