Industry leaders’ growth marketer resolutions for 2020: Game Hive

If you’re like most people, you dumped your New Year’s resolutions on January 19thBut if you’re a growth marketer, you’re just getting started. This year has a lot in store for our customers—and, we’re right there with them as they try new things and look to scale.

We touched base with marketing leaders from the industry to find out new tactics on the horizon and ones they discarded with the old year.

First, we checked in with Mary Kim, Head of Growth at Game Hive located in Toronto, Canada. Mary currently leads the growth team in UA and Ads Monetization, working on titles such as Tap Titans, Beat the Boss, and Tap Tycoon. Mary entered the mobile gaming industry working at one of Europe’s largest gaming studios, acquiring users for desktop and mobile.

growth marketer

What marketing strategies or tactics will you start to test in 2020?

One of the biggest struggles we’ve had for a long time is attributing impression-level ad revenue in our reporting. Now we’re finally getting to a point where we’ll be able to do this. Our mediation partner, AdMob, is enabling this for us and we’re in the process of kicking things off. So now, whatever impressions we get on our ad side will be tracked more accurately at the user level. Along with the cost data from Singular, we’ll be able to get the whole 360° picture.

Are there any new ad channels you’ll start testing?

This is something we’re constantly doing. In fact, I’d say it’s really difficult to not test, given that the duopolies take the majority share of ad spend. We wouldn’t want to be in a position where something happens on the back end with the algorithms and performance suffers. So, we always like to allocate part of our budget to testing. 

Last year we dipped our toes into more DSPs. Now, we’re getting much more comfortable sharing data with our new networks. With some partners, it’s been going extremely well. For instance, we’ve found that with the DSPs we’ve had the most success with—although we’re getting the same inventory as we would with, for example, a rewarded video network—performance is better because they use different machine learning algorithms that optimize for high-value users, rather than optimizing for ad placements.

We’ll continue to do this in 2020 for sure!

We’re finding that the marketers leading the way in full-funnel performance marketing are doing exactly what you’re doing. They’re setting aside budget specifically for testing, on a quarterly if not monthly basis. 

Are there any other ad channels you’ve been testing?

TikTok’s one that we’re trying out. In the past, we thought maybe the audience would’ve been too young. But we realized that these days, the platform has evolved and the audience is not all that young. Since many of our users are male and there are more females on the TikTok platform, we were also worried that it may not be a good fit if we couldn’t reach our target demographic. Interestingly enough, we’ve discovered that there are more female content creators but more men watching the content.  So we thought okay—we sure don’t have a problem with that! 

Interesting. One of our industry analysts looked at aggregate data across industries to see what’s working and what’s not, so that we’re providing that information to our customers. One thing he discovered was that ad spend on TikTok tripled from May to November 2019. And obviously, marketers allocate budget like that when something’s working. Our ROI Index speaks to that as well. What about creatives? Are there any new tactics you’re trying out, like creative optimization, using new ad formats, or something else?

Yes! At least for us, 2019 was a huge year for creatives. We were able to crank out so many, so I guess you could say it was more a matter of quantity over quality in 2019. This year, we want to focus on quality over quantity. That includes getting more 3D assets, and coming up with faster video creation but with quality in mind. 

Tap Titans 2

Everyone’s been talking about video, video, video for the last 5-7 years. Obviously it’s the most engaging ad format. But, I think for a very long time teams struggled with the production aspect of it because it’s costly and time-consuming. It feels like you guys are figuring out ways to streamline production and get your 3D templates ready to not only raise the quality, but to also get more high-quality assets out there. 

Are there any new incentives you’re thinking of testing? Things like referral codes—we know you already do rewarded video. Which ones are you already doing that you’d like to buckle down on more? Or new ones you’d like to try out?

We’ve really started to invest more in re-engagement, especially because Tap Titans 2 has developed a wide user base. Keeping that in mind—and since re-engagement works so well—for those players that are coming back, we asked ourselves, what can we do to make them continue to do so? Right now we have deeplinks, but it doesn’t actually pinpoint a specific moment in the game or give them an actual incentive to come back. So, that’s been something we really want to highlight and focus on: giving them an undeniable reason to return, so we’ll give you some diamonds, or give you some rare legendary equipment so that you come back and you enjoy the game even more. 

Is there any new KPI you’d like to start measuring and optimizing against?

