Apple’s IDFA changes are already changing game design and monetization


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When Apple updated its opt-out to opt-in ad tracking ID with the launch of iOS 14.5 in April, the main concern in the industry was how this would affect mobile app marketing – and rightly so, given how reliant marketers were on IDFA’s ability to target. relevant and valuable users. This policy change has disrupted the entire app marketing ecosystem, with significant implications for how we track, measure, target and retarget ad campaigns. But perhaps just as important, if less advertised, as these changes were, is that Apple’s policy has had significant implications for the design and monetization of games as well.

We’re already seeing noticeable differences in the way many games are designed and developed, and particularly in the game mechanics that govern their monetization strategies. After all, when game developers can no longer target ad campaigns based on specific criteria and are forced to rely on a broader campaign distribution strategy, they need to rethink how they monetize large audiences that they want. ‘they will now attract.

The hybridization of hardcore and casual games

Hardcore and casual games have traditionally represented opposite ends of a spectrum based on factors such as depth of storytelling experience, length of sessions, and more. These disparate styles of play have generally attracted very different audiences: grassroots gamers are more engaged and more willing to invest in the game’s setup, while casual gamers are generally looking for a quick win or a little light entertainment.

In the post-IDFA era, we’re starting to see many developers taking a hybrid approach where they include features that appeal to a larger gamer audience in a single game. For example, hardcore strategy games built around l Exploration, expansion, exploitation and extermination (the four X’s in 4X games such as Civilization) are starting to see simpler RPG-like character development and fast-paced combat layers. The idea is to provide a little something for everyone and to introduce different gameplay verticals within the same title. We’ve seen this happen in games like State of Survival, a strategy game from KingsGroup. While it uses the typical 4X strategy game’s feature set in that it involves building armies and full-scale warfare against other players, it also has a separate RPG layer with development. character and light narrative elements mixed with fast-paced combat sequences.

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At the same time, we are also seeing a hybridization of artistic style and design aesthetics. While base games have traditionally relied on relatively realistic games (albeit with a fantasy focus), the highly detailed art design and casual games have been more cartoonish or minimalistic, we are seeing a lot of games that lie halfway between the two, such as Rise of the Kingdoms and the Great War. Both of these very successful strategy game titles use an art style that could best be described as casual and cartoonish. As with the game mechanics, this hybridization of game design is intended to appeal to a large audience of experienced and casual gamers.

Balance in-app ads with in-app purchases

With the launch of iOS 14.5, users who have not chosen to track their IDFA will not receive targeted ads, resulting in a potential loss of revenue for the game publisher. Among games that rely primarily on in-app ads (IAA) for their revenue, many publishers have tried to make up for this difference by making up for it with a higher volume of ads served. But it’s not necessarily the best user experience. Publishers try to find the perfect spot for as many ads as they can run to maximize revenue while being careful not to overdo it and discourage players – it’s not. no big deal, of course.

The other way that many casual or hyper-casual publishers offset the loss of IAA revenue is by balancing IAA with an IAP offering. Many have played with the practice of making paid boosters available for their casual games, but this is a difficult strategy that can sometimes affect the delicate balance of a game’s fairness. best IAP offering that allows players to personalize their experience or showcase their personality, without affecting the integrity of the game.

Above: State of Survival is a mobile 4X strategy game that responds to IDFA changes.

Image Credit: KingsGroup

Battle Pass systems, in which players can access new content for a fee, are also gaining popularity among casual games as a way to account for lost IAA revenue. Although Battle Passes were originally found primarily in base games, we are increasingly seeing these and other types of IAP offers coming to casinos, puzzles, and other types of games. casual and hypercasual games such as Royal Match, Pop! Slots and Dragon City Mobile.

The growth of LiveOps and CRM

Without being able to target specific users based on their unique IDs, publishers have virtually lost the ability to retarget current or previous players to bring them back into the game and reduce the churn rate. So it’s more important than ever to do everything in your power to make sure that players never grieve. This is where the increased LiveOps strategies come in.

LiveOps, CRM, and marketing automation have become more important to many game publishers to compensate for the fact that they can no longer retarget the majority of their players. Especially for casual game publishers, who previously could simply add more levels to their game to keep players engaged for long periods of time, now they have to think about user experience in a more holistic way and from different angles. . For the most part, that means giving them specials, promotions, and content that gives them a reason to come back and play the game day in and day out.

Faster conversions

IDFA’s primary replacement, SKAdNetwork, provides a 24-hour window to send the installation validation publication. This means that in order for an app marketer to determine the quality of a specific ad channel, any conversions they want to track must occur within the first 24 hours. While this is a small window for meaningful conversions to take place, the number of chats compared to other channels is still an important quality indicator.

So if a developer can get users, for example, to complete a certain level within 24 hours, or better yet, make an in-app purchase within that time frame, they might be able to determine that the source These users’ advertising originates is of relatively high quality. They can then reinvest more ad spend as a result. Many developers try to take advantage of this 24-hour window by speeding up the early parts of the customer journey.

More soon

Of course, these are just a few of the many ways that Apple’s IDFA policy changes impacted game design and monetization. Other ways, such as an increase in IP-based games, greater synergy between advertising creation and game aesthetics, and more, will undoubtedly emerge as the industry continues to adapt. . We don’t even know the full implications of the policy change yet.

What we do know is that when the dust settles, developers who can stay nimble and flexible, who can use data to make smart and informed decisions, and who find new ways to innovate in the environment. current, will be those who will be released on Haut.

Joel Julkunen is vice president of games at GameRefinery by Vungle, where he heads the analysis department and plays a major role in the development of the algorithms and statistical models used by the company.


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