Pley Logo
Menu
News & Updates

Mobile Game Monetization in 2024

The mobile gaming industry is bursting at the seams with profit potential. In 2023 alone, mobile games raked in an eye-popping $92.6 billion globally. As more people use smartphones and tablets, developers and publishers want a share of the profitable market.

But here's the kicker - most don't even know how to make money from mobile games. They launch beautiful, engaging games only to scratch their heads, wondering why they aren't profiting.

Diving in without a plan can leave you in the red. You put blood, sweat, and tears into crafting a fantastic game. So make sure you know how to cash in, too! This article breaks down everything you need to monetize mobile games in 2024.

What Is Mobile Game Monetization?

Before we jump into the nitty gritty details, let's level-set. In simple terms, mobile game monetization means generating income from a mobile game. Nowadays, most games in the App Store and Google Play are free to download. But don't let that fool you - mobile game developers still make money through clever mobile game monetization strategies.

There are plenty of popular mobile game monetization models, which we'll explore later. There are different approaches to consider when developing a game. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. These factors include who the game is for, platform rules, and game size.

Keep reading to discover some of the most popular (and profitable) methods developers use in 2024.

Why Should Game Publishers Monetize Their Games?

"But my game is a passion project," you say. "I just want people to enjoy it!"

We get it. Making games is fun! You delight in crafting clever code and visually stunning masterpieces. Getting paid almost feels beside the point. But staying solvent has its perks.

Monetizing allows you to keep enhancing your game - and just maybe pursue this as a full-time gig.

Here are three key benefits of mobile game monetization:

Generate Revenue

This one is obvious but worth calling out. Monetization allows you to reap financial rewards for all your hard work. Server costs, developers' salaries, platform fees, marketing budgets, and kid college funds don't pay for themselves!

An income stream tied to your game gives you the resources to improve it over time and work on new projects. Financial success also lets you expand your team and development capabilities.

Increase User Engagement

Strategic monetization features like season pass, exclusive content and unlockable rewards give players more reasons to keep playing. The more they play and engage, the more potential revenue.

Models like battle passes incentivize hitting usage milestones. And limited-time content or events maintain excitement. You can feed back the revenue you earn from engaged players into further improving engagement.

Expand Reach and Audience

Remember, mobile gaming is an extremely competitive industry. But monetization gives you a marketing edge to stand out. For example, you can allocate earnings towards PR and advertising. Doing so expands your reach to attract the maximum number of players.

How Can Game Publishers Monetize Their Games?

When considering how to monetize mobile games, creators typically choose between two core mobile game monetization models. The premium model involves users paying an upfront cost to download the game. Then there's the freemium model. It gives users free access, while developers earn through in-game ads and purchases.

Below, we break down the most popular monetization methods currently used by mobile game publishers in 2024.

One-Time Purchase

We begin with the classic model - pay once, play forever. This monetization model remains popular in the console and PC gaming spheres. However, mobile users are generally unwilling to spend before trying a game. Exceptions exist in popular franchise games like Square Enix's ports, but normally, this method leaves money on the table.

The concept is simple. Players pay a one-time fee to download your full game. Pricing often ranges from $0.99 to $4.99 on app stores but can climb as high as $20 for more complex games.

The primary perk is that developers earn revenue immediately after launch. This model can quickly offset production costs if priced right for the target audience.

However, today's smartphone users have become accustomed to downloading games for free. An upfront paywall can limit downloads and visibility. Without replenishment, revenue also stagnates over time.

Subscription Service

Rather than a single payment, a subscription model charges users recurring fees to access a game. Standard options include monthly, quarterly, and annual subscriptions. Subscription services create a reliable income flow for developers. Meanwhile, players enjoy uninterrupted access to fresh content and features.

On the flip side, subscriptions can be a hard sell to casual mobile gamers. Fierce competition from services like Netflix or Spotify makes it tough to squeeze in another monthly bill.

Here are three popular iterations of the subscription model:

Battle Pass

With a Battle Pass, players pay for exclusive seasonal content over a set period. Fortnite popularized this model with its low-cost membership. For $9.99 monthly, gamers get 1,500 V-Bucks (in-game currency), a seasonal Battle Pass, and stylish character skins.

VIP Subscription

VIP status offers players special perks and features for a monthly or annual fee. Perks may include unlimited lives, access to premium content, or boosted progression speed. For developers, subscriptions provide reliable recurring revenue.

Ad Removal

Many free-to-play games serve in-game ads to monetize users. However, many users despise ads. Offering a paid subscription to remove ads can increase enjoyment and provide premium choice. It caters to user preferences while diversifying revenue streams.

In-Game Purchases

Without a doubt, in-game purchases dominate the mobile monetization landscape. According to recent reports, mobile revenue from in-app purchases hit $20 billion this year in the U.S. alone.

The "freemium" model is largely to thank. Users download games for free, but developers generate income when players purchase items or upgrades. It turns free players into paying customers at staggeringly high rates.

Sounds simple enough, but executing in-game purchases properly is an art unto itself. Below, we break down the most common types available to mobile developers:

Consumables

Consumables offer in-game items that players use and "consume" over time. Players may purchase supplies, weapons, extra lives, boosters, virtual currencies, and more. Since consumables deplete over time, they drive recurring transactions.

Candy Crush executes consumable sales brilliantly. Players routinely shell out real cash for extra lives and power-up boosters to progress faster in levels.

Exclusives

Exclusive (or elite) in-game purchases confer special status or unlock premium content. Only buyers gain access, while non-paying players miss out. These establish social status and public player profiles, allowing showboating to the masses.

Granting exclusivity feeds egos, but the limited availability increases perceived value. It caters purchases towards invested players or "whales" who drive disproportionate revenue.

