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A game’s success isn’t determined only by how innovative or popular it is, but also by how effectively it can financially support its creator(s). As you’re building your game, you’ll want to strongly consider how to make money. Basically, you’ll typically look at three main ways of monetizing your game:

  1. Paid Download/Pay to Play – Players pay to download your game
  2. Free – Users play your game completely free, and you make money solely through ads
  3. In App Purchases (IAP) – Players pay for content or upgrades inside your game

Besides the obvious Paid Download and IAP, how else could your game make money? The vast majority of the time, by showing ads. Free games that show ads in a smart way can often make more money than paid games, and they’re much more plentiful – Gartner estimates that 94.5% of all app downloads will be free by 2017. And with a recent study predicting mobile advertising revenue to top $25.8 billion in 2015 – there’re plenty of opportunities for you to cash in.

If you’re considering putting ads into your free or IAP game, it’s important that you evaluate your player landscape. Which percentage of your players are going to pay you money directly and which will never pay you? The vast majority of your users (97.8% according to a Swrve study) will NEVER give you a dime. Advertising allows you to monetize these players, your non-paying user base.


When showing ads, every time an ad is shown inside your game you’ll make money – essentially you’re paid for impressions. You’ve probably see the term “eCPM” floating around, and this just means Effective Cost Per Mille (thousand views). Basically, it describes how much you’ll get paid for every 1,000 views (impressions) the ads get inside your game.

The first thing you’ll have to do is to look for a great ad network to partner with (like Unity Ads). Ad networks serve up the ads that you show inside your game and pay you – just integrate their SDK into your game and you’re set. In a future blog post we’ll discuss different ways you can implement ads in your game to maximize your game’s return.

After integrating the ad network, you should always look closely at its fill rate – the percentage of times an ad network successfully provides your player with an ad when one is requested. The higher the network’s fill rate, the less money you’re leaving on the table, because an ad will always be shown when one is requested by your players.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on your CTR (Click Through Rate). This is the percentage of all your players who clicked on an ad versus all of your players who saw the ad. The more relevant an ad is to your user base, the more people will click on it, and the more money you’ll end up making. So always be careful to work with an ad network that shows the right sort of ads for your audience.

Next up: Different types of ads and how you can best use them in your game.

19 replies on “Showing ads in your game to make money”

Do i need a google play store project or a google developper account for monetization in UnityAds or it will work fine in APK distrubited games?

Is it possible to dynamically load in ads based on billboards in the game? for example a billboard at the side of a freeway?

Before you game publishers get into a tizzy imagining all those 97.8% of the players spending hours playing your games for free, 95% of them likely haven’t spent more than 15 minutes cumulatively each playing your game.

What is clear from the blog entry though is if you don’t sell your game up front, and your game isn’t 100% free, (as in no ads or IAP – some games do exist like that) then IAP or not, you should use ads to monetize.

“The vast majority of your users (97.8% according to a Swrve study) will NEVER give you a dime.”

Can you provide a link to that study?

But would it really be worth anything anyway ?

A company that makes money by running in-app marketing campaigns produces a study that tells you that you should use in-app marketing. It’s not as if they are particularly impartial.

I suspect the quote comes from ‘The Swrve Monetization Report ‘

“In this special report we’re sharing the results of our unique research into the metrics behind mobile games. Based on extensive analysis from our own stack” – again that doesn’t sound impartial ….

I think I found a copy of the same report that you mentioned. It may not have been from the same month as above though. I was looking for the source of the claim to see if it had any merit. The statement above seems pretty bleak, and skewed to a sample of their own clients.

It seems the only way to make stable money from Unity Ads is if your game has hundreds of thousands of players who all watch and click on ads. If you don’t have that, you make incredibly low amounts of money.

All my revenue is from ads now. A few years ago the (iOS) app business started to shift and I stopped making money with paid installs. In 2013 I made half of what I did in 2012. In 2014 I made half of what I did in 2013. The mobile app business is very hard now. My 2015 grasp at survival was to switch my development to Unity to make it easier to deploy to different platforms. The tradeoff is the learning curve to ramp up development and port my games over. It’s already February. :(

But Cabskee, I’m not sure I understand your logic. If you don’t have 1000’s of players willing to download and play your app for free you won’t have 10 who are willing to pay .99 cents for it. Generally I see between 50 and 250 times more downloads when my app is free than when it’s paid. Sometimes switching my app from paid to free has gotten me 40-50k downloads in a weekend. But that does require some smarts in the app to know whether or not to display ads based on if it was obtained freely or paid.

The math isn’t simple though. Because with paid users you get that .99 or 1.99 all at once. With ad supported users you get paid over time and a single user can theoretically provide on going revenue. The reality is that free users don’t play as often is paid users. In my experience the likelihood that a user will remain a DAU drops over time. Probably on something like a time^2 basis (I haven’t done the math but just looking at how my DAU changes over time).

So.. if you can get 10 paid users a day, after the 30% distribution fee that’s $7. If the app is free you might get more like 1000 downloads. If the eCPM is $5 that equates to $5 – the first day. After that it depends on how fun your game is. If users can’t put it down that might be another $5 the next day for those same users. If not some % of users will stop playing each day. So depending on the game it’s more likely to be $2 the next day and $1 the day after that.

But it is tricky. Ads are very psychological also. And people can completely reject a game and give you bad reviews if it has too many ads. Conversely if you don’t have enough ads then you’re not going to get as much revenue.

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