Yes—we’ve been trying to test this already, but you know how many advertisers like to optimize towards purchases and transactions? We feel that even before the users get to that, those who indicate that they’re going to be high-value is by whether they’re using hard currency in our game. So, a first-time hard currency user, or even someone coming in on a transaction-by-user basis, will be higher value for us. Hard currency is the main one we’re trying to test now.

You’re obviously automating your reporting with Singular. Are there other automations, like bidding optimizations, that you’re either already doing or plan to do?

Yes—at the moment we’re leveraging other partners to help us do this, but right now it’s only based on rules that we set. For example, here are my KPIs and the benchmarks I want to reach. If it doesn’t reach it, then decrease the bid by X, or lower the budget caps. However, it only goes so far if it’s just based on rules and sometimes dangerous if there are extreme outliers. This goes alongside a bigger project we’re working on, which is rebuilding our pLTV models to leverage user-level data to detect behavioral trends. This will allow us to predict which users will become high-LTV players by understanding what it means to have a particular session length or if they unlock certain achievements. By doing this we can increase our accuracy and feed our own algorithms more data. Ultimately, identifying this on a user level will really help our marketing automation. 

Are there any marketing strategies or tactics that you’re doubling down on in 2020, such as creative optimization, or anything else?

I think we’ll be doing much more partner testing. It’s interesting how a partner can surprise you once you give them a lot of love and care. And then, they tend to be one of the highest performers when some of your larger partners don’t perform well. Also, we’ll be testing more aggressively, and “failing fast” to learn quickly.

Battle Bouncers

Are there any strategies/tactics that you’re going to leave behind in the last decade?

I think we’ll be focusing less on optimizing towards CPI. That was somewhat the case during 2019, but every user is worth a different amount in terms of LTV. Every channel is different, too, as well as every environment. So, we do want to get away from thinking we have to have a low CPI because the risk is so high, and just be a little bit more lenient on that. Even if the ROAS isn’t there but they’re hitting the in-game event, then we know that’s a signal to them being a better user eventually. So, what we want to avoid is looking too short-term on a CPI basis, and use that less as a strategy in 2020.

This is a bit controversial, but are there any channels you want to stop testing?

I won’t mention which partner, but there are certain networks you hear in the industry are performing really well, and sometimes you have to accept that your game or app isn’t the right fit for that audience or inventory and move on. We’ve also tried really hard and spent a lot of budget on some networks where we realize it’s just not going to work. In that case, we learn to let go and instead, invest in other platforms. 

Have there been ad networks that you’ve decided to stop working with because you found that they have a lot of fraud?

Actually, we’re pretty good in terms of fraud detection. The networks we’ve been working with have also been pretty understanding whenever there’s a fraud claim. I wouldn’t say that’s the reason why we’ve stopped using an ad network. We’re lucky to say that! But we did work with some networks in 2019 where fraud was a big issue, where up to 30% of the total traffic was fraud. In that case, you really have to try to get that money back. But, as long as the network is willing and accepting of those changes, and hear you out, I don’t think there’s any reason to pause them if they’re otherwise providing good traffic.

That makes complete sense. And I think that a lot of the ad networks are interested in fraud prevention and what other industry leaders are doing around prevention as well, because they don’t want networks to be fraudulent. For the most part, these ad networks know that fraud can impact their reputation and they want help to stop it. Fraudsters are constantly evolving. We have to be willing to share your solution with ad networks—teaching them, presenting data. That’s the best bet for everyone in the industry, especially marketers.

To add to that, Singular has been amazing, because we’ve detected so much fraud, like APK fraud especially. We have so many APK downloads out there, in aggregate. To be able to have that capability and categorize these as a separate source—to be able to see all the installs that aren’t from Google Play, we’ve been able to detect fraud down to the version. So, if your app version is at 4.0 but you’re still seeing installs coming from 3.0, then you know there’s something really, really fishy going on. To be able to customize that? Oh my gosh—it’s helped a lot. I really, really like that feature.

Love it! That’s music to our ears. Mary, this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much.

About Game Hive: Founded in 2009, Game Hive is a pioneer in creating the best game experiences across multiple mobile platforms. With hit titles generating 200+ million downloads, Game Hive strives to simply make games the way they dreamed about when they were kids.

