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  1. Game Development
  2. Monetization
Gamedevelopment

How, Where, and When to Add Video Ads to Your Mobile Games

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One day, you come up with a great game idea that you think could be a hit. You and your spend countless hours bringing your idea to life, and then a few more to squash all the bugs.

Once you've finished, you decide to add a few video ads. You aren't quite sure where to add them, so you place them haphazardly without thinking about the best user experience. When you publish your app, the reviews come piling in: "There are too many ads!".

If this has happened to you, then you probably planned your monetization around your game instead of your game around monetization. Poorly implemented ads can decimate the launch of the next big app and this article will help guide you in the types of videos ads available, how to use the video ads, providers, and best practices for implementation.

Types of Video Advertisements

Video ads come in at varying length, but the industry standard seems to be 15 seconds, occasionally 30 seconds. Essentially, there are two types of videos advertisement (forced and un-forced) with two types of implementation (voluntary and involuntary). 

Figure 1 - An Example Video Ad from Vungle
An Example Video Ad from Vungle

Forced vs Un-Forced

Forced video advertisements do not allow the player to skip the video content. Some video providers calculate your revenue by percentage of the video watched, and forced video ads will always result in higher revenue. However, forced video ads can result in a poor user experience because they can interrupt the natural flow of the game. 

Un-forced video ads allow the player to skip the video content by pressing a Close button. This type of video ads results in lower revenues, but can allow a better user experience because the user can skip the video content.

Voluntary vs Involuntary

Voluntary ads are considered opt-in ads where the user has to initiate the video advertisement. With these, the user is usually rewarded with a virtual item for watching the ad. 

Involuntary ads are videos that appear without the user's consent. These are commonly displayed between levels or at certain milestones within the game.

How to Implement Video Ads: A Quick Overview

Although each platform will offer a different API, you should have access to some basic functionality with implementing video advertisements. Most platforms should at least have the following:

  • isAdAvailable()
  • playAd()

Note: This tutorial focuses on pseudocode and the general concept of displaying video ads. Please refer to your platform's documentation for detailed information on integrating video ads.

First up is the function isAdAvailable(). Most platforms should support this and it will return true or false depending on whether or not a video ad is available. Some platforms go so far as to download and cache the next video for you!

Next, all platforms should support the playAd() function. When you call this function, you’ll display the full screen ad within your app.

When you want to display an app, you’ll want to check to see if an ad is available and if a video is available display it. This can be done by first calling isAdAvailable() and then calling playAd().

Video Advertising Providers

With the popularity of video advertisements growing, there are a lot of video content providers available. If you are just starting out, you may want to see if your platform supports Vungle or AdColony. Both platforms have widespread adoption, and have been implemented very well.

Games Built for Video Ads

In today's market, there are new game genres popping up all the time—clickers (like Bitcoin Billionaire) and animal simulations (like Crazy Goat) being two recent examples. With a better understanding of video advertising, let’s dig into what types of games are a good fit for video ad monetization. 

Is Your Game Paid or Free?

If your game is paid, your monetization strategy is solved in one step. The consumer pays for your app once and most games do not ask for additional purchases.

If your game is free, it’s an unwritten truth that, although most consumers dislike advertisements, they will be willing (and will most likely expect) to see ads in it.

What Type of Game Are You Creating?

Certain genres lend themselves better to video advertisements than other genres. Casual games and action games can be a perfect fit due to the way player progression is set up, while other games, such as RPGs or puzzle games, often are not. 

In general, if your game uses a built-in monetary system using virtual items for player progression or if you reward the player with virtual items, your app is probably a good fit for video advertisements.

Where Can You Integrate Video Ads?

Instead of injecting video ads in-between levels and forcing players to view the ad, your app will have a better player experience if they opt-in to the videos. Although there are plenty of creative ways to integrate ads, your integration points can focus on pre-gameplay, during gameplay, and post-gameplay. However, the structure of your game might not provide natural break points where ads could be inserted.

  • Pre-gameplay: If your game is split into levels or stages, or has typically short "bursts" of gameplay like Flappy Bird, you could offer the player a power-up or boost that will affect their performance in the next level or on their next attempt.
  • During gameplay: If there are points in your game where the player will naturally pause to think about the answer to a puzzle or how to progress, you could offer the player a hint.
  • Post-gameplay: If your game features levels or stages, or has short bursts of gameplay, or if it is possible for the player to fail, lose a life, or die, you can offer the player the chance to increase the score or virtual items they obtained on their last run, or to pick up where they left off.

If you choose to offer a reward system based on video ads, you need to consider what type of bonuses you’ll offer to balance the game play. Otherwise, you could end up with a game that’s very lopsided!

Examples of Integrated Video Ads

Video advertisements that are integrated well can add to the overall experience of your game, and a happy user tends to leave happy reviews. Instead of just placing video ads at the end of a level or in the middle of the gameplay experience, let’s look at some real case examples of ways that you can integrate video ads in your next app.  

Player Progression

One popular way to integrate video advertisements is to allow player progression after watching a video advertisement. Instead of forcing the player to purchase an in-app item, you can give them the option to watch a short ad and reward them with an in-game hint or boost. In the screenshot below, the player can tap the star icon to watch a 15 second video to receive two hints that are instantly applied to the puzzle.

Screenshot of 90s Word Puzzles on Google Play
Screenshot of 90s Word Puzzles on Google Play.

By allowing them to opt-in to a video, the app isn’t forcing advertisements on the player, the player is happy, and the app still generates revenue. 

Word games aren’t the only way to allow player progression with video ads. If the app is a fighting game, the app could allow the player to watch a video for faster punches or stronger bullets.

Rewards

Another way to implement video advertisements is to allow the player to increase their rewards after watching a short ad. This feel-good experience leads to a better user experience, and can lead to recurring revenue for the app. If this option is provided any time the user earns a reward, the potential revenue could be more than an individual in-app purchase.

One example of using video ads for rewards is in doubling the player's experience points. If the player beats a level and earns 25XP, you can give the player a chance to earn 50XP instead, if they watch a short ad.

Another example is the way that the popular game Bitcoin Billionaire incorporated video ads. When a drone appears, the player can tap the box to receive a random positive or negative event. If the event is positive, they can potentially double the reward by watching a short video.

Screenshot of Bitcoin Billionaire
Screenshot of Bitcoin Billionaire.

Note: I spent more time in Bitcoin Billionaire than I care to admit, and I watched a lot of ads to double my rewards.

Restart From Checkpoint

Another way your app can offer an incentive for watching an ad is by allowing the player to pick up where they lost. This is especially useful in games that are level-driven with set beginning and end points. For example, if the player crashes half way through the race in a driving game, you could offer the player a chance to watch a short video to pick up where they crashed.

Closing Notes

After reading this article, I hope that you have learned how to get started monetizing your app using video advertisements, and how to use them effectively.

I've focused heavily on games, but video advertisements can be used within non-game apps as well. However, you are more limited with the usage of video ads; they should be placed at natural breaks in the content.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Are there other ways that you are currently using monetization? I'd love to hear them!

References



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