The AppsFlyer Gaming Performance Index
Mobile gaming is the number 1 category in Google Play and the App Store in both downloads and revenue hands down, AppAnnie consistently reports. eMarketer estimates that the category’s revenues—including both downloads and in-app purchases—will grow 16.5% this year to reach $3.04 billion in the US alone. Global mobile games revenue will grow from $29 billion in 2015 to $45 billion by 2018 at 15% annual growth, according to intelligence firm Digi-Capital.
As the leading category with continued growth predicted ahead, AppsFlyer’s first Ad Network & Media Partners Performance Index is dedicated to the gaming vertical. The report provides a detailed review of advertising platforms’ performance, and includes a scorecard on gaming apps’ retention—the quality of acquired users over time. In addition, a power ranking factors both retention and scale—the quantity of installs.
It is the industry’s most comprehensive study of its kind to date, covering over 50 million paid installs of hundreds of gaming apps running campaigns on hundreds of AppsFlyer’s integrated network partners.
Last but not least, it is important to stress that while this global report only ranks the top 25 ad platforms per OS, many of our clients are seeing the best ROI working with other media platforms from among our 1,000+ integrated partners. Ultimately, each app should track and constantly test the performance of multiple networks and optimize until it finds the right balance in its own marketing mix.
Top Retention Platforms: Data-Driven & Video Doing the Trick
Fiksu’s latest cost-per-loyal-user index, which measures the price of acquiring a user who opens an app at least three times, found that the average cost hit $3.09 in March, a 10% increase month-over-month and a significant 113% rise year-over-year.
Add to that the fact that only 0.15% of mobile gamers contribute 50% of all in-app purchases generated in free-to-play games, according to Swrve, and you’ll realize why finding and retaining big spenders is critical for app developers.
Generating organic installs is becoming increasingly challenging with millions of apps to compete with. That’s why one of the most important data-driven decisions a mobile game developer can make involves the allocation of ad budget to drive non-organic installs of high quality users.
The following dynamic graph breaks down the retention of the top 25 advertising platforms on days 1, 7, and 30 on both Android and iOS. The retention is shown in the format of an index figure—a key that reflects its relative strength—and not the actual retention percentages (more details in the methodology section below).
- Programmatic ad network AppLovin proves that focusing on big data and predictive analytics (the company says it has 4x the number of engineers as compared to sales on staff) pays off as it wins top spot in overall retention (average of days 1/7/30), starting in 2nd place but then dominating on days 7 and 30
- Video networks are showing their quality with a 130% higher overall retention rate compared to the other ad platforms in the index; video also has a 10% and 17% better overall retention rate compared to social networks and in-app networks, respectively
- Comparing affiliate to incentivized networks shows the former outranks the latter by an average of 45%, with a gap that widens over time to reach 70% on day 30
- The overall retention rate of in-app networks is a whopping 3x more than affiliate networks
- Social networks have the upper hand when going up against in-app networks with an 11% higher overall retention figure
- On average, the drop in retention across all ad platforms between days 1 to 7 is 56%, and 80% between days 7 to 30
- Video networks dominate with an 80% higher overall retention rate compared to all other networks in the study. Video retention was:
- 24% higher than social (widening over time to reach a nearly 40% gap on day 30)
- 63% higher than in-app networks
- 67% more than affiliate networks
- When comparing incentivized networks to affiliate networks, the latter’s overall retention is nearly 120% higher. The gap is most evident over time as affiliates’ day 30 retention is no less than 280% higher than incentivized
- Social networks’ overall retention is about 40% higher than the rate of other networks in the report, and 32% higher than in-app networks
- On average, the drop in retention across all ad platforms between days 1 to 7 is 66%, and 85% between days 7 to 30
Power Ranking: Facebook Reigns Supreme
The full potential of a media partner is most evident when factoring not only quality but also quantity. Driving quality users with high LTV potential is super important but the ability to do so at scale is key.
The following media partners rankings per OS are based on both retention and the volume of installs:
- Facebook’s unrivaled scale and high retention rate—albeit not the highest – lands the social network’s advertising solution the top power spot across the board
- Video proves to be a solid bet when it comes to user acquisition—showing not only a high retention rate but also the ability to drive scale
- Media partners that run campaigns for Asian developers going global are far more dominant in Android
iOS vs. Android: iOS Dominates Retention in Head to Head Battle
Which advertising platform that run campaigns on both iOS and Android reign supreme when it comes to user retention? The following dynamic graph breaks it down:
- iOS dominates gaming retention, widening gap with Android over time, as follows:
- iOS lead over Android is broken down per category as follows:
- 26% higher overall retention when comparing video networks
- 28% higher in in-app networks
- 47% higher in social networks
- Android’s retention is higher than iOS when comparing affiliate and incentivized networks (87% and 74%, respectively); however, in both cases iOS narrows the gap with Android over time:
- In affiliate networks from 101% in day 1, to 65% in day 7, to 24% in day 30
- In incentivized networks from 85% in day 1 to 68% in day 7, to a complete turnaround taking over the lead with a 58% higher retention rate than Android on day 30
- There’s a great deal of variance among campaigns and apps/developers. Just as companies are different, games are different as well and so are their marketing teams. Top notch
marketers who put in the effort that’s required manage to beat their numbers through constant measurement, targeting, retargeting and applying deeplinking solutions such as OneLink.
- Geography matters – the report is on a global scope but some ad platforms specialize in specific GEOs.
- Gaming performance differs from other segments such as e-commerce, travel and utilities.
- We based our study on last touch attribution but it’s important to remember that users are driven to action by multiple touches.
The study covers over 50 million paid installs across hundreds of gaming apps running campaigns with hundreds of AppsFlyer’s integrated media partners throughout February and March 2015 on both iOS and Android. It only included apps that generated at least 5,000 installs per OS per media partner throughout the period.
Retention Rate & Index
The retention rate was calculated as the unique number of users who were active on days 1, 7 and 30 out of the total number of unique users who first launched the app in the selected timeframe. The overall retention rate, when used, is an equally weighted average of all three days. The retention index figure—normalized to display on a scale of 1 to 10—is an exact reflection of the actual retention rate, but it is only a relative number that is used solely for the purpose of ranking the best performing advertising platforms in retention and the relative difference between each partner.
The power ranking is comprised of two factors that were given equal weight in the formula: both retention (quality) and the total number of installs it generated (quantity).