An Introduction to Mobile User Acquisition

An Introduction to Mobile User Acquisition

Exploring the responsibilities of user acquisition teams

In-house user acquisition team

No need to share revenue: Having an in-house UA team is a significant advantage once you’ve grown to the scale of mobile developers like Playrix and Nexters. With the stability and a large amount of resources at your disposal, you can build and maintain your marketing by yourself. You know your game better than anyone else and can manage your traffic buying using only your team without the need to share revenues.

Project knowledge: The primary benefit of an in-house UA team is their close connection to the game. This proximity allows them to suggest project updates based on traffic buying results. They can recommend strategies to the monetization team for enhancing the game, thereby increasing user motivation and improving the performance of UA campaigns.

Long-term investment: Building your own UA team, along with tuning analytics and creative production capabilities, is an investment not just in your current game but also in your future projects. This lays the groundwork for sustained growth and development of your studio.

Costs: Establishing an in-house UA team means investing in everything yourself, from direct marketing spend and creative production to hiring and training personnel. Marketing budgets for mobile games can be substantial, often five to ten times higher than the project’s development costs. You must plan such financial commitment in advance.

Providing necessary resources: To maximize the efficiency of your in-house UA department, it’s crucial to equip your team with essential marketing and product analytics tools, such as AppsFlyer, Tableau, or Amplitude. Additionally, you’ll need to handle communications with ad networks, manage the co-investment process, and oversee the production and localization of creatives. This process requires time, money, and expertise.

Limited expertise in traffic sources: Typically, when establishing an in-house UA department, a manager is sometimes hired with the expectation of handling everything at once. This often involves initially driving traffic through two or three of the largest sources. Then, if UA achieves certain profit levels, there’s a chance to expand the team and explore new traffic sources. This approach can be challenging as the manager may lack the necessary time and focus to grasp all the nuances involved quickly.


Performance marketing agency

Accumulated experience from various clients: Agencies work with dozens of projects simultaneously, and good agencies have a large portfolio of clients from various game genres and categories. Consequently, UA managers at agencies have a broader perspective in managing advertising campaigns and working with creatives.

Expertise in specific strategies and sources: Large mobile game developers often engage performance marketing agencies for specific expertise. This includes areas like SKAN traffic or web-to-app conversions, where the developer may lack internal know-how.

Territory-specific expertise: Hiring a local agency can be beneficial if you need specialized knowledge in acquiring traffic from specific geographical regions.

Creative production: Agencies not only create ad creatives but also have the capability to produce complex formats like Playable ads and UGC-like creatives.

Commission: Agencies invariably charge a fee for their services.

Less in-depth game knowledge: Typically, agencies cannot immerse themselves in your project as deeply as an in-house team or a publisher might. This limitation is often due to agencies being external teams handling multiple clients simultaneously.

Longer decision-making process: Engaging with an agency usually means navigating a more extended decision-making process. This can involve additional time for aligning strategies, making adjustments, and obtaining necessary approvals. Such extended timelines can delay the response to market changes or evolving needs of your game.

Need for an established marketing department: Effective collaboration with an agency requires having your own marketing department and understanding essential marketing metrics to set KPIs and assess the agency’s performance. Additionally, it’s important to have connected traffic analytics tools and a quality Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP) like AppsFlyer or Adjust. Agencies may be limited in assisting you if these elements aren’t in place.


Mobile game publisher

Comprehensive in-house immersion combined with agency-level expertise: Publishers offer a dedicated producer who essentially becomes an integral part of your team while working on your project. This producer deeply understands the game and focuses solely on its improvement, effectively translating the vision to both the marketing team and the developer.

Expertise in advertising platforms: Publishing companies often have substantial resources, allowing the user acquisition team to be divided into specialized groups focusing on different sources, such as paid social, ad networks, and programmatic advertising.

Large amount of resources: Publishers typically can produce a lot of creatives per project, a volume that in-house UA departments can’t often afford.

Addressing the cash gap: Publishers also finance advertising campaigns. This is crucial for many developers, especially when development funds have been exhausted, and no budget is left for marketing. Effective game promotion is vital for achieving substantial volumes of traffic and revenue, particularly in the first year of a game’s existence.

Business development advantages: Large publishers typically have established contacts with managers of stores, ad networks, agencies, and other contractors. Publishers may also cover other aspects, including monetization, product development, community management, and technical support.

Revenue sharing: The most obvious disadvantage is the need to share profits, with the developer typically giving away 30 to 80% of the game’s revenue. Ideally, this is offset by the publisher increasing the game’s overall profit, but this arrangement can result in significant revenue loss if the project doesn’t experience growth.

Dependency: Dependency on a publisher can become problematic, especially if they decide to discontinue support for the game. This would not only mean losing out on creative inputs and traffic but also potentially losing paying users, leading to a drop in revenue.

Contractual limitations: Publisher contracts are often long-term and might not include provisions for early termination under mutual compliance. This implies that dissatisfaction with a publisher, even if they haven’t breached the contract, doesn’t necessarily allow for an easy exit from the agreement.

Reputational risks: Associating with a publisher that has a questionable reputation or engages in controversial actions can have adverse effects on the reputation of both your game and your development studio.

Diminished developer focus and control: When a game is transferred to a publisher’s account, there’s a tendency for the publisher to receive most of the attention. This often leaves players thinking that the game belongs to the publisher, with the actual developers pushed to the background. Partnering with a publisher also generally results in less control over various aspects of your game. This includes decisions regarding services and traffic sources, the types of creatives used, and the overall manner in which your game is marketed and presented.

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