Playing the ROI Game: How Gaming Advertisers Are Winning a $150 Billion+ Market

According to TechCrunch, by the end of 2019, the global gaming market was estimated to be worth $152 billion—with 45% of that, $65.5 billion, coming directly from mobile games. Investors continue to buy in, too, with over $9 billion in investments. notes that “total funding in gaming firms over the last 18 months has exceeded the amount invested over the previous five years.” Talk about great ROI! 

If the industry’s so hot right now, how are global gaming companies tracking their success? In the gaming realm, you hear a lot about LTV vs. ROAS, but is one more important to track than the other? Which one should gaming advertisers be focused on for optimizing their campaigns? 

How can you ensure your calculations are accurate?

The challenge of measuring success

Taking a step back, how can marketers actually calculate what their target ROAS should be? Can you calculate ROAS at the publisher level? Should you be looking at ROAS on a cohort basis?  

Although many veteran gaming marketers in the mobile industry have had great success with existing ROAS tracking methods, the technology and methods themselves have evolved over the last couple of years. Marketers have had to find new and better ways to get reliable calculations.

What’s in a game? The three main gaming genres

In devising the best method possible for measuring gaming ROI, it helps to analyze the business model and goal of the different types of games. Let’s take a look at the main gaming genres.

First, you have hyper-casual, highly addictive, lightweight games with simple mechanics.

In this type of game, user sessions are short and LTV is low. Therefore, it’s important for marketers to have leading indicators they can track within the first couple hours of a game launching. 

Given that cohorts are measured on a daily basis, there are other metrics marketers might need to use as leading indicators immediately versus relying on ROAS—for example, the number of installs and the CPI or eCPI target. Given that publishers of hyper-casual games produce multiple apps each month, retention isn’t the key goal until they can quickly identify a successful game to put their marketing dollars against. 

What is the main goal here? Installs.

And they’re getting those in spades. In Q4 2019, hyper-casual games grabbed 10 out of the 15 slots for top downloads. Their business model is to monetize through in-app advertisements and cross-app promotion.

Advertisers for these gaming companies need their marketing dashboard to be able to provide a ROAS calculation based on revenue from served ads versus the traditional in-app purchase. A technical challenge to overcome is for your technology partners to be able to process the extremely low revenue increments that are standard to this business model.

The other extreme is the hardcore games that involve a lot of strategy—these are what most self-proclaimed “non-gamers” would consider “gaming”.

With longer game production time and user sessions, user LTV and retention can be among the highest. But, this gaming experience is generally for a small number of big spenders. 

With longer sessions, retention, being able to see multiple cohort periods around spend, and your custom metrics become very relevant leading indicators of success or failure. Having a ROAS-centric benchmark becomes essential to tracking success and projecting your game’s break-even point within your marketing dashboard. 

Serving ads within hardcore games has become a more accepted practice. If your ROAS calculation doesn’t combine in-app purchase revenue with revenue generated from serving in-app ads, then you should update it using a provider that offers this as a solution out of the box.

It’s essential to understand how users are generating revenue for your business and which sources are driving early whales into your game. 

Similar to eCommerce, the gaming industry goal is to find lookalikes that continue to grow revenue. This also opens an entirely new revenue stream for hardcore games to creatively explore with. For this business strategy, an LTV model is also a must.

Finally, there are casual and midcore games.

These game types strikes the balance between “hyper-casual” and “hardcore.” That said, consider strategies for this group that are closer to “hardcore.” Why? Because more time goes into the app development strategy. And, like all apps, the goal is to blow up and provide a great return. At this point, LTV may be a stretch goal or very simplistic until a game proves its worth and is on target to the break-even point. 

Overall, calculating ROAS at the most granular level possible will help you find pockets of optimizations within your campaign for a particular media channel. These will inform how to shift your budget to increase your potential for greater ROAS results/outcomes and gain an edge in a very competitive landscape.

Ad campaign optimization tactics for gaming advertisers

Eric Seifert’s Mobile Dev Memo’s guide to mobile marketing notes that a ROAS-centric campaign optimization strategy is essential to have in order to understand how cohorts deliver ROAS overtime. He notes that identifying what your ROAS target should be is “similar to mapping an LTV curve onto cohort performance, but the difference is that the specific value of cumulative revenue delivered by a cohort isn’t important, but rather the relative value of that revenue to acquisition costs.” 

So, how are you tracking acquisition costs and the return on your investment or ad spend? Is this still a manual process for you? Is your current method of collecting spend data and matching it to your attribution data on a cohort-basis efficient? Or, is this prohibiting you from launching campaigns with new partners or scaling in new markets effectively? 

