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From a Dev: Optimizing Ad Revenue Through Gameplay Experiences

The following article is meant to highlight Ultrabit’s experience with ads and how we integrated them into our core gameplay to drive meaningful revenue. I will be speaking primarily about our latest title, Pocket Politics (iOS and Android, July 2016). Although Pocket Politics sits in the idle/incremental genre, we believe ads can drive meaningful results in almost any game category.

This will not be an exhaustive examination of all ads ever; instead, it is a single illustration of how we’ve found success with our current approach. If you haven’t thought about how ads might help drive more revenue from your products, we hope the below encourages you to explore ads as a secondary means of monetization. If you are already seeing gains from your current ad implementation, we hope you come away with ideas on how to further optimize.

Why do we care so much about ads?
Ads serve as a major pillar of revenue for Pocket Politics. At any given time we make 40-50% of our daily revenues from ads, which has proven especially significant at scale. Given enough users -- through user acquisition, re-featuring, cross-promo, etc. -- we end up with a sizeable amount of free players contributing to revenue that would otherwise not monetize.

What kind of ad metrics do we pay attention to?
The two key metrics we examine are the percent of daily active users watching at least one ad (%DAU engaging) and the number of ads watched per user per day (ads/DAU). Of the two listed, we find it more important to optimize %DAU engaging because you typically get paid more money for the first ad the user watches vs. their tenth. For reference, Pocket Politics currently lands around ~60% for %DAU engaging and ~5-10 ads/DAU; it should be noted that we run limited timed events which can spike ads/DAU -- more on that in a bit. For more information on why it is important to track ad metrics, see Kongregate’s Jeff Gurian’s post “Ads Count, So Count Your Ads.”

How about some specific examples/tips of how we’ve moved these metrics?
Certainly, move to next section.

Tips and Tricks
When Pocket Politics was moving through test markets, we were concerned about ads/DAU given we were clocking in around ~3 ads/DAU (in our opinion, target area is anywhere between 5-8 ads/DAU). Our %DAU engaging had always been relatively strong, so we didn’t try and move that metric too much until recently (no data to report on yet). That said, following are some key takeaways from our live operations that have proven useful in moving ads/DAU.

Figure 1. Ads/DAU by Type

Any other takeaways or learnings?

Thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit about how we use ads as part of our core gameplay in Pocket Politics. If you would like to learn more about how other games in Kongregate’s portfolio have leveraged ads, please see Tammy Levy’s article titled “Best Practices: In-Game Ads.”


Cooper Bachman

Cooper is the General Manager at Ultrabit, a San Diego-based game studio acquired by Kongregate in February 2016. Away from work you'll find him reading sci-fi or fantasy novels, binge watching the newest Marvel Netflix series, or watching live stand-up comedy.

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