Working at a mobile game studio is a dream job for many because it allows you to balance the creative with the technical. Once a game exists, much of the day-to-day work focuses on growth and optimizations. For UA managers, that means acquiring users and getting a return on your ad spend. For monetization managers, the focus is boosting LTV and retention. GOAT Games’ brings these elements together by creating passion projects that fans love and marketing campaigns grounded in modern UA strategy. What does that look like in practice?

To find out, Tapjoy met with GOAT Games’ head of global marketing, Alex Zhang, to discuss the company’s UA techniques for 2020 and beyond.

  • Alex considers long-term ROI, retention, and CTR metrics to be GOAT Games’ highest-priority KPIs.
  • User acquisition and development costs are on the rise, which is driving creative marketing solutions and partnerships.
  • Mobile game UA strategy varies substantially by region — for example, in Asia, online and offline marketing are central to UA strategy. Meanwhile, in North America and Europe, performance marketing is the emphasis.
  • 5G networks and Apple’s iOS 14 update represent a significant shift for mobile advertising that the industry will feel for years to come.

Hi Alex! Could you tell us about GOAT Games and its philosophy around gaming?

GOAT Games is a mobile game development and publishing company located in Guangzhou — also known as the goat city. We created War and MagicKing’s Throne, and Dragon Storm Fantasy, which have won the love of millions of players and ranked at the top of the Google bestseller list in many countries.

Our mission is to “win the hearts of players worldwide with lovingly crafted games.” In order for our players to love our games, we have to love our games. We spend countless hours, days, weeks, and months perfecting our games. We play and replay them to ensure that each moment brings us joy, so we can rest assured that each moment brings our players joy as well.

At the highest level, what are the main KPIs that you work towards?

Long-term ROI is a key target to judge our promotions’ performance, making it our most important KPI.

Retention is also an essential target. We attach a high value on whether users like our games, so willingness to keep playing is a vital indicator for us to judge whether the product is popular or not. If users are willing to stay in the game for a long time, then we are more confident in our promotions.

Finally, as a marketer, the click-through rate is crucial. CTR indicates whether users like your ads — if more people like your ads, you can get more users at a lower CPI.

How does your UA strategy differ based on country and region? Are there any trends you are seeing?

The UA strategies of mobile games vary significantly by region. In Asian countries, the UA strategy tends to align with online and offline marketing. In Europe and North America, the UA strategy is more focused on online performance marketing.

In recent years, the online market has become highly competitive. More and more publishers are trying new kinds of promotions, including KOL marketing, cross-border marketing, and even community marketing, to decrease the CPI. Meanwhile, some companies never invest in marketing costs — their sources of new users depend on organic growth from being featured on the app store, KOL, and over social networks.

In the future, I believe that if we want to succeed, it will require more than just online advertising. Different types of products require different UA strategies instead of being more of just the same. For example, Dragon Storm Fantasy tried a cross-border marketing event in collaboration with TikTok last May. We held an online challenge in Turkey, which gained over 8,000 participants and over two billion views. From revenue and download data levels alike, this cross-border marketing achieved outstanding results, and our game reached the Top 10 Grossing rank on both the Apple Store and Google Play.

How has your UA strategy changed in 2020? What do you find to be the biggest challenge when acquiring new users?

Last March, we increased each game’s budget to emphasize CPE after noticing users from Tapjoy’s CPE campaigns drive high ROI and retention rates. This trend began with our 2017 strategy game War and Magic, but all of our new games will run CPE campaigns through Tapjoy as the preferred traffic source in the future.

Right now, the biggest challenge for UA is that costs are rising. We can definitely tell that CPI experienced very high growth in tier 1 regions, and acquiring high-quality users can become especially fierce. What’s more, the cost of successfully publishing games has increased, which creates challenges for game developers and marketing teams alike. Marketers have to be more careful with budgets and cognizant of ROI than ever before, while developers have to figure out how to increase LTV. As a game company, I believe creating games people love is the only way to overcome such competition.

What best practices would you offer to game advertisers who have not yet tried CPE campaigns in the offerwall?

First, find a reliable partner. The process of introducing a new channel is quite complicated, especially a CPE channel that gathers lots of event data points. Having a professional partner will provide you with tools and resources to make this process more efficient. We tend to collaborate with partners who bring expert knowledge and long-term plans to the table, such as Tapjoy.

Second, pay attention to long-term data performance. The beginning of any promotion is bound to have data fluctuations, and we have to account for that in long-term planning. Instead of ending the promotion prematurely when short-term results didn’t meet expectations, compare your long-term user data against long-term projections. We’ve seen many cases where the short-term data didn’t meet KPIs, but our long-term performance was strong.

What emerging channels or trends are you most interested in looking forward to the rest of 2020, and as we plan for 2021?

At present, I’m paying attention to the 5G network and iOS 14. From historical experience, upgrading mobile internet infrastructure often leads to a corresponding upgrade in online advertising. These 5G changes may bring a revolution to our industry, which I am looking forward to seeing.

With iOS 14’s arrival, it will become more difficult for app developers to obtain IDFA licenses. It will also become more challenging to measure advertisement performance across various media. This is a big change for iOS online advertising that will affect our work, but the exact impact remains unclear. Let’s see what happens next.

Tapjoy would like to thank Alex for taking the time to join us. For more mobile game UA insights, check out our recent case study on the Hong-Kong based studio LEXIANG CO., LIMITED.

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