Building your free-to-play game is just one piece of the puzzle. You still face the problem that’s plagued everything on the app store since its inception in 2009: How do you get paid? Monetization in the mobile market has gotten better since those digital wild west days, but how it is being done evolves quicker than it’ll take you to finish reading this piece.
Put simply, there are some big trends to track in the mobile ad space, right now: Real-Time Bidding (RTB) and app-ads.txt — to name a few. But to see where things are headed, you also need to take a quick look back.
A developer creates their perfect ad server
In 2009, some apps were $50. Others sold for 99 cents. There were no best practices, just lots of experimentation. A developer — one of the earliest on the App store — realized that it’s really hard to advertise your app if you’re not featured. JRBO understood the real life need for a performance ad network and monetization tool that works well. So, after some tinkering, the team created an ad server for their own games. That offshoot project did so well, it spun out a whole new company: AdColony.
Since then, AdColony has pioneered a number of technologies and approaches to the market that have earned them trust with developers and advertisers, alike.
“‘How are we going to port this premium console game to mobile?’ is the question we had to quickly ask ourselves,” says ForwardXP CEO, Steve Nix. “Guilt Battle Arena came out on Switch, Xbox One, PC, and PS4 in 2018 and we thought having a free to play version would be a better route. When we started thinking of monetization partners, AdColony immediately came to mind. They put a lot of effort into their SDK over the years.” Nix continued, “There are a lot of great tools in their SDK and a lot of great ways to optimize your monetization.”
“In fact,” Nix adds, “Any competent game developer with familiarity in Unity, iOS or Android can implement the SDK without any real problems.”
- Grab the latest version from AdColony’s SDK page.
- SDK downloads are on the AdColony Github — where you can also find samples and documentation.
Brian Truman Executive Director, Digital Ad Revenue and Operations at GSN Games adds, “AdColony’s technology has always been pretty solid. Five years ago, when we first started working with them - it was a no-brainer if you were putting ads in an app. Other developments have come along as well as other solid competitors, but I’ve always felt good about working with AdColony. They have people that know what they are doing, keep investing in their platform, and they continue to push the mobile ads industry forward.”
Trend 1: An eye on Real-Time Bidding
RTB monitor media solutions is one of those big pushes you’re going to see in the next six to 12 months. Its unrealistic to expect AdColony — or any single network — to be on the only SDK in most apps. It does happen occasionally, but most people are going to want a few different options. After all, if you’re selling something on eBay, you don’t want just one bidder in on the action. So you integrate a mediation partner.
Here’s where things will dramatically change. Up to now, mobile has seen a waterfall setting for the bidding of ad inventory. Let’s just take an example here: You got three networks bidding and the app developer’s saying they want to sell this view for $2 at a minimum. Instead of going to everyone at once, “Hey what have you got for at least $2?” they’ll go to waterfall auction one, first. The bid is below the threshold, so the developer moves to the second bid that just so happens to be at $2.25. Great, but what about number three’s bid for a $6 ad? That request never makes it down because bidder two hit the baseline. With RTB (sometimes called advanced mediation) everybody gets a bid, happening in real time.
“With RTB, it becomes much more efficient.” Truman adds.“It also provides a more competitive environment where all the networks have bids for every impression. We started testing with AdColony late last year — one of the early adopters of this technology. Them, along with Facebook, have been really out front with this.”
RTB is the best way for advertisers and brands to reach more devices. An added bonus is that it will increase transparency for who will be delivering the best value for monetization. Needless to say, moving to RTB is really important. Sit on the sidelines too long and publishers will start seeing non-RTB traffic dwindle and get much lower quality ads over time.
Trend 2: Third party authentication with app-ads.txt
The other important trend to watch is the implementation of app-ads.txt. This has been a long-time standard for the web, designed to check that someone selling inventory on a site has permissions to do just that. The IAB released their standards in March for app-ads.txt. So publishers who are using monetization platforms that don’t support app-ads.txt are going to see a huge drop in demand. It’s going to take a while to be ramped up before that comes to a head — 2020, by some estimates. That said, there is no reason to delay making the change. It’s a low-effort switch that unlocks a lot of revenue for you in the future.
AdColony’s SDK has that support planned on the near-term roadmap. Better still, the SDK provides OTA updates for some features - and this change is one of those things that will soon get automatically baked into what people are already using.
Taking advantage of AdColony’s $5 million AMP fund
As you continue eyeing the ever-moving goal posts in mobile monetization, AdColony recently announced a $5 Million Advanced Monetization Program (AMP) to give a taste of what the SDK and tools can do for your apps. The program is aimed squarely at incentivizing publishers, offering 100 percent revenue share for 90 days, a 15 percent user acquisition credit, and up to 10 percent bonus on first position waterfall deals to those who participate.
“I hope that developers take advantage of it,” says Truman. “What makes it really appealing is that there are some acknowledged risks when you’re an app developer and you’re going to spend time to integrate an SDK. That may mean you have to choose between a network you’re familiar with, so there’s an opportunity cost. The AMP fund mitigates that cost and perhaps give some additional benefits if it works out for the developer.”
The other thing to consider is the experience you get working with any ad network. Truman says that AdColony “has some unique tools and settings in an easy-to-use dashboard compared to other networks out there.”
So far, AMP has attracted a huge influx of people - groups that are both large and small. The goal, quite frankly, is to make that decision to monetize a whole lot easier.
Nix adds, “We don’t have a lot of development budget to optimize our game for free play and if there’s something available to help maximize revenue from the game through AdColony’s platform, even better.”
If you’d like to learn how to sign up for the AMP fund, read this story on the AdColony blog.