Aiming Inc. is a Japan-based game developer responsible for hits like Dragon Quest Tact and CARAVAN STORIES. They wanted to bring in more revenue from their newest hit, Charast Magical Academy a spin-off app of the hit game "CARAVAN STORIES, but had never used an ad monetization model - so the ironSource team helped them get started.
ironSource’s Yusuke Toyoshima and Shuichiro Mine sat down with Aiming, to learn all about why they chose ironSource rewarded video and the Tapjoy offerwall, what they learned, and how they managed to boost their engagement rate 80% in the process.
Choosing to work with ironSource
Mine: This was the company’s first time using ad monetization, right?
Saito: Yes. Aiming has a stance that when we see good market trends, we want to adopt and test it by ourselves - so it was only natural to start monetizing with ads. Originally, our company specialized in midcore games, but there were already many competing apps in the market. To generate a stable source of revenue, we decided to develop a hybrid revenue model (in-app purchase and ads) based on "CARAVAN STORIES," which already has a large fan base.
Mine: Now you’re monetizing with ironSource and using Tapjoy’s offerwall - why did you decide to go with us?
Sakaino: This was our first time integrating ads into our app, so we needed a platform that offered extensive support and a full suite of products. We compared companies from all over the globe, but ironSource was the only one completely that fulfilled our needs.
Yusuke: We're glad you chose us!
Sakaino: We felt the support immediately - the ironSource quickly responded and drafted financial projections for us.
Mine: Publishers who integrate ads in their apps for the first time often don’t have enough information about performance benchmarks. Since ironSource has experience across all game genres in Japan and globally, we can provide our customers with practical ad monetization plans.
Sakaino: There were other local options with good products for early-stage companies, but we wanted to get as much operational know-how as possible. That's why we chose ironSource - they offer a variety of report data with a UI that allows us to intuitively understand what’s important at first glance. There was a strong connection between Aiming’s attitude of "challenge new trends and accumulate know-how" and ironSource's push to "provide actionable data for publishers."
Mine: At ironSource, we care about providing actionable data. In the long run, we think it is very important to understand the factors behind fluctuations - not be overwhelmed by the ups and downs of CPMs. Ad revenue is always important, but what’s most important for publishers is the success of the game itself. We provide data in a format and UI that every publisher can understand - not just the specific person in charge
Performing beyond expectation
Yusuke: How was the integration process?
Sakaino: It took about two weeks to develop and integrate rewarded video and offerwall into our game. Since the dashboard was easy to understand, even for beginners, we were able to issue and set up placements in one day.
Suzuki: From the planning phase, everyone on the team had a shared strategy of how to put ads into our game - so I think it went really smoothly.
Mine：I feel that your monetization and game management teams work seamlessly together. For many publishers, this can be challenging - different teams usually have different goals and opinions.
Sakaino：Since I joined the project, from the game planning phase to leading ad monetization, I think everyone, including the development team, shared a common goal.
Suzuki：It may seem unusual to have someone in charge of ad monetization during the planning phase. Normally people tend to give higher priority to their own department, so perhaps our company's strength is the way that each department can share and coordinate all goals.
Yusuke：How was the ad revenue performance?
Sakaino：The result was much better than we expected. eCPM for ironSource rewarded videos was more than double our original estimation, and engagement rate reached 80% - even though our original estimation was 65%.
Mine：Since the players are mainly from "CARAVAN STORIES," the user quality may be different from the other casual game players. If your game has been around for a while and has a certain income level, eCPM might be higher as a result.
Sakaino：I think that’s right.
Suzuki：Since the game story is a prequel about the lives of popular characters, fans are highly motivated to play.
Mine：It's a successful app strategy for using IP (intellectual property).
Sakaino：Tapjoy’s offerwall also performed better than we originally expected. Especially in the beginning, it performed better than the rewarded videos.
Yusuke：Since Offerwall provides bigger rewards than rewarded videos, it’s particularly compatible with games that have many users who are willing to pay.
Saito：In particular, Android has good KPI compatibility with the offerwall. Android users usually have a lower retention rate, but the offerwall increased revenue and stabilized it.
Showing ads to domestic and global users
Mine：Did you get any negative user feedback about ads?
Sakaino：I don't think there were any noticeably negative reactions.
Mine：The key to user-initiated ads like rewarded videos and offerwall is motivating the users to see the ads. "Charast Magical Academy" was designed to use ad monetization from the start, so I think it shows ads to users in the best way possible.
Suzuki：Since we set the right rewards for both the offerwall and rewarded video, users connect with the ads and feel satisfied with them.
Saito：The rewards we offer are valuable to users. To ensure that users who want to receive rewards don’t miss them, we added badges to places where there are ads that have not yet been seen, and added a jump button that auto-scrolls to that point. However, it seems that some new users thought that they couldn't progress in the game without clearing the ads, so now we only display badges for users who have progressed to a certain stage.
Saito：Impressions grew about 2.5x the normal rate during the offerwall's currency sale, but when we displayed the badge on the game screen and directed users to the ad page, it grew 8x - a huge revenue increase.
Yusuke：It's a device that tells users that an offerwall event is currently being held.
Sakaino：Also, Charast Magical Academy is only available on Japan’s app store, but some overseas fans download and play it. Thanks to the Tapjoy offerwall’s global support, it’s been great to be able to show global ads and rewards to overseas users.
Yusuke：Global support is the Tapjoy offerwall's strength. There is no need to separate campaigns, and global ads are automatically displayed for access from overseas, to accommodate overseas users. Also, the offerwall is optimized with an algorithm to automatically display ads that users are interested in on the top of the list, so publishers can maximize their revenue without spending too much time and effort.
Continuing to use ad monetization models
Mine：What are your plans for the future?
Sakaino：We are satisfied with ironSource’s usability and profitability, and will continue to use both their rewarded video and the Tapjoy offerwall. For the offerwall, thanks to their global support and compatibility with Apple/Google’s regulations - we’re sticking with Tapjoy.
Yusuke：That's great news for us.
Saito：We plan to continue releasing games with an ad revenue model. Thanks to our new know-how from Charast Magical Academy, I'm including ads in all the proposals for our new games. Since it generates additional revenue and doesn’t discourage in-app purchases, there’s no reason to not use it.
Sakaino：In the future, it would be nice to have a verification function that can segment users according to their in-app purchase status and level of loyalty, and optimize ads accordingly.
Thank you to Mr. Sakaino, Mr. Suzuki, and Mr. Saito for participating in the interview. And congratulations on your half anniversary!