It’s unusual for a game to gain market momentum years after its initial release. But that’s what happened with Lords Mobile, a multiplayer strategy title that was released in 2016 and hit its monthly revenue high of US$66 million in December 2020. IGG, the developer and publisher behind the game, has a string of similar successes.
Although the company has enjoyed remarkable growth with its 50+ titles, they didn’t rush into ad monetization. Once they eventually decided to revamp their monetization strategy after a dip in revenue, IGG turned to AdMob. By adopting the AdMob platform and its bidding solution, IGG doubled their fill rate, and increased average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) from ads by 100-200% across its games.
Seeking new sources of revenue and customer insights
When “Castle Clash,” a mature IGG tower defense game, began generating less revenue as the years went on, the team knew that it was time to change their in-app purchase (IAP)-only monetization model. They wanted to boost earnings, diversify revenue streams, and better understand their users’ lifetime value (LTV).
Yet, to reach those goals, IGG first had to broaden and deepen their set of available monetization tools. They were at a point where they could invest resources in understanding how in-app ads might impact user retention, and carefully experiment. They’d also recently conducted some market research, and learned that games similar to theirs were seeing positive results with a combination of in-app ads and IAP. To get started, IGG began searching for a mediation platform and partnership that could support their numerous games and studios. Google AdMob had the strong network performance and stability that IGG was looking for, so they decided to give its mediation platform a try.
Close partnerships and reorganization efforts
To strengthen the team's ad monetization expertise, IGG created a dedicated ad monetization team — expanding from one person part-time to three people — and set up an internal forum to discuss common questions on the topic. The forum enabled them to easily share best practices, and improve the efficiency of their AdMob integration across each game studio.
For external feedback, they ran user research studies to assess user sentiment on in-app ads in one of their newer games. The team adopted a suite of features, including waterfall mediation, AdMob bidding, and cohort report. They also ran a series of experiments on ad monetization, including testing ads in IAP-only games.
When they first began experimenting, IGG Marketing Director Malen Li and her team focused mostly on changes to fill rate and ads ARPDAU. “But with our in-depth cooperation with AdMob, we referred to different solutions for different games,” says Malen, explaining how they started focusing more on understanding LTV, and finding the right balance between IAP and in-app ads for each game.
Malen's team looped in their own developers early, which made it easier to get AdMob integration on the product team's roadmap. “A lot of changes, for both the product and the organization, happened in the past year,” says Malen.
With in-depth cooperation with AdMob, we referred to different solutions for different games. Also in this process, we kept learning to find the balance point between IAP and in-app advertising.
Marketing Director, IGG,
ARPDAU increases and improved LTV understanding
By mid-2020, Castle Clash’s ad revenue had already started to improve. IGG saw a 100% increase in fill rate, and a 100-200% uplift in ads ARPDAU across their games. Today, all of IGG’s new casual games have ad monetization integrated by default. The company also has ads in 5-6 games and 3-4 utility apps, assigning a dedicated team member to manage ad strategy and map out ad monetization goals with operations teams across studios too. This is a huge step up from last year, when most operations teams didn’t set ad monetization goals, even if their games had a hybrid revenue model.
By using cohort report, IGG could closely monitor any changes in user LTV as they transitioned to a hybrid model. They also gained a deeper understanding of LTV at a country level, helping them identify market-specific growth opportunities and then zeroing in on those with higher ROI. With these actionable insights in hand, IGG optimized their user acquisition campaigns, and doubled the revenue coming in from top markets. “For utility tools, if we didn’t adopt AdMob and use cohort report, we may not have been able to continue the large scale of user acquisition,” says Malen.
With ongoing market research, IGG continues to find new opportunities for hybrid monetization among its games, including a puzzle role-playing game. “In this process,” says Malen, “we kept learning and found the balance point between IAP and in-app advertising. We’re excited to see how our business evolves with this constant education.”