A long-standing Singular customer, DGN, leverages Singular to aggregate, standardize, and analyze their campaign analytics across all of their apps and 10+ media sources in a single platform. Singular empowers the team to expose insights, such as publisher level ROI, and ultimately enable faster and smarter optimizations. You can read more about DGN’s success story.

The well-known global gaming company, Nexon, is able to reach their growth goals because Singular helps them save time in a number of ways. A big one is that Singular can “slice and dice, and stack rank what’s important to us to see what’s giving us the highest ROI”, says Warren Woodward. Listen to some of the benefits from Nexon’s Executive Director of User Acquisition.

Try Singular

Looking to up your gaming? Singular helps mobile marketers across the globe automatically bring together their marketing costs from all sources, and match it daily to the attribution source that drove a user to install and a later perform a revenue action within your app.

All this can be done according to the ROAS and ROI cohort length you need to monitor to track towards your business goals. This allows you to spend more time optimizing your campaigns versus logging into platforms to collect the data. What can non-gamers learn from this? Where does your business align with the key goals from our different gaming segments?

Singular has success experts that support customers such as Warby Parker, Twitter, DraftKings, Getaround, and Earnin. We welcome the opportunity to talk to you about how you can measure the success of your mobile marketing campaigns more effectively.

5 massive factors changing the future of games: social, platforms, technology, monetization, and app stores

What is the future of games?

One thing we know: it’s going to be lucrative. The top 25 public game companies generated over $100 billion in revenue last year, according to a recent story on VentureBeat featuring data from Newzoo.

The largest, Tencent, had almost $20 billion in estimated game revenue. Sony, Microsoft, Apple, and Google are on the list. Activision hauled in almost $7 billion, and names like France’s Ubisoft, Korea’s Netmarble, and Japan’s Square Enix all generated more than a billion in 2018 revenue.

To state the obvious, games are a big deal.

But what’s changing in gaming?

At Singular we recently had a chance to review our business with a major gaming client. To prepare for that, a number of us internally including Elizabeth Lauer-Lopez, Victor Savath, and Ligita Kneitaite spent some time consulting our crystal balls (and data) on the future of gaming in general, and mobile gaming.

Here are the results:

Future of games: Social at scale

We’re seeing more and more games with social experiences at scale. HQ Triviashowed us that a year ago in a non-traditional category. Fortnite, which has hit an astonishing total player count of over 250 million people, has hit almost 11 million concurrent players.

That’s social, and that’s scale.

Future of games

A few weeks ago I chatted with Unity’s chief marketing officer Clive Downie. Unity powers half of the games on the planet, and it’s building tech to scale to 50 million concurrent users. In a few years, that’s likely to be hundreds of millions, and eventually, it will be planet scale.

The massive benefit of social at scale?

See how N3TWORK, makers of Legendary: Game of Heroes uses Singular as its marketing stack.

When a game succeeds, it becomes a social phenomenon. That has huge new user acquisition benefits, thanks to incessant coverage in the media and in social media conversations, but it also has huge player retention benefits: friends who game together, stay together, you might say.

And they often stick to the same game, too.

Future of games: Connected platforms

In Ready Player One, Wade Watts (AKA Parzival) didn’t need to enter different apps to join other gunters in a racing game, or dance in a club, or chat with his huge robotic friend Aech in a first-person shooter. He just entered different experiences in the Oasis, a global VR universe.

future of games

We’re not going to see the Oasis anytime soon.

But we might see some components of it.

Think: why do you have different identities in every game, even games by the same publisher? Why can’t you have a shared wallet, maybe transferable XP between games, and shared friend groups? To go a little crazier and cross game publisher boundaries, why can’t you take your friends from Fortnite to PUBG?

For players, there’s huge potential rewards: faster on boarding, richer experiences, more fun in more environments, and a more social gaming session.

Check out how Jam City uses Singular to optimize performance of its creatives.

For publishers, there’s easier cross-promotion, faster player onboarding, and potentially longer engagement via more owned platforms, leading to increased brand connection and better monetization opportunities.

Of course, there are caveats.

Game publishers still need to enable super-fast on-demand experiences for the minute-to-kill, I’m just waiting-in-a-line-at-the-coffee-store moment. Anything that increases login and set-up time is a risk.