Cosmetics

Along the same vein, developers make money selling cosmetic upgrades. These offer visual enhancements that make no actual difference to gameplay. But they do allow self-expression and induce envy from other gamers.

Cosmetic purchases may include character costumes, decorative items, customization options, or aesthetic effects. Multiplayer games especially profit as players splash out to stand apart.

As players invest time and effort into accounts, allowing customization enhances engagement. Limited run items and tie-ins with external IPs are extremely popular.

In-App Ads

Rather than direct payments, many developers monetize through advertisements integrated into the game experience. It is the second-leading choice for monetizing free-to-play mobile games.

The formula is straightforward. Game publishers display video or display ads at strategic touchpoints. Developers earn payouts when players view, tap, or engage with these ads.

Users enjoy their games without parting. Meanwhile, devs receive passive yet profitable income from advertisers. It's a win-win!

It does require a partnership with an ad platform to fill inventory, introducing some complexity. Additionally, we all know people hate ads. But they provide an additional revenue stream, and you can always offer an ad-free experience...for a price!

With so many options, choosing a suitable ad format is vital. Let's explore each type:

Banner Ads

The game interface displays banner ads like rectangles and leaderboards around its edges. The familiar format leads to higher fill rates, but small real estate can limit the visual impact. Still, minimal disruption and simple SDK integration make banners accessible options. Focus on volumes with cost-per-impression models to maximize aggregate returns at scale.

Interstitial Ads

These full-screen ads display during natural breaks in gameplay, like level loading. This disruption annoys some users. Yet, with complete screen space, interactive options abound to boost clicks.

Video Ads

Despite small screens, in-ad video earns premium eCPMs thanks to length, motion, and sound for impact. Keep 15-30-second mid-rolls focused on entertainment over messaging.

Before or during gameplay, short vertical video clips play with audio on. The higher production value and engagement equate to premium payouts. But poor timing easily frustrates users.

Playable Ads

Instead of traditional static placements, interactive playable demo units promote titles in line with gameplay flow. Here, players test 5-30-second mini-game demos for another title. If compelled, they can download the advertised game once finished.

That catalyzes higher conversion rates over regular ads. Unfortunately, playable ads take more time to build.

Which Mobile Game Monetization Models Should You Follow?

Now for the million-dollar question - what is the best way to monetize a mobile game? With so many options on the table, deciding the best approach can bewilder developers. The answer depends on the business model, target users, and objectives. Lean into your strengths and test different methods.

For example, franchises with existing fan bases can leverage premium upfront purchases. Hyper-casual games, on the other hand, thrive on ad revenue and IAPs. Many successful publishers combine multiple models for stability and revenue growth.

Typically, combining multiple mobile game monetization strategies optimizes outcomes. For example, a multiplayer war game could offer in-game cosmetic purchases together with rewarded video ads. This diversification provides revenue security if one channel underperforms.

When defining a monetization mix, consider factors like development costs, analytics capabilities, promotional budgets, and audience preferences. A data-driven process adjusting to real-world performance is critical.

Above all, strike the right balance between monetization and user experience. Avoid overly aggressive tactics that disrupt enjoyment. User backlash can tank downloads and your star rating otherwise.

5 Quick Tricks and Tips to Monetize Your Mobile Game

Monetizing without compromising user enjoyment is part craft, part science. Here are five no-fuss ways to boost in-game revenue:

Accept Multiple Payment Methods

Don't limit buyers to credit cards alone. Open payment channels through PayPal, mobile wallets, cryptocurrency, and more. This expands purchasing access across geographic and demographic barriers.

It's also essential to make the payment process fast and frictionless. Consider storing payment credentials to enable one-click payments for future purchases. Streamlining checkout boosts conversion rates.

Use Simple Authentication

Mandating account creation just to make a purchase is a conversion killer. Let users check out as guests or authenticate via Facebook/Google with one click. Removing friction keeps that sale.

You can also incentivize social login and account creation through special rewards rather than mandating it. For example, offer free in-game currency or exclusive items to players who connect social accounts. This encourages organic user sign-ups over time.

Listen To Your Audience

Monitor user feedback channels closely. If certain ads or paid features receive complaints, try less intrusive options. User sentiment guides smart monetization decisions.

Proactively seek input through surveys and reviews, too. Ask pointed questions to identify monetization pain points. Be willing to tweak your model based on responses. Player feedback is invaluable for maximizing revenue while retaining a satisfied user base.

Test Different Pricing Models

Never assume you've struck revenue gold on attempt one! A/B tests multiple variables, like price points, placement, etc, across segments. Analytics reveals what sticks for maximum earnings.

Testing takes the guesswork out of the equation. Just be sure to isolate variables properly.For example, test a consumable at $1.99 against $2.99. Keep ad placements the same for clean data. Over time, tests reveal the optimal pricing strategy.

Plan Ahead

Weave monetization into the game's DNA from the get-go. Delaying until post-launch strains development resources. Plus, seamless integration keeps the experience smooth.

During game design, balance monetization features with overall gameplay flow. Ensure they align with the context and theme. With attention early on, profitable additions meld seamlessly into the experience over time.

Final Thoughts

That was quite the guide, wasn't it? By now, mobile monetization options should be crystal clear for your next gaming venture. Just remember - a balanced blend of methods keeps revenue flowing without alienating users.

For hands-off implementation across the monetization journey, check out Pley's end-to-end solution. You can easily add payments, ads, authentication, and more with Pley's complete web solution. This approach liberates developers to focus on creating successful games while Pley handles the rest.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Want to stay up to date with news and updates about something about the gaming market.

More reading

Get to know Pley

Book a demo to see first-hand how cross-platform can unlock new revenue streams for your mobile games!

Schedule a demo