,  — 19 Jul 2021

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition

Nadezhda Ovchinnikova

Mobile gaming is now an immensely competitive world: in just a few taps away in any app store, there are thousands and thousands of games available. According to Statista, this is the most popular App Store category by the share of available apps: 22.37% of all active apps are gaming apps.

Focusing on user acquisition is your next priority after you make a decision to create a great game. Otherwise, the chances are it will go completely unnoticed by your target audience. So how do you master the UA in the gaming industry? Let’s have a look at best practices delivered at each step of your big app marketing strategy. 

Planning and idea validation: Pre-launch testing

Any good idea is never good enough to succeed and requires thorough testing. Before you start developing your app, you have to face 3 basic questions:

  • What is your target audience?
  • Why and how will they engage in the game?
  • Will the game stand out among others?  

Here, A/B testing is an essential tool for ideas qualification and app validation. On the App Store, you won’t be able to test your mobile app or game concepts before publishing your app. On SplitMetrics A/B testing platform, you’ll have this opportunity: experiment and evaluate various audience segments, traffic channels, and product positioning.

1. Validate game concept

The pre-launch stage is about testing your game or mobile app idea before fully investing time and money in it. You may compare a number of game concepts, show them as prototype screenshots to your target audience and decide on the best performing variant.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
SplitMetrics A/B testing platform

On the pre-launch stage, you can A/B test game type and plot, as well as other core and meta-mechanics features. Deciding on the art style is also a key step at this point.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
Pre-launch A/B testing opportunities in SplitMetrics

After deciding on the overall game concept, you can go on to the next stage of idea testing.

2. Research high-performing keywords for the name, description and metadata

App title has the highest impact on rankings, so make sure you include relevant keywords. The same goes for subtitle and app metadata: besides the brand name, focus on the relevant keywords that have the highest volume to contribute to ranking and organic downloads.

To find high-quality keywords, you can start by researching top-ranking games in your category. Check their titles and descriptions, as well as user reviews.

2.1. Choose the right name for your game

Choose the game name that will be unique, easy to pronounce and meaningful to the target audience. At the moment, the app title can be up to 30 characters long in the App Store, and up to 50 Google Play – after the 30th.

For example, using SplitMetrics A/B testing platform, we analyzed the impact of words Online and Multiplayer in the game’s name on conversion rates. The analysis shows that Online does not boost conversion, while the word Multiplayer brings a 15-20% increase in conversion rate.

2.2. Add description

SplitMetrics ASO Benchmarks show that most users scroll only 20% of an app page on the App Store. It means only the first two sentences (promo text) really matter: less than 1% of users taps “Read more”. It makes sense to concentrate on visual elements instead.

For Google Play store the scroll depth is higher and reaches 60%. Different user behavior patterns are the reason we recommend testing both stores. SplitMetrics is a convenient tool for that since you can perform A/B tests and gather analytics for both stores in one place.

3. Create visuals for A/B testing

It’s time to brainstorm creatives that will promote your game in the app stores. Compare your screenshots, feature graphic, videos, and icon designs with the styles of other apps that appear near yours in keyword search results. This will give you insights on how to stand out in your statements and earn user’s installs.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
SplitMetrics A/B testing platform: Rovio (Angry Birds) case

3.1. Design an eye-catching icon

According to SplitMetrics ASO benchmarks for the gaming industry, a good icon can bring 22.8% conversion uplift in the App Store and 20.2% CVR uplift in Google Play on average. These efforts are worth the time and money. Using SplitMetrics A/B testing, you can experiment with color associations, background gradients and the choice of design elements to achieve the best conversion. Seasonality and target market should also be accounted for.

