When you get it right, game apps can be extremely lucrative – although not in the ways you might think. When a game or game suite suits the style of an online business, not only can you introduce your brand to a huge niche group of online gamers, you also get to show off your creativity and willingness to go beyond the basics for your existing and future customers.
Global consumer spending on mobile apps was up 30% in 2020 – reaching US$111 billion in the fourth quarter of last year. Both iOS and Android apps have enjoyed an upward trend; with lockdowns continuing, we can expect that curve to rise. Furthermore, as technology improves the opportunities for brands to create their own online games and associated apps has become a viable and cost-effective marketing strategy for businesses large and small.
Of course, unless your company can create the equivalent of Arena of Valor, Candy Crush Saga, Rise of Kingdoms and Pokémon Go, you can’t expect a high ROI. You will only get returns on an app that is not connected to a website if your offering excites the masses and is a unique experience. Adding an app to accentuate your brand, however, has many advantages.
It is easy to match game apps to your niche. You can include CTAs within each app that encourage your users to visit your website, leave feedback and comments, and join or form appreciative social media groups. As the top marketing strategies of 2021 are a strong social media presence on multiple networks, high authority, and unique, engaging content, creating a branded game app ticks at least two of these crucial boxes.
Who Downloads Gaming Apps?
Why would I want to limit my target market to the 16 – 24 age group?
There’s a huge myth that game apps are only downloaded by younger age groups who do not have the purchasing power of the over 30s. In truth, mobile app users are spread across most age groups; the average age of the mobile gamer is just over 36 years of age. For many business owners, this is a surprising statistic. Even more surprising is the fact that nearly a third of game applications are used by the over-45s niche.
Gender has very little effect, too. Over 46% of gamers are female – and these tend to play slightly more often and for longer periods than males. The myth that young males with very little income are more likely to purchase your branded app is just that – a myth. Chances are, your own phone – whatever your age – has at least a couple of games on it that you turn to when travelling, relaxing, feeling bored or in the mood for a little competition.
How Expensive Is App Development?
You don’t need to invest serious sums into app development – as long as you are happy with using templates. Mobile app builders that do not require the user to have coding knowledge can be found all over the Internet. Select low-code or no-code application development platforms and the majority of the work is done. Bear in mind that many of the lower-priced online app developers charge a percentage of the revenue when you implement their templates. If they charge a higher monthly rate without asking for a percentage, royalties may still be charged via in-app monetization features. While these cut into your app ROI, this visual, fresh and fun channel has the potential to boost a broad range of marketing strategies.
Be prepared to spend at least US$50 per month for each game if you create an app using a template. Lower-priced plans will limit branding capabilities. Most build features include a set or unlimited number of worlds and scenes with or without splash-screen customisation (a priority when linking a game app to your business). Other essential features include app launch on mobile and desktop devices, integration with monetization partners, analytics and in-app purchases. Take your time to read the fine print and compare services. There is no need to spend thousands on a custom app unless you own a multinational company.
Hiring a professional service to develop a unique app means costs run into thousands of dollars. It is not unknown for popular games to have required investments of a quarter of a million US dollars. Most of these are revenue-based and create returns through ads. For example, Candy Crush Saga gives players the opportunity to view ads for free plays and tools. When developing an app to support an existing online business, ad revenue should be very limited. This means a pure app to revenue ROI is low; costs are reimbursed through app-related brand awareness and increased traffic.
Using freelance services offered by individuals may cut costs but be sure to research experience levels and ask for a portfolio of previous work. Agencies that offer turnkey app development packages ask high prices but generally produce a finished product that works well according to individual specifications. Again, portfolios of previous apps should be available to any agency’s potential customers.
How Long Before I Get Results?
With the right game, design, technology and marketing, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start to see a return on your investment within 3 to 6 months. For many budding entrepreneurs, this is too long. And if you are thinking of ROI on app development costs, it is unlikely you are implementing your brand-focused game with the correct intentions.
Your app should be part of a marketing strategy for your existing service or business. It is a traffic provider, a brand advertiser and a source of data. It is a means of existing and potential customer engagement, a platform that informs individuals about your niche topic, a way to get similarly-minded individuals in contact with each other, and an additional but often ignored media channel.
This means branded game app results have the potential to affect all aspects of your business plan. However, you won’t be able to point your finger to one specific monetary source and thank your stars you decided to develop a mobile game.
The first statistic you should bear in mind when thinking about developing an app is that paid apps make up less than 4% of total downloads. Nearly 97% of downloads are comprised of free apps, with or without in-app purchasing. There is very little point in developing a paid app unless you are a known, trusted and popular game brand. Even low-priced apps turn off millions of potential users. In short, your branded app must be free.
