AppsFlyer report finds gaming apps spent $14.5 billion on user acquisition in 2021 as 10% of budgets shifted from iOS to Android

Gaming marketers continue to adapt in the new privacy era as installs in iOS dropped 6% to Android’s 22% growth, while iOS revenue dropped 35% compared to Android’s 10% gain

SAN FRANCISCO – February 23, 2022 —  AppsFlyer today released its State of Gaming App Marketing for 2022, an in-depth report on key trends in Gaming that helps marketers drive innovation and ultimately navigate their way in the new age of data privacy. 

Gaming app marketers are known for their data-driven expertise. However, as consumer privacy continues to evolve and new limitations of data usage will be introduced in other platforms, Gaming marketers need to double down on innovative ways to market, measure, and optimize their activities.

When Apple rolled out the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, Gaming marketers initially struggled to measure non-organic installs (NOIs) and globally, NOIs were 30% lower between April and September 2021. Meanwhile, adoption of Apple’s SKAdNetwork (SKAN) surged more than 5x, while new and improved measurement  capabilities paired with SKAN led to the total number of NOIs nearing pre-iOS 14.5+ levels. Additionally, Gaming apps have adopted SKAN much faster than non-Gaming apps, with 67% of iOS non-organic installs coming from SKAN compared to only 30% in other verticals. 

“We currently find ourselves in the golden era of mobile Gaming,” said Shani Rosenfelder, Head of Content & Mobile Insights, AppsFlyer. “The rate of acceleration of mobile adoption paired with the ongoing investment in original Gaming content has made mobile Gaming a lucrative business. That being said, since Apple’s implementation of the ATT framework in 2021, it’s gotten more challenging, and since marketing plays a major role in mobile gaming, the impact on overall downloads and revenue has been significant. Going into 2022, marketers must find new ways to effectively reach high value users in the new reality of data privacy.”

Key Global Insights:

  • 22% increase in the number of total Gaming app installs on Android. This is an impressive feat considering the peaks of the first lockdowns, proving the pandemic played a key role to introduce Gaming to the masses. 
  • $14.5 billion spent by Gaming apps on User Acquisition (UA) in 2021, with the US commanding a half of global budgets. Privacy changes led to a 13% Year over Year drop on iOS while Android surged 35%, causing overall UA spend to rise 18% in 2021. With measurement challenges post ATT and fewer NOIs, iOS spend dropped despite significant increase in CPI starting in August. Android’s jump was driven mainly by a 22% rise in NOIs as the result of shifting budgets, where in 2020 iOS commanded 38% of Gaming UA budgets versus only 28% in 2021. 
  • Limited data post ATT led to a -6% drop in the number of total Gaming app installs on iOS. With the shift towards aggregated measurement, install numbers in Gaming have dropped, mostly due to a decline in marketing-driven installs. This is best illustrated by the 6% drop in iOS Gaming apps, which is in stark contrast to Android’s significant 22% growth. The Gaming industry’s reliance on user level data is also demonstrated in the 21% and 25% increase in non-Gaming apps for both platforms. 
  • Overall In-app purchase (IAP) revenue in Gaming drops 35% since June when iOS 14.5 gained traction. The sharp decline in IAP revenue illustrates the monetization challenge for games in the age of privacy, Android number remained consistent and even saw a 10% increase towards the end of 2021.

Key US Insights: 

  • Gaming installs up 10% in Q4, surge 30% between September and December. A strong surge in overall installs occurred in Q4 2022 for both iOS and Android. The rise is purely an effect of the holiday season, which cannot be understated on games and their devoted gamers. 
  • iOS NOIs show signs of recovery after 30% drop following ATT enforcement. Most users deny tracking, and while iOS 14.5 gained traction, NOIs from traditional attribution plummeted 30% between April and September. Since then, we’ve seen a 28% increase after marketers began to invest significant resources in alternative and privacy compliant measurement. 
  • Hyper Casual apps adopting the hybrid monetization model struggle to drive In-app Purchase (IAP) revenue. Hyper Casual games saw a 20% increase in NOIs from January to December, while other game sub-categories have almost recovered to January levels. 
  • In-app advertising (IAA) revenue in Android jumps 55% led by Hyper Casual and Hardcore games, while iOS apps enjoy Q4 surge. IAA revenues leaped in Android this year (98% since January and 55% post ATT) as developers take advantage of ads integrated seamlessly into the Gaming experience. In contrast, IAA revenue in iOS dropped 2% post ATT).

“Data privacy in the United States has become one of the biggest growing concerns around technology, and this is reflected in the 39% consumer opt-in rates of Apple’s ATT framework – which is much lower than the global average,” said Brian Murphy, Head of Gaming, AppsFlyer. “Consumer privacy will continue to improve as limitations of data usage will be introduced in other platforms. Gaming marketers in 2022 must focus on engagement and measuring.”

Methodology

AppsFlyer’s State of Gaming App Marketing, 2022 Edition is an anonymous aggregate of proprietary global data from 29 billion app installs from 17 thousand apps with a minimum of 25 thousand installs and 13 billion non-organic Gaming app installs in 2021.

The State of Gaming App Marketing is available at: https://www.appsflyer.com/resources/reports/gaming-app-marketing/

About AppsFlyer

AppsFlyer helps brands make good choices for their business and their customers through innovative, privacy-preserving measurement, analytics, fraud protection, and engagement technologies. Built on the idea that brands can increase customer privacy while providing exceptional experiences, AppsFlyer empowers thousands of creators and 8,000+ technology partners to create better, more meaningful customer relationships. To learn more, visit www.appsflyer.com.

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