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A Guide to App Monetization in China

Development for Android *Mobile applications monetization *Games monetization *

Introduction and Context

So you’ve just finished developing the next mobile gaming smash hit. You’ve already planned to launch your game worldwide and win the hearts of gamers everywhere. But what you haven’t done yet is think about how you’re going to make any money from your success and hard work. Of course, you’ve imagined becoming an instant millionaire, but you just don’t know how to get there.  

Fear not, intrepid developer! Instead of just rehashing the tired headlines and beating the same old drum, we’ve tailored our Ad Monetization write-up for developers who are gearing up to publish their game or app in China. We’ve scoured the internet, grabbed insight from ad giants like Google, Smartyads, and PocketGamer.biz and combined it with our own hands-on knowledge of what works in China—knowledge that we have gained from the past  5 years in the industry.

We need to briefly explore how monetization functions as a utility within the context of game design. This is especially true when examining how developers in China have made meaningful design decisions that have both shaped and been shaped by user habits. Unpacking the utility of Chinese game monetization will help developers understand why Ads Monetization or Hybrid Monetization strategies have become so popular, especially in China.

Moving from monetization design, we’ll examine some of the best practices regarding Ads Monetization. Finally,  we’ll turn to specific case studies in the Chinese market that show how powerful Ads Monetization, specifically Rewarded Videos, can be in a well-balanced monetization strategy. 

Designing Monetization as a Utility

Mobile Game Monetization has been the subject of numerous publications and articles.  The sheer volume of writing on the topic is overwhelming. Furthermore, the amount of redundant and poorly researched information makes it difficult to determine if what you’re reading will be valuable or applicable to what you’re trying to achieve. . With this in mind, APPTUTTi wants to help you understand some basics regarding app monetization design by presenting some clear and direct facts..

The first step in determining monetization opportunities within your game is to determine where value can be added. [It should be noted that while we use the narrower term ‘game’, many of the principles can also be applied to non-gaming apps.] There are three main points, within the gameplay loop of any game, that can be monetized without becoming  a burden or intrusion on the gameplay itself: 

  1. The first point where value can be added is when players need certain elements in order to continue gameplay in unique or strategic ways.

2. The second point where value can be added is where players can increase their chance of success or reduce the pain of failure. 

3. The final point where value can be added exists around all of the opportunities that players have to express themselves inside and outside of the game. 

Once you have identified where the value points exist in your gameplay, you can delve further into a value analysis of your game from several other perspectives. One of those new perspectives is the concept of granting permission to buy. There are numerous factors that generate anxiety in a buyer. However, if you focus on adding value and demonstrate that value clearly, through appropriate monetization, the player will be more likely to accept the cost and obtain in-game elements.

Another important perspective to consider before moving onto Ads Monetization is the timing of monetization. Timing can refer to both the frequency of monetization as well as when monetization actually occurs during the player’s engagement cycle with your game. In regards to frequency, it’s imperative to keep in mind that just because you can place Ads Monetization, it doesn’t mean you should. 

Too many ads will distract from the value of what’s beyond them and increase player churn. Additionally players who have just downloaded your game are different from players who have been playing regularly for a period of time. Each player is at a unique point in their journey with your game. Considering how players engage with your game and how monetization can contextually provide value to as many of them as possible gives you an extra layer of control.

Ads Monetization and Flexibility

Now that you know exactly how and why you’ve placed the monetization design in your game, let’s examine why Ads Monetization is an especially powerful system of monetization. There are three main reasons why Ads Monetization is an important consideration. Firstly, it can be tailored for certain users and at certain times. Secondly, it requires no financial commitment from the users. Finally, and this is especially true in China, there are fewer hoops to jump through than with an In-App Purchase model.

When considering how to implement monetization in a game, one thing that jumps to mind is freshness. By keeping players interested in your game and reducing the friction of the gaming experience, monetization freshness plays a key role in preventing churn. With Ads Monetization, developers are able to implement monetization that is tailored to their players. Whether it’s localized ads or ads that match a certain segment of your players, Ads Monetization allows you to give the player a more personalized experience even at the point of monetization. 

Ads Monetization also keeps your players from having to spend their money on your game. Players have shown that they are more willing to spend a little time or click through an extra screen than put their money into In-App Purchases. A mixture of the current state of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic along with a player’s purchase fatigue has forced developers to embrace a more Ads based system of monetization. 

This trend in turn has influenced player behavior. More players are now open to Ads Monetization. Unlike the rest of the world’s mobile games that have just begun to shift to Ads Monetization, the Chinese Mobile market has long incorporated ads as its preferred method of monetization. Ads Monetization reduces the barrier to entry in your game by making the in-game economy accessible to all on an opt-in basis. 

When developing games, the last thing you want to have to worry about is legal issues around your monetization design. Publishing apps with IAP in China has become a longer process requiring official licenses and documentation. This change affects local and overseas developers alike in China. The best way to avoid the six to nine-month waiting period while your game is processed is to go ahead with an Ads Monetization design for your game. This will ensure that your game can be published quickly without any need for additional processing. When considering the numerous other things to take into account when publishing your game in China, the more you can reduce the hoops to jump through, the better and the sooner that Chinese players can begin playing and loving your game.

Wrapping it all up 

Monetization doesn’t have to be a dirty word whispered at the end of your development process. When done correctly it can actually enhance the player experience and foster healthy player retention. Monetizing your game in China presents a unique set of parameters that open up new opportunities and new challenges. APPTUTTi wants to equip developers like you with the most up to date information and best practices so that your next launch in China with us will be a success. 

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