Planning Your Game App
Naturally, planning which game to use is central to the success of an application. There’s no point designing a shoot-em ‘up game for Amnesty International unless the goal of your marketing strategy is to get people talking about your brand and you don’t care what they say about it. For most of us, this is not the case.
It takes a creative mind, a game planner and a marketer to come up with a winning combination of design, game plot and in-app branding. For businesses that sell new designs every season, integrating the latest fashion, furniture or decoration into gameplay means regular maintenance and update costs. Dressing a personalised virtual model in the clothes your shop sells is a costly undertaking.
Picking a core feature of your service that remains relatively stable drives development costs down. If you supply computer parts, offering a “build your own computer” app that encourages players to use a mix of cheap to expensive generic parts linked to equivalents offered by your company would greatly minimize maintenance costs. Integrating in-app monthly competitions for best performance-to-cost solutions for office, home and professional gamer, for example, could be hosted on social media and linked to your webshop. Your game planner must not only be thinking of a game that is fun and runs smoothly, he or she must continuously incorporate marketing tactics. The best apps are the result of a close working relationship between designer, developer and marketer.
If you sell pet supplies, an app that tells people who are thinking about getting a dog which breed best fits in with their lifestyle and budget has already been done many times by your competition. However, allowing your users to select high activity, medium activity and low activity breeds and then simulate a week of dog-related duties in an engaging and fun way could give your app the edge. At every stage, your brand needs to be visible – either your company logo or, at minimum, your brand colours.
Marketing Your Game App
You don’t need to research your app market in the same way as you have researched your target audience – the gaming app niche is immense. It is very likely that a well-designed game will be downloaded by people far outside the borders of a company niche. Not only does this expand your potential public, it also brings in data from underanalyzed groups. With gaming apps, you have the opportunity to tap into one of the largest global niches.
To get a slice of that market, you need to invest in every marketing channel. This additional cost is rarely included in app builder packages, except in terms of ads. As ads can be off-putting (just read Google Play and App Store game reviews to see how many people complain about excess advertising), limiting this form of monetization is a good idea – especially when you are not linking your app to a pay per click website.
As a branded app is a marketing strategy, it must link to your online presence in the maximum number of ways. If an app user can’t be directed to your website from core pages, something is wrong. If your app can’t publish high scores or player stats to social media profiles with the click of a button, you are not making use of your app’s marketing powers. Influencers should be playing your game online and telling their followers where to find it. Link partners should be redirecting to both your web pages and your app’s Google Play and App Store page. Again, your app is not a service or a product, it is a marketing channel that supports your true online presence – your website.
While website marketing 101 places SEO and content in pole position, such strategies are slow. The inclusion of a social media presence, partner site backlinks, branded app and influencer support are quicker ways to get signups but no-one should ignore the die-hard search engine optimisation route. Getting your app and website added to review sites will make a difference…as long as the feedback is good, of course.
The quickest way to get traffic is to pay for it. And practically every new business invests in regular paid traffic deliveries from professional traffic providers. All of the best web traffic services will be able to supply targeted human traffic from gaming communities for your app, as well as the target niches that best describe your service, from sports enthusiasts to couch potatoes. By forwarding their own website visitors to your online presence – your website – there is a high chance they will – at minimum – navigate your pages. Should you provide sufficient reason for engagement, this investment will most definitely pay off. When targeting the gaming community, you should have these paid visitors redirected to a landing page that advertises, describes and links to your branded app.
When you buy targeted website traffic from a reputable provider, results are immediate. This makes paid traffic ideal as an early marketing campaign. Ordering 250,000 monthly US visitors from both your target audience and the gaming niche at ultimate Web Traffic costs just over $700 per month.
As gaming communities are higher-converting in terms of signups than other eCommerce groups, even a low conversion rate of 2% would provide 5,000 new app downloads every month. These numbers increase at a steady rate and give slower marketing strategies the time they need to catch up. Very few online businesses survive their first months – without paid website traffic, such statistics would be even more uninspiring.
A New Branded App – Small Investment, Broad Return
Cutting corners is usually a prerequisite when it comes to developing a branded app when you’re not one of the big brands; however, app investments bleed returns into every marketing channel.
While it’s tempting to go for the lowest app dev plan, consider your marketing budget first. If you already spend a large percentage of your monthly budget on marketing, why isn’t a proportion of this being released to open up a fresh, exciting, visual and fun channel?
The upfront costs of a new app are not so high when compared to the combined price of continuous fresh content, popular keywords, ads, paid traffic, social media accounts and video footage. At the same time, the excitement a unique game can generate – not to mention its capacity to ensure people know about your brand in a less in-your-face way – adds value to your customers.
Start envisioning what parts of your business could be represented in a fun, competitive way. With this as a starting point, it won’t be long before your business can add this rapidly-expanding channel to its increasingly successful marketing funnel.