This article is part of a Gaming Insights series paid for by Facebook. 

Players continue to spend more time in hardcore and midcore mobile games than in other genres, and have a surprisingly positive view of rewarded video ads. More publishers looking to diversify their revenue now find that in-app ads complement in-app purchases (IAP) — without hurting the player experience.

But ads must be implemented well to be most effective in RPG, strategy, action, battle, and similar hardcore and midcore mobile game types, which is why we’re sharing in-app ad success factors specific to these genres. Read on and then download our best practice guide.

Untapped potential for in-app ads

Over 75% of mobile game time spent globally was in hardcore and midcore games, according to Ad Monetization in Mobile Games: The Untapped Potential, a Facebook-commissioned study with App Annie. Core games represented almost one-fifth of total global downloads in 2019, yet made up less than 10% share of games with ad SDKs (March 2020).1  Casual and hypercasual game publishers already use player-friendly ad formats to monetize, while hardcore and midcore publishers are just beginning to realize the potential in 2020.

Hardcore and midcore gamers like rewarded video ads

In Rewarded Video for the Win in Hardcore and Midcore Mobile Games, Lewis Ward of IDC shared recent survey findings that surprised him: hardcore and midcore gamers had overwhelmingly positive sentiment toward rewarded video ads. While all players rated rewarded video higher than other ad formats, core gamers actually like it.

Why? Since rewarded videos are offered at a time when a player may need a boost to get to the next game level, the opt-in could result in a higher value conferred on the ad. The takeaway is that gamers in this genre could be more receptive to rewarded video ads than publishers anticipate.

Rewarded video success factors

Rewarded video ads not only put players in control of their experience but also make sense for business. In fact, 79% of developers consider it to be their most successful format (Ads, IAP or Both?, May 2019).2

Rewarded videos perform best when publishers follow a few core principles concerning placements and reward types. There are three key variables:

  • Common placements: Where to insert rewarded video ads in your hardcore or midcore game, e.g. during the session, app launch, or daily mission/mail
  • Value exchange: What players receive by opting into rewarded video ads, e.g. free lives, free items trial, or virtual currency
  • Design innovation: How to make entry points attractive enough to draw the players’ attention

Top hardcore and midcore rewarded video entry points include:

  • Lucky wheel: Players can see a selection of rewards and spin a wheel to win one
  • Mystery box: Players have the opportunity to access an unknown reward
  • Notification: Reminds players to come back to watch a video for a reward
  • Direct: Players are attracted to interact with a very simple ad to access an award
  • Multi-rewarded video: Players have the chance to watch five videos paired with small rewards in a timed sequence, in order to open a box with a big reward; this can encourage re-engagement and retention


Increased engagement, retention, and revenue

Ludia is one hardcore and midcore publisher who implemented in-app ads to their IAP-only model and saw increased player engagement, revenue, and retention. In 2019, Canada-based Ludia noticed other gaming companies beginning to monetize with ads, but at this point, they were heavily dependent on IAP to generate revenue for their builder and battle simulation titles like Jurassic World: The Game.

Since optimizing their rewarded video placements with Audience Network, Ludia has seen paying players engage with rewarded videos on top of their normal IAP habits. And, the more non-paying players were exposed to premium products through rewarded video, the more likely they were to become paying players.

According to Ludia, players who watch ads actually have 1.25x more sessions than those that don’t, and the average session time is 25% longer than the session time of players who don’t watch ads.3

“We saw rewarded ad revenue increase 4x without having a negative impact on our IAP monetization strategy,” said Rose Agozzino, senior marketing specialist at Ludia.

Publishers like Leiting, Mechanist Games, and SundayToz have seen similar success incorporating in-app ads into their games. In fact, SundayToz Business Development Director Junsik Kong said:

“We integrated ads into one game, tested it, and verified that there were no problems with the data. Then we integrated it into other games. We made sure to closely monitor how our KPIs are impacted. We saw an increase of 22% in user retention and a 25% increase in ARPDAU, using Audience Network rewarded video.”4

From longer session times, to higher retention, to ARPDAU uplift, rewarded video ads can deliver positive results for hardcore and midcore mobile publishers looking to diversify their monetization mix.

Download the guide Success Factors for In-App Ads in Hardcore & Midcore Games to learn more on integrating rewarded video, optimizing ad placements, and reinvesting in user acquisition.

Hahn Kim is Strategic Partner Manager at Facebook Audience Network.

1 – Source: “Ad Monetization in Mobile Games: The Untapped Potential,” App Annie (commissioned by Facebook Audience Network), March 2020 – a study of the global top 1,000 game apps, averaged across iOS and Google Play from January 1 through December 31, 2019.

2 – Ads, IAP or Both? “Mobile Games Monetization Research” by Walnut Unlimited (commissioned by Facebook) — quantitative and qualitative research via 173 online interviews in US, EMEA and APAC, April 2019.

3 – How Ludia increased revenue, retention and engagement with rewarded video, case study, 2020.

4 – SundayToz boosts user retention and ARPDAU with in-app ads strategy, case study, 2020.

Note: Best practice recommendations are solely to help inform ad campaign strategies; not intended as a warranty or guarantee of results. 

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