Key industry technologies for game growth

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Class 01 Foundations of game growth

Key industry technologies for game growth

Beginner | 6 minutes

In the first class of our Foundations of Game Growth course, you’ll learn all about ad networks, mobile measurement partners (MMPs), mediation platforms, and in-app bidding – and how all of these work together and can help turn your game into a profitable business.

Hey, I’m Miri from ironSource.

In this session, we’re gonna be covering the essential technologies for game growth. Which include ad networks, ad mediation platforms, waterfalls, in-app bidding and mobile measurement partners – or MMPs.

If they don’t sound familiar, it’s all good: We’re going to explain each one, and then show you how they all work together to help grow your game business.

A quick reminder that there are two sides to game growth – user acquisition and monetization – and the technologies we’ll be covering in this session will fall into one of two sides, or both. Let’s go.

Ad networks

Now – what are ad networks?

Ad networks connect advertisers who want to attract new users with developers who want to earn more revenue. How does it work?

An app developer integrates the ad network’s SDK into their apps. Whenever the app is ready to serve an ad, the ad network uses its data science and machine learning to search through its pool of advertisers, and find the best available ad. We’re going to dive deeper into ad networks later on, but for now, that’s the gist.

The most well known ad networks today include ironSource, Facebook Audience Network, AdMob, Applovin, Vungle, and Unity.

On both the UA and monetization side, it’s always a good idea to work with multiple ad networks. Let me explain why…

For user acquisition – the best strategy is one where you can access multiple media sources from lots of different ad networks. This makes sure that you cast a wide enough net with your advertising, and get enough scale and installs for your app.

For the monetization side, more ad networks means more opportunities to fill your ad requests with the right ads, which means more opportunities to make money.

The thing is, on the monetization side, each ad network requires its own SDK integration. And as you might know, too many SDKs in your app can slow it down. But also – too many SDKs in your app is just a lot of manual overhead to maintain. You would need to find a way to evaluate the performance of each network’s ads in real-time, and decide which one of them will be chosen to fill your available ad slot. That quickly becomes verrrry difficult to scale.

Mediation platforms

That’s where mediation platforms come in. Mediation platforms centralize a bunch of ad networks in just one platform and manage your monetization operations through a single dashboard. You can then turn different ad networks on and off inside your mediation dashboard at the click of a button.

The big mediation platforms today are ironSource, AdMob, MoPub, and MAX by Applovin, each of which include a large selection of the major ad networks and a bunch of sophisticated tools to manage your monetization


Now how does a mediation platform arrange all the ad networks? How does it choose which ad network gets to serve the ad?

Traditionally, waterfalls have been the standard model.

But things are changing – in-app bidding is now becoming the default.

Now what’s in-app bidding? Instead of your ad request cascading down a waterfall – asking each network one at a time if it wants to fill the request – the in-app bidding ad serving model works like an auction – and asks all the ad networks at the same time how much they’re willing to pay to serve the ad. The ad network that bids the highest wins the auction and gets to serve the ad.

In-app bidding maximizes revenue, reduces latency, AND it’s way easier to manage and operate.

It’s easier to operate because it’s basically all automated – you don’t need to place any network in any position or manually write in a CPM – unlike the old waterfall model.

It reduces latency because there’s no cascading – it just asks all the networks at once.

And it increases revenue because it increases competition for your ad space – all the ad networks are trying to win the auction so they can serve the ad, meaning they’ll bid even more to try and outdo each other.

All of this means that bidding is ideal for small game and app companies that don’t have a lot of manpower or resources to spend on optimization monetization.

Mobile measurement platforms

Ok, now we’ve covered most of the technologies on the monetization side of the business – time to flip to the UA side. We talked about ad networks earlier which straddle both sides. Now we’re going to talk about MMPs, or mobile measurement platforms. You may also know them as attribution platforms – the most well-known ones are AppsFlyer, Adjust, Singular, Branch, Kochava, and Tenjin, and you can simply add their SDK into your game.

So what’s the role of MMPs and why are they valuable to your game’s growth? An MMP tracks your game’s UA campaign performance across all the media channels you’re running your campaigns on.

They’re valuable because they provide data, insights, and transparency around how your user acquisition campaigns are performing. Simply put, they help you measure ROAS – or ‘return on ad spend’.

When you’re starting to advertise your game, seeing things like how many installs you’re driving, how people are interacting with your ads, and what platforms your target audience is on, are all parts of the puzzle you need to put together to see the bigger picture of overall performance…

…The value of MMPs is associating this data with the specific media source or advertising channel that drove the install. There’s no blind guessing with MMPs – you can see at a glance how well your campaigns are doing with real-time data.

And that’s it for growth technologies!