In the first of our series, “Games Growth and Monetization,” mobile strategy powerhouses from EA, Pocket Gems and Google reveal the surprising strategies that make a game launch sizzle instead of fizzle.

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“Users are everywhere,” says Google’s Alex Valle, product manager for mobile ads. “Users are researching, users are engaging all over the Internet, all over the world, all over offline channels.” And they’re also always on the hunt for their next go-to game.

So where are avid gamers engaging?

“We find a lot of our high value players on social channels,” says Erica May, director of global mobile engagement and acquisition at EA. “I think of YouTube as a social channel.” And it’s a social channel with over a billion users watching over 219 billion gaming videos, according to Valle.

Chris Luhur, director of marketing at the leading mobile entertainment and games company Pocket Gems, agrees. “In terms of acquisition overall, there’s definitely a focus on videos. Being able to create more video content is really important.” Other social channels, including Facebook, are investing in video content she notes — and the more you can create video content, the better you can take advantage of new types of ads.

Valle notes that research supports YouTube as a rich source of user acquisition and retention. For every additional five minutes a user spends on YouTube, you can expect a two-minute increase in gaming activity, according to a December 2015 study by Greenberg. Plus, 90 percent of avid gamers visit YouTube weekly; 64 percent of avid gamers have downloaded a game after seeing a YouTube ad; and 63 percent of daily YouTube viewers spend at least $5 a month on games.

YouTube is effective for both acquisition and retention. What kind of videos are hitting the sweet spot?

“It depends on the audience,” Valle says. “Get to the point if it’s early; go deep and teach them something and excite them if it’s an audience of folks you already know are engaged with your game or familiar with your game.”

So if you’re making an acquisition play, the first five to 10 seconds are extremely important, and should focus quickly and sharply on the exciting parts of your game, the intense scenes or fun and funny action, to engage and captivate your audience. For more deeply engaged players, longer videos with tips, hints, tricks and future gameplay teasers keep them both watching and playing.

But, Valle cautions, “If you’re going to do acquisition, have a clear call-to-action. We’ve seen folks that take too long to get their message across, and not have a call-to-action at the end, and they’ve wasted their money.”

Compelling videos and ads come down to compelling, captivating content. “Creative is really important because it can jumpstart your user acquisition,” says Luhur. “And creative testing is incredibly important because essentially it influences your install rates — the number of installs you get per impression. The more effective the creative, obviously the more installs you get.”

She points out a series of creative that Pocket Gems ran for their game Episode last year. “We had this really amazing ad come up, that we called the kissing ad. There’s a guy and girl, and you have to choose if they kiss or not,” she says. “The impact of that one creative essentially helped us quadruple our installs.”

And soft launch is your time to start crafting the user acquisition and engagement strategy, from YouTube and beyond, that will result in massive installs and a powerful global launch. In fact, May says, soft launch is far more important than the global launch.

“During soft launch, all I’m thinking about in my head is test test test test test,” says May. “Testing video creative, testing channels — different creative works better on specific channels. It’s finding the right mix of channels for the genre of game that you’re launching to make it all work.”

Soft launch is when you find out whether you’re going to hit your retention and monetization goals, and if the game is going to work when you actually drive all your users there. During soft launch you’re looking for your kissing ad, determining the acquisition prices for every channel, and how you’re going to scale out.

“Definitely wait until you hit those metrics and don’t be in a rush,” urges May. “Nothing should be a shock at this point. Soft launch is a far better time to test, and global launch should be an exciting period where you continue to test and iterate but nothing should be a shock.”

And once you launch, Lurhur says, it’s important to remember that even though it’s a global launch, you still have a long way to go. As much as you hope there won’t be any surprises, there always are surprises.

“Roll with the punches,” she adds, “and keep learning and keep expanding as much as possible. The key thing to know is global launch is still just the beginning; there’s definitely a long way ahead.”

For more essential tips on traveling the long road to game success, including metric and data goals, paid versus organic reach, optimization and more, check out our VB Live event now!

Don’t miss out!

Access this VB Live event on demand for free.

In this VB Live event, you’ll:

  • Understand which marketing tools will reward you the most from early play testing through successful app launch
  • Hear case studies and success strategies for search and other behavior-targeted campaigns that deliver the highest value users
  • Get tips to unlock the intense power of Google’s platform and hear about the latest tools and product updates


  •      Erica May, Director, Global Mobile Engagement & Acquisition, EA
  •      Chris Luhur, Director of Marketing, Pocket Gems
  •      Alex Valle, Product Manager, Mobile Ads, Google
  •      Jason Wilson, Managing Editor, GamesBeat


  •      Wendy Schuchart, Analyst, VentureBeat

This VB Live event is sponsored by Google.