Success Story

BlackLight Studio Games grows revenue 23% with AdMob smart segmentation

BlackLight Studio Games grows revenue 23% with AdMob smart segmentation

Founded in 2013 and based in New Delhi, BlackLight Studio Games creates mobile puzzle games. BlackLight’s core principle is keeping user experience at the center of its business. The 15-person studio has seen great success with Ludo SuperStar, a popular strategy board game where players race their tokens to the finish line and move according to the roll of the dice.

Ludo SuperStar has over 1M daily active users, and has been earning revenue through in-app purchases (IAP) and various ad formats — including rewarded and interstitials. BlackLight, however, wanted to diversify its revenue but worried about hurting user experience, retention, and IAP revenue in the process. As a result, the team turned to AdMob’s smart segmentation to unlock new revenue, while keeping its user experience and IAP revenue intact. With this approach, they saw a 38% increase in their interstitial ad revenue, and a 23% boost in its overall revenue — without cannibalizing IAPs or sacrificing user experience.

Boosting revenue in a competitive space

With a successful game and plenty of engaged users, BlackLight now wanted new ways to optimize its monetization efforts while maintaining a strong industry presence. To create more revenue, the team considered increasing the number of ads in Ludo SuperStar, but worried about competitors that offered Ludo* games for free and, at times, without ads. BlackLight was also concerned that implementing more ads into the game could potentially hurt user experience or retention. Finally, the team did not want to cannibalize their IAP revenue by showing all users ads.

In addition to growing revenue, BlackLight wanted a solution that could be easily implemented without having to shift team priorities. Shruti Saraf, co-founder of BlackLight, mentioned that, “there are a lot of options out there that can help us create a solution, but they require a lot of work and testing” and that was difficult for a team with limited resources.

A solution unlike any other

Before smart segmentation, BlackLight tried a few different approaches. First, the team increased the number of ads they showed users and provided an option to remove them entirely by making an IAP; however, IAP revenue did not increase and user experience took a hit. Then, they tried giving users the option to remove all ads if they watched one rewarded ad per game session, but BlackLight’s overall ad revenue decreased. They finally tested smart segmentation after a notification appeared on their AdMob dashboard announcing the new feature. Smart segmentation uses machine learning to automatically segment users into predicted spenders and non-spenders, and only shows ads to predicted non-spenders. Players who are predicted to make a purchase can continue playing the ad-free experience. “We’re always focused on game improvements, meaning monetization usually takes a back seat. Smart segmentation was really enticing because we could effortlessly automate our revenue, without spending too much time on it.” said Shruti.

BlackLight’s first step to implementing smart segmentation was creating a new ad unit. To make testing easier, the team created just one interstitial ad. Next, they needed to find the right ad placement within the game’s two modes — the offline version where users play against a bot, or the multiplayer version where they play live against other users. The team chose to place the new ad unit in the game’s offline mode to ensure that the live, multiplayer experience remained unchanged.

Implementing smart segmentation was incredibly simple, taking no more than two hours. It’s great that AdMob can provide a solution that segments users like this -- no other ad network is offering something like smart segmentation.

Shruti Saraf, Co-founder, BlackLight Studio Games

The next step was to gauge player reaction to the extra ad. Prioritizing user experience, Blacklight ran internal tests first to gather team members’ opinions before deploying to the public. After getting positive feedback, BlackLight rolled out the new build to a small percentage of players. They kept track of ad revenue, user retention, and average revenue per paying user (ARPPU) every time they rolled out the ad to more users. As their KPIs improved or remained constant, the team slowly increased the percentage of players seeing the smart segmentation ad.

A large impact leads to more users

BlackLight saw results with smart segmentation right away. After only 30 days, interstitial ad revenue increased by 38%, and overall game revenue grew by 23%. Currently, 60% of players are using this new game build, and Shurti said, “as we reach 100% of users who move to this new version, we expect to see an extra 10% revenue increase—a total of 48% lift—which is a big impact for us.'' Even better, the team saw that while revenue increased, their user retention and ARPPU remained steady.

BlackLight also saw satisfactory results in secondary metrics. Cost-per-thousand impressions (CPMs) for their smart segmentation ad unit performed as well as interstitials that were not using smart segmentation, and had a 100% fill rate.

“AdMob’s innovative products make our life so much easier, which is why we chose it as our monetization platform,” began Shruti. BlackLight can continue to focus on creating fun games for their users, without having to worry about monetization. “With smart segmentation we can now diversify our revenue beyond IAPs, and it’s a great way to deliver tailored app experiences to our users — it’s a wonderful thing.” finished Shruti.

Interested in taking your monetization strategy to the next level? Request a consultation with one of our AdMob specialists today.

*Ludo is a strategy board game derived from the famous Indian game, Pachisi. It is known worldwide by other name variations such as Parcheesi, Sorry!, or Parchis, among many others.