For different genres, different ASO approaches work. For example, in puzzles users often deal with small-sized pieces, but for the icon we recommend scaling up the blocks. By experimenting with the size of the elements, you can achieve a conversion increase of up to +18%.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition

For RPG games, angry-faced characters placed on icons can help your app stand out in search. Our A/B experiments prove that icons depicting characters with expressive faces shadow an increase in conversion of up to +30%.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition

Download our ASO Benchmarks for Mobile Games for detailed guidelines on icon optimization tips. There, you can find best practices per genre:

  • Card games
  • Casino games
  • Puzzle games
  • Role-playing games
  • Strategy games
  • And more

3.2. Brainstorm screenshot ideas

Create a story behind your app and tell it via screenshots. To start with, add a short explanation text at the top or at the bottom to make your message clear. To top it up, make use of social proof (testimonials, media mentions and awards). Social media can create a “word of mouth” effect that may attract new users for free while increasing your organic reach and making your app go viral.

If your mobile game has multiplayer or social features, focus on showcasing them on your screenshots. Here are some examples of social features in a game:
 • PVP

 • Co-op modes

 • Leaderboards

 • Chat or messaging

 • Live streams and so on

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
Case study: Game Hive with SearchAdsHQ

If you came up with several versions and can’t decide between them, use SplitMetrics A/B testing to see which one will drive the most installs. For more detailed insights, check our Ultimate Guide to App Store Screenshots: Sizes, Styles, Tips and Best Practices.

3.3 Add a video preview

Timing matters. According to SplitMetrics data insights, the length of the best-performing video previews is up to 20 seconds on average. Focus on creating videos that get straight to the point and do not contain hard-to-read and fast-moving text.

In most cases, video alongside screenshots is one of the most converting elements on your product page, so make sure to cover your bases with extensive A/B testing. Check how one of SplitMetrics clients got 75% click-to-install rate improvement by testing video preview.

ASO tip: the video should be engaging for your target audience even with the sound off: on mobiles a lot of people will watch it muted.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
SplitMetrics A/B testing

4. Start running A/B experiments to make informed decisions

Once you’ve prepared a set of visuals and text data for your app, you can go on to testing your ideas. This tool may be used to determine the effectiveness of icons, screenshots, descriptions, store search results, directions, prices, headlines, and more.

Variations for A/B Testing should always reflect a quality hypothesis. Comparing your app to top-ranking competitors is what will help you formulate it. Use our ASO step-by-step guide to set the right goals and choose the type of experiment that will make a difference for your app.

For an experiment to work, it’s key to choose a traffic source and test on a relevant audience. Remember that users are to be split equally.

We recommend experimenting with up to 4 variations, with one change at a time. For starters, use two variations and run split-tests for at least 7-10 days to keep track of users’ behavior on all weekdays. However, this is a bare minimum, Splitmetrics automatically calculates the total number of visitors required for the experiment and shows if there is a risk of a false winner.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
How SplitMetrics A/B testing works

In SplitMetrics the audience is automatically distributed to landing pages with different creative sets (variations). You can test the Product page, Search page & Category page in order to:

  • Collect data-driven insights into visitor behavior on your product page
  • Validate and new game ideas without building an MVP
  • Determine the winner variants to launch with a bang
  • Get the detailed statistics on:
    • Video views metrics
    • Scroll heatmaps
    • Time on page
    • Interaction funnel
    • Screenshot stats
    • Behavioral segments
Boost conversion and installs with SplitMetrics A/B testing
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Scaling after the game goes live: ASO and paid UA

Proper ASO will help you organically acquire users searching for apps like yours and drive in users from paid channels, for example, Apple Search Ads. The effort you put into organic optimization can enhance your paid user acquisition, and vice-versa. With proper optimization, you can improve your organic visibility and boost your user acquisition.

How does it work in detail? By a rough estimate, around 60% of all installs result from organic traffic. It means it is key to use App Store Optimization and create visuals that convert better, and add better-performing keywords. Paid UA brings even more target users to your app page, that will be interested in your game. This improves search performance and app ranking of the game in your category: algorithms react positively when the number of your app installs increases. In its turn, scaling paid UA will expose more users, which will bring more organic traffic. Basically, it becomes a feedback loop of growth and increased visibility.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
Organic and paid UA creates a loop of growth

To put it down, when you combine ASO and paid UA, you drive your app growth by:

  • Improving app visibility
  • Boosting organic installs
  • Optimizing overall conversion

And as a result, the cost of user acquisition decreases.