But if publishers can find a find a way to mitigate that, they have the opportunity to build connected universes inside mobile apps, and with coming smartglasses and 5G, the possibilities are incredible to imagine.

Future of games: Technology driving everything, everywhere, in real-time

We’re seeing that hit games are increasingly multi-platform: mobile, console, desktop, even web.

That might be native versions like Minecraft or Fortnite, or it might be via emulated technology like Bluestacks, which showed up in Singular’s recent ROI Index. And they might even migrate from console to mobile, like Call of Duty.

Increasingly, we’re seeing noise around streaming too.

future of gaming is not a box

Thanks to Google Stadia, streaming console-level games is now possible with sub 25-millisecond lag even for titles like Assassin’s Creed. (Note: here’s the required grain of salt.) Competitors are legion and massive: Microsoft xCloud, Nvidia GeForce Now, Valve Link Anywhere, PlayStation Now, plus a rumored Amazon product.

In other words: there’s a lot of money and big-company corporate cred jumping into streaming, so something very interesting is likely to happen here.

Read how Singular “was key” to helping DGN Games become the fastest growing social casino.

Possible downsides include that the costs of computation for games might now fall much more heavily on the game publisher, since instead of the lion’s share of computational cost falling on a distributed network of millions of devices (gamer’s own phones, consoles, computers), it all falls on a server farm.

And someone has to keep those lights on.

On the upside, gaming experts have told me there’s a higher monetization opportunity because there are now lower risks of trying a game, thanks to there being no large upfront cost. That leads to a larger userbase, potentially. And of course streaming is custom-made for a subscription model, which means a longer payback period.

(Frankly, an ad-supported model makes a ton of sense here too.)

Future of games: Monetization evolution

Game monetization is changing quickly.

A few years ago, it was all in-app purchases. In 2016, for instance, 94% of the revenue generated on the U.S. iOS App Store came from the top 1% of publishers who had paid apps or IAPs … and IAPs generated 20 times more revenue than paid apps.

future of games monetization

More recently, in-app advertising has moved into the leadership position in terms of mobile app monetization.

But subscriptions are just starting to grow as well. GameMine is having success with this model, offering access to its entire portfolio for one price. And some streaming games will likely be subscription-based.

eSports is also also offering new monetization opportunities.

It’ll cost you a cool $25 million to buy a franchise in the new Call of Duty professional league, and then you’ll be able to sell tickets, viewing, ads against viewing, sponsorships, broadcast rights, and maybe even new models of joining, helping, or learning from your on-screen heroes.

Future of games: Decreasing power of app stores

App stores like Apple’s and Google’s are tremendously important and will continue to be so. At the same time, however, we’re seeing ways in which their power is being reduced.

The first visible crack in the wall might have been Fortnite moving off Google Play for Android.

Since Fortnite is a global phenomenon on consoles, mobile (including iOS), and desktop, Epic Games could do what most game publishers couldn’t. Clearly, massive games with their own marketing momentum can save the 15-30% store cut of in-app purchases and subscription revenue by moving off-platform. Just as clearly, that’s much harder for new, unknown games.

Also, this works on Android, where you can side-load apps. Not so much on iOS.

In addition, new technology such as streaming, which we’ve already talked about, also reduces our overall dependence on app stores.

Learn how Singular helps Zynga efficiently get more accurate, granular data

If I can just stream a game to my mobile or desktop browser, I don’t need a native app from a platform landlord. That opens up all kinds of possibilities — and dangers — because Google and particularly Apple closely police what games and apps are allowed on their platforms.

It also means marketing a game just changed significantly.

There are also regulatory challenges to the way that app stores operate as bouncers at the app nightclub. Apple, for instance, is facing three separate antitrust actions in Europe from Spotify, Kaspersky, and The Netherlands.

Whether those cases have merit or not is an open question, but we have seen the EU take a leading role in limiting the power that larger U.S.-based multinationals have. And any judgements might impact how Apple polices its App Store and what third-party game publishers can produce, offer, and monetize.

Summing up

Games are an increasingly large part of our lives, thanks largely to mobile. But how we making, distributing, and monetizing them is changing.

Smart publishers will continue to find ways to out-grow the competition. And Singular will be there to help them … on mobile, on web, on IoT, on streaming media, or wherever the industry moves.

Talk to us today about a demo.

