Four Thirty Three Inc. is a global mobile game publisher founded in 2009 in Seoul, Korea. They’ve developed a range of successful games, and their recent title Boxing Star -- a mid-hard core game where players try to climb the ranks and become a boxing champion -- attracted more than 2.5 million monthly active users within three weeks.
Initially, Four Thirty Three relied only on in-app purchases (IAP) as their revenue source. But in 2018, they wanted a way to boost revenue by showing ads to Boxing Star’s non-paying users, without hindering IAP revenue or causing user churn. The team used Google AdMob and Google Analytics for Firebase to integrate the right ads at the right time into Boxing Star, resulting in a 15% increase in revenue.
Finding the right ads for the best player experience
The Four Thirty Three team wanted to find the right balance of ads and IAP. Furthermore, the team wanted to show ads to engaged users who displayed continued interest in the game to reduce their risk of churning.
After evaluating a number of ad formats, Jin Hong Moon, Product Manager at Four Thirty Three, decided to try AdMob rewarded video ads as a way to engage gamers and even enhance the user experience. Rewarded ads allow developers to reward users with in-app items for choosing to watch video ads, playable ads, and surveys. This value exchange, combined with the choice to opt-in makes rewarded ads a positive addition to gameplay.
To understand how users were engaging with ads, Four Thirty Three linked their AdMob account with Google Analytics for Firebase. Jinhong and team chose to test only those users who completed game tutorials to make sure they were reaching active players. This approach allowed the team to earn more from engaged players, while preserving an ad-free experience for players who were more at risk of churning.
They used rewarded video ads in a way that appeals to both paying and non-paying users without cannibalizing its IAP revenue. As a reward for watching ads, the team offered items that are not typically sold in Boxing Star’s IAP store, such as special game currencies.
We chose AdMob’s rewarded ads because they offer the highest eCPM and the most seamless integration among all ad networks, with the ability to deliver impressions without crashing the game.
Product Manager, Four Thirty Three,
Next, they designed the game to show the benefits of watching ads by offering instant prizes. Whereas before a user would have to wait hours to open up a coin chest or make a purchase in the game store, paying players could now unlock these rewards instantly by watching a rewarded ad. Non-paying users benefited as well, since they could now get a sample of IAP items without having to make a purchase. The team also lowered the number of actions needed to watch an ad in full, but users always had the choice of watching ads or skipping past them. A thoughtful ad implementation that delighted users with free in-app items resulted in enhanced gameplay and happier players.
Optimizing ad impressions with analytics
Next, Four Thirty Three wanted to find the right number of impressions per user to maximize revenue. They integrated Google Analytics for Firebase to split their audience into two segments: countries with low eCPM and high impressions, and countries with high eCPM and low impressions. With these segments in place, they used Firebase to track user churn at specific checkpoints in their game, from when a user first opens the app to when they begin the tutorial, and monitor where users drop off.
They also monitored key metrics like opt-in rates — to understand which types of rewards were more attractive to users — eCPM, and the ideal number of impressions per user. The team used findings across these two segments to find the ad frequency that maximizes ad revenue.
Transforming their business model
The team was astonished by the results. Within a month of launching rewarded ads, user retention increased by 8% and session duration rose by 38% — 5 minutes longer, on average. More than 60% of Boxing Star’s daily active users chose to watch rewarded ads, and users gave positive feedback about the ads, too. Most importantly, total revenue increased by 15%, far exceeding the team’s 5% goal. The combination of AdMob’s rewarded video ads and Google Analytics for Firebase helped them deliver a tailored ad experience to different user segments.
“AdMob has transformed internal perceptions about advertising in games, and our core business model,” says Jinhong. “Based on this success, we plan to apply rewarded advertising to all of our games and to develop games where advertising revenue is a core business model. All of this couldn’t have been possible without AdMob.”
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