Organic UA with continued App Store Optimization (ASO)

Optimizing for your app’s visibility is a constantly evolving and ongoing process. If you want to maximize your installs across all channels, you’ll need to test and update your creatives with the winning variant.

With SplitMetrics you can boost your user acquisition strategy by improving the visibility of your game in the search.

  • Boost your conversion rate to the maximum
  • Compare how your game performs against apps of your competitors
  • Localize your app without conversion drop
  • Leverage the best of trends and seasonality 
Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
SplitMetrics: Cases

Check how A/B testing with SplitMetrics boosted user acquisition strategy for Papaya Gaming. Using our tool, they got to the top #5 in the category with their card game and experienced a 30.37% increase in installs. Find more success stories in our Cases!

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
Case study: Papaya Gaming with SplitMetrics

Insightful and effective UA with Apple Search Ads

According to Apple, search drives 65% of all App Store app downloads, which is roughly 1.5 billion installs every month. Being an official Apple Search Ads Partner, SearchAdsHQ provides the core functionality coupled with top-tier management and automation options:

  • Full-funnel view, from impressions to purchases
  • Flexible filters & bulk management features
  • Seamless integration with all popular MMPs
  • Advanced automation that covers over 500 variations of Apple Search Ads-related actions and alerts:
    • Get alert on any drastic changes
    • Spot competitor’s bidding
    • Automatically manage daily cap
    • And much more
Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
Case study: InnoGames with SplitMetrics

Get advanced insights even for iOS 14.5+

Since Apple introduced IDFA deprecation in iOS 14.5+ and granted users the ability to opt-out of any type of targeting or tracking, Apple Search Ads is a great tool to get keyword insights. It uses its own attribution API to attribute app downloads that originate from Apple Search Ads campaigns on iOS devices and provides the most relevant data.

You can leverage this advantage by using Keyword Planner in SearchAdsHQ or a free Search Ads Keyword Popularity Checker Chrome extension.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
Keyword Planner in SearchAdsHQ
Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
Search Ads Keyword Popularity Checker Chrome extension

Don’t miss out on new opportunities: Try out new ad placements

Mobile marketing inventory is expanding faster than ever. For example, a recent addition to Apple Search Ads is Search tab campaigns. They become a more and more promising placement to drive brand awareness and boost retargeting strategy.

Moreover, the algorithm behind this placement uses a different principle. It accounts for user behavior patterns, rather than search term matching. It means it is a great way to engage with users you are currently missing with keyword-based campaigns. Read more insights and detailed statistics in our blog post.

New Apple Search tab ads
SearchAdsHQ supports new placement from day one

Conquer new markets

Localization is a great way to increase your audience. However, it is important to optimize beyond language for a specific culture. Consistent A/B testing will ensure that your product page delivers the most relevant features in a visual and text message that your users enjoy. SplitMetrics can help you by providing all the necessary data.

Apple Search Ads can give a great boost to overall organic visibility and downloads. By running ad campaigns to win new storefronts, you can double or triple the number of keywords in use and expand your audience. In SerachAdsHQ we provide an easy way to duplicate your app listing to reach more target users across the globe.

Growing Mobile Games Through User Acquisition
Case study: China-based Aged Studio with SearchAdsHQ

Also, Apple Search Ads is now available in mainland China for booking campaigns. According to some reports, China is one of the top revenue generators on iOS and accounts for almost half of mobile app spend. Check our blog post for more information on how to get a license and hop onto this wagon with SearchAdsHQ.

Maximize your Apple Search Ads ROAS with SplitMetrics Acquire
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Nadezhda Ovchinnikova
Nadezhda Ovchinnikova
Marketing & Digital Communications Manager at SplitMetrics
Nadezhda is a a digital communications manager with over 7 years of experience in technology marketing. She has a strong user focus, loves crafting engaging stories and delivering brand engagement campaigns across multiple channels.
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