Founded back in 2005 by an intrepid group of developers in Russia, Gear Games carved its niche early. In fact, the studio had a formative impact on the mobile gaming industry: It produced the first-ever real-time strategy game for mobile, eponymously named for Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. The app proved to be a massive success, and now over a decade later, Art of War 3: Global Conflict has been downloaded over 10million times since launch.
As a long-time player in the space, Gear Games has always taken a multi-pronged approach to monetization. Its expertly crafted strategy games attract highly engaged users, many of whom are willing to make purchases in-app. IAPs remain a monetization cornerstone across all its apps, including Art of War 3. When the offerwall was first implemented, it made up one-fifth of total revenue, with in-app ads contributing one-fifth, and IAPs contributing the remaining three-fifths of revenue.
Gear Games has been using the Tapjoy Offerwall alongside video ads since 2013. Initially, video ads and offerwall ads contributed roughly the same amount of revenue. However, the Gear Games team would soon discover that they had not yet tapped the full potential of the offerwall format.
2019 brought significant changes in the world of mobile advertising. In late April, Apple began to enforce a policy against incentivized installs and app-based subscriptions on iOS. As a result, developers could no longer run CPE (Cost Per Engagement) offers, which reward users for engaging with other apps. Industrywide, ARPDAU on iOS from offerwalls dropped significantly and developers lost countless dollars in revenue. All major offerwall providers, including Tapjoy, responded by changing their business practices to align with this new guidance. Despite its long-term success, Gear Games was not immune to this shift. The number of offers available decreased as the Cost Per Engagement ad format was now limited to Android only. To revive revenue, the team undertook a detailed analysis of offerwall performance. They intended to explore every avenue for optimization.
“Last Spring, our daily offerwall revenue dropped on iOS. The drop compelled us to conduct a deeper analysis and explore optimizations,” said Artyom Shumsky, CEO of Gear Games.
Gear Games’ analysis revealed that there was an opportunity to improve access to the offerwall. Moreover, users in certain tier 2 and tier 3 countries seemed to convert at a lower rate — perhaps because rewards were less enticing in their local currencies, the team theorized. To solve these issues, Tapjoy’s mobile strategists recommended they experiment with several optimization techniques. The first hurdle would be to get the word out about the offerwall.
TARGETED PROMOTIONAL MESSAGING STRATEGY
The Gear Games team used Tapjoy’s promotional message feature to pepper timely messages at key points in gameplay. The feature launched a targeted messaging campaign inviting users to earn on the offerwall. These messages would appear at key moments in the flow of the game and target particular user segments, such as those users that had not monetized in several months.
CURRENCY SALE STRATEGY
During a currency sale, a developer temporarily multiplies offer rewards to boost conversions and revenue, typically by 1.5-3X. Gear Games chose to launch mini-sales on a five-day cycle. A sale would run for three days, followed by a two-day gap.
OFFERWALL ENTRY POINT OPTIMIZATIONS
To complement these efforts, Gear Games added some compelling features to the offerwall entry point: There is now a per cent discount button that lights up when there is a sale, with a countdown timer through its duration.
“The UI optimizations helped integrate the offerwall more seamlessly into the game experience. Now new players understand the dynamics of currency sales, while established players know what to look for,” Artyom explained.
TIER 2 & 3 COUNTRY-LEVEL REVENUE OPTIMIZATIONS
Finally, working with the Tapjoy monetization team, Gear Games identified a number of tier 2 and 3 countries that typically have lower monetization rates due to advertisers bidding lower for these users. They leveraged the optimization tools in the Tapjoy offerwall increasing the exchange rate to make the offers more appealing to the users. Gear Games saw a 22% increase in engagement after implementing this and in turn a similarly positive impact on revenue.
By Fall of 2019, Gear Games’ offerwall revenue had not only bounced back as a result of the optimizations above — it had reached a new milestone. By Spring of 2020, a full year after the change, it had grown by roughly 170%. The publisher did note that there was a significant increase early in the year due to COVID-19 social distancing which led to more users to spending time on mobile devices.
THE IMPACT OF OFFERWALL ON IAP AND RETENTION
Gear Games sees the offerwall as a way to re-engage players who may have otherwise left the game. They also believe that at the heart of it all, the quality of gameplay matters most: “I believe that offers and rewarded advertising help players make the decision to stay in the game. But having a good game is always the key to retention, that comes first,” Artyom explains.
The offerwall has also proven to coexist profitably alongside IAP. “Even if some users have switched from IAP to offerwall, we think they would have left otherwise anyway and have made their revenue back through ad revenue,” he says. “It’s much lower friction to interact with a game than it is to hand over cash.” The data backs his conclusion — net revenue in Art of War 3 has increased, though the balance between its three monetization channels has shifted.
Today the offerwall accounts for one-third of total income in Art of War 3, a greater portion of revenue than video advertising. Gear Games sees considerable value in this diversified monetization approach and plans to continue the partnership with Tapjoy in the years to come.
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