Appy Hour Podcast: The Best User Acquisition Strategy for Gaming Apps

Every mobile app publisher and marketer wants to understand how their app is performing compared to other apps within their industry.

Mobile gaming is no different.

In the latest Appy Hour episode Warren Woodward, Director of User Acquisition at Nexon M, shared his experience in the world of mobile gaming UA, including the industry’s most important KPIs, the best acquisition channels, and where the space is headed in the future.

Here’s what we got from our interview with him.

Which KPIs Are Most Important to Measure Within the Gaming Industry?

This is one of the main areas where Warren sees people make mistakes. People like to compare themselves to competitors, and that can lead to focusing on some misleading KPIs, such as only thinking about the LTV of your customer.

The number one mistake he sees people making related to user acquisition is focusing on aggregate KPIs rather the ultimate one: the yield. That is, the profitability that your direct actions are adding to the company. This leads to a philosophy that says, “For any potential user, there is the right price that you can acquire them at.”


You can remove the idea of high-quality and low-quality users, because Nexon buys from over 50 countries every day for multiple titles and genres. So they try to spread the net as wide as possible, finding the right UA model to buy users in a bunch of different segments at a number of price points.

What Are the Current Hot Traffic Sources?

1. Video

Some companies are slow to catch up, but any company that’s serious about UA right now should start with a focus on video. Nexon’s had video for a while, but the “arms race” of making good video content is constantly evolving.

Warren used to work in film, so when he entered mobile UA, the first thing he noticed was how all the videos he saw were boring and too similar. A lot of early successes in his team came from creativity, making their marketing fun.

Think about how seriously you’re taking video. Use this as a frame of reference: If you were making a TV commercial, would you put your stamp on this? A lot of people would say no, but for some reason user acquisition is often not held to that same quality.

It doesn’t mean you have to spend what you’d spend on a TV commercial. But hold yourself to that same standard.

2. Playble Ads

The other hot space is “playable ads.” It’s basically a snack-sized version of the game, something to whet your appetite for the full game. Rather than seeing a video, you get a mini-game promoting another title within other games.

You play the game for five seconds, and you get it. It pre-vets the user. It’s real, and it reminds Warren of video a few years ago, when anything that moved in video would work and convert well.

Playable ads are like that right now. Don’t worry about being perfect: just get on the train. There are companies who can make playable ads for you, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

3. Virtual Reality

Then the last thing Warren’s team is watching is VR. Warren doesn’t think it’s ready for primetime, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Bad Investments

There are two traffic sources Warren thinks aren’t worth investing in.

1. DSP and Programmatic Space

It’s not that you can’t make these work: it’s that they’re very risky.

A lot of people move into that inventory because of the potential scale. But be careful of only acquiring scale for the sake of scale. DSP and programmatic can be dangerous because there are so many sources within it that it’s really hard to optimize down to the best stuff.


2. Influencer-Based Inventory

It’s really hot, and everyone believes they’re supposed to be doing it, but no one knows how to measure it properly. Very few people can even identify what is success versus failure in the influencer space.

The Best Acquisition Channels for Gaming Apps

If you’re a young studio or a small UA team, there are two things you should look at to get started:

  1. In-app video - This is the most consistent high-quality user you can get in the current climate.
  1. Social - Facebook is amazing when you can put in the resources to crack it open. It’s the first channel where you should really work on building your own internal expertise. If you don’t have the bandwidth for that internally, start looking at a good Facebook agency. Eventually, you’ll want to keep that expertise internal because Facebook will continue to be a major part of your strategy.

The Future of Mobile

We like to ask all of our guests on the Appy Hour podcast this question: Where do you think the future of mobile is headed?

We tweaked it this time slightly for Warren to ask about the future of mobile gaming. Here was his answer:

“One reason I love coming to work every day is that there are always new challenges. If you get lazy, you get left behind. But that also means that smart teams can have a lot of success if they adapt quickly.


“I think IPs have become a much bigger part of the mobile gaming space. Initially, mobile gaming was the stepchild of traditional gaming. It wasn’t given the same respect or celebrity involvement. Now you see Nintendo moving into the space and more celebrity endorsements for it. That’s already here but is still growing. I think you’ll start to see influencers be a part of the actual IP driving the games.

“Also, mobile e-sports will eventually be a thing. We’ve seen a few false starts there, but I think it’s inevitable. The reason is, everyone is a gamer or potential gamer now, since everyone has a mobile phone. You’ll see games start to appeal to older audiences.

“I think the most sorely neglected part of the gaming audience is female gamers. Female gamers now represent over 50% of mobile, which is a key turning point. But if you look at the titles developed, I’d say 95% of them, if you ask them their target audience, they’d say 18-30 year old males. I think that will become dinosaur thinking, because it’s so oversaturated.”

This post is based on a podcast interview with Warren Woodward from Nexon M. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Appy Hour.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.