[This article was created in association with Facebook Audience Network]
With even casual gamers getting more demanding, and competition as hot as ever, monetising your free-to-play titles requires many different approaches. Dundee’s Outplay Entertainment had tried static interstitial ads before with little success, but highly-targeted rewarded video seems to have hit the spot with eCPMs in Tier 1 countries improved by as much as 250 per cent for the month of October 2017 (Measured from 9th October 2017 to 29th October 2017 across all Outplay apps)
Gill Gray, chief finance officer, commented: "It’s a win-win result –commercial success from increased monetisation means that we can support the continued enhancement of our games."
Here is a view into their journey of growth and partnership with Audience Network.
First, tell us a bit about Outplay’s success to date?
Outplay is now the largest independent mobile developer in the UK with more than 100 million downloads worldwide. We have built up a team of 170 highly talented individuals and our mission is to create top quality games enjoyed by a global audience across a wide range of mobile platforms.
Outplay has a track record of growth, ranking 61st in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 – a league table of the fastest-growing technology companies in EMEA and placed 11th in the UK Fast 50. The plan for 2018 and beyond is to build on this success.
The Outplay portfolio of highly rated & critically acclaimed titles includes casual games such as Crafty Candy, Mystery Match, Booty Quest, Bubble Genius and Angry Birds Pop!, and strategy titles, Castle Creeps TD and Alien Creeps TD.
Outplay’s strategy is to differentiate on quality game play, user experience and engagement. We view games as a service and strive to create innovative, highly enjoyable, and social entertainment for our players to enjoy every day. Our team focuses on producing continually fresh game play features and content for our live games, as well as creating new, innovative titles.
What are some of your main monetisation challenges as a business?
All of Outplay’s titles are free-to-play. The company’s main focus is on building and retaining a highly engaged audience. Despite the fact that a very high proportion of our player base enjoy our games without ever purchasing in game, we have achieved commercial success through ensuring that those players who do have an appetite to spend in game achieve a highly satisfying experience, including value for money.
For the vast majority of players who never spend (many play our games for years), we offer a way for them to boost their progress, and at the same time help the game’s overall monetisation, via rewarded video ads. Players can opt to watch a video ad for a reward that can help them in game.
When and why did you first adopt rewarded video?
Before rewarded video ads existed, we experimented with some ‘forced view’ interstitial static ads as a way of increasing monetisation. However, there was a high level of resistance to this monetisation approach internally. It was potentially damaging to retention as it interrupted the core game play experience for players. Players, quite rightly, expressed dissatisfaction with this approach.
For this reason, at that time monetisation through ads was not a significant part of our strategy. A/B testing performed around placements for forced view interstitial ads in most cases did not support an ad monetisation strategy as being positive for the overall commercial success of the game. We were an early adopter of rewarded video ads, however, as we saw that, if implemented correctly, this was a way to increase monetisation whilst at the same time potentially improving players’ experience in game.
Why did you choose to integrate with Audience Network for rewarded video?
By the time Facebook Audience Network launched their rewarded video ads offering, we had been working with different ad partners through a mediation platform, focusing on optimizing placement performance in game to improve player experience and increase monetisation.
Performance of each ad partner varies significantly, depending on whether their partners are running significant campaigns. We were very interested in the differentiated offering from Facebook Audience Network. Their ability to ensure that all ad content served is extremely relevant to the players seeing the ads improves the entertainment experience, potentially improves retention and engagement with rewarded video ads, and improves monetisation.
How does Audience Network Rewarded Video help Outplay reach its larger goals?
Facebook Audience Network is an important partner for Outplay. We have a close working relationship focused on ensuring that the content provided to our highly-engaged audience through rewarded ads is relevant and engaging – such that choosing to view these ads becomes a core part of our players’ daily gameplay experience.
Together, we have worked on improving ad placements at the optimal points in the core gameplay progression. Through a focus on placement design and Facebook Audience Network’s ad serving algorithms, we have seen significantly improved and sustainable performance in several of Outplay’s titles. In some cases, average eCPMs in Tier 1 countries improved by as much as 250 per cent.
With Audience Network’s people-based marketing, we can be more confident that relevant content is delivered to players based on their demographic and specific, demonstrated interests. The relevance and variety of this content can ensure increased engagement with the ads. There is lesser potential for our players to be subjected to the same pool of competitor ads. This also results in access to a wider mix of non- game brands that are investing in mobile through these ad placements.
How did you decide where in your experience to show an ad? Did you use A/B testing?
A/B testing is a core part of our continual improvement approach. Our early A/B testing indicated that ad monetisation through rewarded video views can boost overall game monetisation. Our testing approach focuses on placement design, placement strategy and rewards balancing for video views. We track the performance of each ad placement with standard metrics. Our goal is to ensure that players engage with the placement, and each placement contributes to strong overall monetisation for the game.
In order to identify the optimal approach to ad placement strategy, we study player interactions and progression in game to answer questions such as when to provide players with the chance to watch an ad, and how much of a reward is needed at those moments to respond to the players’ need for help, but not remove all of the challenge!
How was performance relative to other demand sources?
The quality and performance of Facebook Audience Network has been consistently strong and sets a high market benchmark against which we measure our other ad partners’ performance. The result? Facebook Audience network sets the goal pushing other partners to evolve and improve over time.
And how about ease of integration?
A well thought out design and ease of integration was clearly the goal from the start. We never foresaw any issues while integrating Facebook Audience Network into any of Outplay’s titles. When proper design is combined with a clear communication channel it creates a seamless integration that is both fast and practical.
Any thoughts on state of the mobile sector and the direction it’s headed?
The mobile games sector continues to show great growth potential. The amount of time invested by gamers in all genres offers huge opportunity for advertisers and mobile games are attracting a wider variety of demand from advertisers.
It appears that a larger proportion of big brand advertising budgets will be deployed in mobile going forward if ad tech advancements currently being developed and rolled out deliver on their goal of creating a more level playing field approach to market auctions. This is good for advertisers and publishers alike.
Ad mediation platforms are evolving to address the failings of current waterfall approaches. Header Bidding is a positive step forward and real time auction platforms could offer a good solution. Like all things mobile, this tech is evolving at an exciting pace and we will be watching with interest!