Jeb Balise Headshot

Jeb Balise

A recent study conducted by Survey Monkey Intelligence on mobile trends points out that puzzle games get the most engagement in the US with an average of 105 minutes spent per active user per month. More time means more opportunities to show ads to players. But, let’s face it, creating a winning game monetization model is far from easy.

We’ve asked our client Jeb Balise from PuzzleSocial, creator of Daily Celebrity Crossword, the most solved daily crossword app in the planet, to share his insights on how to balance game monetization with the user experience. Jeb is a longtime crossword puzzle enthusiast and was able to transform his passion into a successful company (PuzzleSocial was acquired by Zynga in July 2016).

Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Jeb! We are excited to share your insights with our readers.

Happy to contribute!

1. What are the challenges that are associated with mobile game monetization? How to overcome them?

The main challenge with game monetization is building a product that your players want to come back to each day. If you don’t build a good product that players value enough to come back to then you, as a company, have no chance of monetizing a user base.

If you build a great game that your players consistently want to come back to it means you’re driving a lot of value to the end consumer and typically it’s not difficult to ask the players who value your game to pay or watch advertising in exchange to access certain features. The best way to overcome this challenge is to focus on answering the question of “why will players come back to this game for many years to come?”.

 2. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t in mobile advertising to help growing revenue.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what works and what doesn’t. Making money on mobile advertising comes down to conversion meaning how many people actually click on the ad and then perform the action that the advertiser wants.

The trick to monetizing advertising is to have placements in your app that are most likely to convert your users to perform the action that the advertiser wants. So ads must be contextual within your app – you don’t want to show an advertisement half way through a game as that is unfair to the player who is going to close your app with a sour taste in their mouth. Instead it might make more sense to show an advertisement at a natural break in the content so the player actually takes the time to decide whether or not they want to convert on the ad’s value proposition.

3.  What are the key metrics you take into account to measure the success of your monetization strategy? How frequently do you adjust the strategy?

If you’re starting out you need to understand ARPDAU, or Average Revenue Per Daily Active User, and you want to see how that scales over time. So, if you’re making 10 cents per player at 100 players, then you are making $10 per day. That means every player that comes to your game is worth about 10 cents per day.  Then you try to see if it scales @1,000 players, @10,000 players, and so on.  In this case a million daily players is worth about $100,000 a day which is a pretty strong business usually. When ARPDAU doesn’t scale with your user base you try to diagnose why the players you are bringing in aren’t behaving similarly to the initial users.

4.  Can you talk about the benefits you’ve seen from using Libring? How does it help you and your team?

Libring keeps all of our revenue in one place so we can quickly analyze the trends from our various ad partners and determine which of our partners are providing the most value to our company.  We also use Libring to help us to report internally and also to look out for dramatic shifts that could mean a bug or an ad partner changing their fill rate which we need to be on top of.

5. How do you see mobile game monetization evolving over the next years?

I think there will be fewer quality apps in the market because it’s really difficult to develop and maintain apps.  For quality apps, I think ads will continue to be richer, more interactive, and more contextual as time goes on. I think native, contextual, placements will drive a lot of value and ad revenue from sponsorships and partnerships will continue to grow at a faster pace than it has in previous years.

6.  Any advice that you can share with game developers looking to monetize their games?

Build a great product. Be flexible with your ad placements – create many placements and test which ones make the most sense and don’t interrupt user retention or get in the way of the user experience.  Also don’t rely on one ad partner and make sure you build a mediator or rely on a 3rd party mediator to make sure there is a competitive market for the inventory in your game.

Thank you very much for your time!

My pleasure!