Jam City optimizes campaign performance and creative strategy with Singular

We got to sit down with Jam City’s VP of User Acquisition Marketing, Brian Sapp, to discuss how his team is using Singular to optimize campaign performance and improve their creative strategy. Watch our discussion on Jam City’s use of campaign analytics below!




My name is Brian Sapp. I’m the VP of UA (User Acquisition) Marketing at Jam CityJam City is one of the leading mobile casual gaming developers in the West. We have a fairly large portfolio of games. Some of our tentpole games are Cookie Jam and Panda Pop. But recently we launched Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery, [and] that game has been a big success.

Connecting fragmented marketing data

Singular right now we use to ingest data from all of our ad networks and as you can imagine, when we spend with over 40 networks, that’s a lot of data. The manpower it would take to go into each network and pull in that API, do the work, or pull it in manually, would be extremely time-consuming.

Singular solves that for us, solves it in a much faster time, and more efficiently than we could do it ourselves. And then, having that data in the dashboard, especially for someone like me who’s spending across 8-10 titles, we have a massive portfolio, the dashboard really gives us the ability to easily pivot that data whether it be by spend, by channel, by paid installs, by tracker installs, impressions, it’s very, very useful, as well as creative. Having all of the data, especially creative data, plus images, plus the data behind the creative, in one dashboard is extremely valuable for us.

Aligning with Creative Product Marketing

So we actually have a team called Creative Product Marketing that focused on our creative roadmap/creative strategy and they’re using Singular to look at our performance by game, by channel, and right now it’s the fastest, easiest way we have to do that across all the different data sources.

Next-level Performance Analytics

Singular collects a lot of the ad network data for us and we’re using that to look at CPI by campaign, CPI by geo, paid performance, scale, spend, organics versus paid installs. And so we’re also ingesting data from our attribution partner which allows us to kind of marry the two, and so we get very granular on Singular’s reporting for whatever questions we have.

I use it for executive reports, building massive pivot charts, visuals that I want to see across the portfolio. The combination of our internal tools plus Singular really gives me everything I need.

Ready to take your growth marketing to the next level? Let’s connect!

Nexon transforms marketing data into granular performance insights with Singular

We got the chance to catch up with Nexon‘s Director of Acquisition, Warren Woodward, and discuss how his team uses Singular to analyze and optimize the performance of their sophisticated user acquisition program. One topic we covered was how challenging it can be to analyze the performance of ad creatives, especially when advertising multiple titles across many ad partners. Thankfully, Nexon overcame this challenge. 😊Check out our discussion below!




My name is Warren Woodward, and I’m with Nexon. I’m the Director of User Acquisition. Nexon is an international gaming company. We have games for PC and mobile across the world. We have a couple of major IPs, such as Maple Story, and the biggest video game series in China, Dungeon and Fighter.

How Singular fits in Nexon’s growth stack

At Nexon, we leverage Singular in a few different ways. We use it as our source of truth. We also use it as a way to join data from multiple sources for day-to-day campaign optimization. Singular for us is a great way to look at all that data in one place. And for me as Director to look in on everything that everyone is doing and see it all in an apples-to-apples comparison to understand how to best move budget around.

Reaching growth goals

Singular helps us reach our growth goals ultimately because it saves us time in any number of ways. With the number of titles that we’re buying for, we don’t have the time to go into every separate source, every separate title, and look at it all à la carte. So the ways that we can slice and dice, and stack rank what’s important to us to see what’s giving us the highest ROI… everything across the game, where are we spending the most, what’s bleeding, let’s us judge how we can use a finite number of hours in the day to get the most impact to our campaigns.

Singular let me see it all in one place, slice and dice it. If I just want to see all of the performance for any given country or OS, or maybe just dive really deep to a particular ad network. It’s nice to have one dashboard that can quickly make all these ad-hoc reports. And also to do a creative analysis and collaborate with the creative team.

Perfecting storytelling

So one of the ways that we use this on a daily basis is to get our creative team talking about performance, the same way that we do; to be looking at a creative level across the dozens of creatives who might have any given time for a game. Understand the trends that are working. It helps us identify what we want to make next, what’s really working, and we start seeing a better return on investment for the creatives themselves when we can see how they’ve been performing in the ecosystem.

Ready to take your growth marketing to the next level? Let’s connect!

China lifted the gaming ban and developers are flooding back to enter the market. Here’s how you can too

The world’s biggest gaming market banned new games from entering the market starting March of 2018. China stopped approving games amid a regulatory overhaul triggered by growing criticism of games for being violent and allegations that they were causing myopia as well as addiction among young users.

