Presented by Google for Games

Reach more players with insights from Google for Games across topics like international expansion, eSports, monetization and more. Find more articles in this series here.

The billion-dollar question of the past year: would the pandemic-fueled surge in mobile game revenue and downloads last once the world opened up again? In 2020, game app downloads increased 30% worldwide, 30% of Americans admitted their game play time had increased, but mobile game developers braced for an inevitable slow down.

Luckily, the news is far from bleak. While video game spending did see a 13% decline this year, the industry is still going strong and that bump in play time has remained steady — gamers are out there and still hungry for content. But they’re being judicious about where they spend their hard-earned money in a tight economy. That’s an opportunity for mobile game developers, says Sandro Gelashvili, Head of Creative Works at Google.

“Consumers have become laser-focused on how they spend their money, and for gaming companies, it raises a question of relevance,” he says. “The most important thing is to understand the motivations of those valuable players who are excited to pay in your games. Reaching those gamers effectively requires knowing why they’re playing and how they’re engaging.”

While the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in mobile marketing inventory makes advertising more efficient, Gelashvili says that you can still control bids, budgets, campaign types, and most importantly, the creative to finesse targeting. To drive gaming app installs, developers should focus on player motivations when designing their creative assets.

“This is what we call a player-centric creative strategy, focusing on the most profitable audience,” he adds. “And every group of gamers, from core to casual, has a different set of key creative levers.”

Deploying a player-centric creative strategy

There’s a broad array of ways to develop and launch a player-focused creative strategy. Starting with educational resources, there are in-depth studies like the Google for Games Mobile Insights Report and the Puzzle Mobile Genre Report, which offer a comprehensive snapshot of player attitudes, behaviors and trends.

Engaging with your player base via surveys, polls and open feedback channels can collect valuable qualitative data, as do in-depth interviews. Since it can be challenging to leverage these feedback channels without introducing bias, developers can tap external agencies and services to not only analyze the current audience, but extend that research into similar audiences within the market.

From there, the best strategy for building the creatives that capture your key audience’s attention is savvy experimentation, building hypotheses around your captured insights, and motivation data. Group each of these ideas into buckets, with a broad array of variations, because the same concept, executed differently can show very different results — even if it’s something as small as swapping out the end card. Based on your learnings, you can design a cycle of experimentation and scaling that offers actionable insights and a platform for informed decisions.

Building creatives that knock it out of the park

To start with the basics of creatives, it’s important to snatch the attention of the viewer in the first three seconds. Once they’re invested, you leverage what marketers call “story selling.” You want to showcase the gameplay, but also make sure that it connects with the storyline of the game and communicates an understanding of the player, as players are looking for content that’s relevant to them.

Additionally, it’s important to consider optimizing elements of your game’s brand beyond logos or calls to action, such as sound. Sound reach advertising and ads that leverage sound branding, like recognizable jingles, also show better conversions. In some games, the gameplay itself is unique enough to be an element of branding. Collaborating with content creators is another great way to build advertising that feels authentic, and is finely tuned toward their specific audience.

Creatives should also be developed according to the type of campaign, whether it’s acquiring new users or reactivating lapsed players. For instance, AI-powered solutions like Google App campaigns allow you to optimize your targeting and bidding for specific campaign objectives, like getting more app users or more in-app actions from your new users, and even a target return on your ad spend, depending on which type of user is most valuable to you.

In the end, Gelashvili says, “It should be a systematic approach, because there is no guarantee that one concept will win and another will not. To make that work, there needs to be synergy between the user acquisition team, the media team and the creative team, working closely toward shared goals, and offering a diversity of ideas and production approaches.”

To learn more about Google’s full suite of products and solutions to help take your game to the next level, visit the Google for Games website.

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