Just recently, however, that changed.

In December, China decided to approve the release of 80 new games after months of no action. Now that the Chinese government has lifted its ban on new gaming releases, gaming app developers are chomping at the bit to launch their new mobile gaming apps on Chinese app stores.

The Chinese mobile opportunity

Vast opportunities are on the horizon as approvals begin to flow again.

China accounts for one out of every four US dollars generated globally from mobile games. The revenue generated by apps in China in 2017 is an estimated $35 billion USD, and app downloads from Chinese Android stores are expected to reach almost $90 billion by the end of this year. Additionally, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the country’s internet user base now stands at around 772 million, 97% of whom are smartphone users.

This is one massive dragon of an addressable market.

But as a rule, China’s licensing system requires that foreign publishers obtain government approval that often involves a complex process before releasing their games on one of the country’s app stores. This process can take months and has had a significant impact on some (but not all) foreign publishers, deterring some from launching locally. One consequence of the increasingly challenging regulatory environment: at the time of the complete ban, foreign developed games accounted for only 25% of the top 250 mobile game downloads on China’s App Store. That could start to change as approvals are starting to flow again.

With China’s recent reversal in attitude and policy, the tide appears to be turning for non-domestic publishers. 2019 and beyond looks promising for game developers who wish to tap into the Chinese market.

Here are a few important things to know before entering the market.

Complex app store landscape

While the Apple App Store lives very successfully within the great firewall, Google Play is strictly blocked, along with the rest of Google’s services. Instead there are over 400 Chinese alternative app stores where you upload your product for review.

Baidu’s mobile app store

The major ones are often owned by China’s biggest tech companies. For instance, Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, Vivo, China Mobile, and Oppo run major Android app stores. Of course, every store has its own terms and conditions, as well as specific requirements.

In recent years, some of the top handset manufacturers came together to form an alliance to standardize some of the app development and publishing features between app stores.It’s still early to determine how effective this will be.

Different advertising channels

With so many foreign internet services and apps blocked by the great Chinese “firewall” including Google, Facebook, Instagram, one of the key things that advertisers need to be aware of is that the advertising ecosystem in China is extremely different.

Ad channels and ad networks that have worked well for them in other markets may not necessarily render the same results in the Chinese market. In many cases, they may not even exist in China at all.


One way we can help: Singular houses the largest database of global advertising performance data and has successfully helped marketers to identify and work with the most effective ad channels globally, as well as in China.

(If you would like to speak to one of our in-house client success consultants, we would happy to share our list of top performing ad channels in China.)

Culture, language, and UX


WeChat’s opening screen

Chinese culture, language, governance, and mobile user habits are very different from the rest of the world. While the world’s average smartphone user has around 80 apps on their phone, in China users have over 100 … including and especially WeChat, the top social media app with over 200 million daily active users. WeChat has over a million mini-apps … including payments, services, stores, and just about anything else that run within WeChat.

This unique climate means that simple translation won’t suffice, and more complex redesign is often required.

Working with a local developer and translator is highly recommended, and success in China often means re-inventing your game or app for Chinese preferences and habits. Chinese customers typically shun apps which appear translated, so it’s important to make the app look as if it were made in China.

User monetization

In China, most paid and subscription-based apps don’t generate revenue, as free unofficial versions are readily available. This has led to the majority of companies monetizing apps through ads. Interstitial ads are one of the most popular methods of app monetization, with nearly all of the most prominent local apps implementing them to promote in-app purchases and other relevant products.

Banner ads and video ads are also prevalent. One challenge: as a large and populous country, China has many different dialects, which app publishers have to remember as they localize their apps.

APK fraud

Thanks in part to the proliferation of app stores, APK fraud is a challenge. Scammers grab the source code for your app or game, change it slightly and add their own monetization. Then they simply re-upload it to multiple app stores as their own, and benefit from an ad revenue stream, or in-app purchases.

Overall, the Chinese internet and mobile ecosystem is probably the most complex in the world. But since it is also the biggest in terms of consumer app spending, the rewards for getting it right can be massive.

Getting started

Singular has helped top global advertisers to successfully enter the China market.

We welcome you to reach out to speak to one of our in-house experts on the Chinese market and share more in-depth learnings for entering the market successfully.