10 Mobile Game Marketing Trends For 2016

by Justin Carroll

Want to stay ahead of the curve on what’s hot in mobile game marketing? In countdown fashion, these are my top 10 mobile game marketing trends for 2016.

2016: 10 Game Marketing Trends

The mobile games market is increasingly saturated, marketplace visibility continues to drop, user acquisition cost continues to rise, and we’re still seeing a bit of an exodus in pursuit of greener grass, or PC games.

Although the video games industry has its nay-sayers when it comes to mobile, all projections point way up (thanks, China).

Clearly, mobile games are the future.

And we’re beginning to see the rise of a mid-level independent developer, something of a unicorn in years past, something that signifies a maturing market.

That said, if you’re in it for the long haul, here’s my top 10 mobile game marketing trends to consider for next year…

10. Subscription Monetization Model, Or “Netflixication”

I’m a little bit ahead of the game on this, but I think we’re going to see at least one or two major mobile game developers advocating for this (and bundling) in 2016.

On a large scale, Amazon already beat them to it. And everyone’s watching.

Amazon Underground

The newly unveiled Amazon Underground.

But it won’t take long for the biggest developers to get jealous.

If you’re Nintendo, King or Blizzard, why stand among the crowd when you’re the band people came to see?

We just need one of the big two to buckle under pressure and pull the trigger.

9. Marketing Automation

We’ve been hearing this buzzword for awhile now, but it’s always a lot of theory and little practice.

However, we’re starting to see feature-rich automation software take rise.

Consider Drip, an email marketing tool that does everything all the others do, expect it automates the vast majority of it for you.

It’s kind of a no-brainer, the less you do, the more time and money you have for other marketing tasks.

And to automate tasks between those apps? IFTTT.

8. Websites As Selling Tools

Websites died, and came back from the dead. Except instead of zombies, they’re salespeople.

Websites used to be all about the glitz and glamour, but mobile game developers are finally figuring out a great user experience sells more games.

Consider Supercell’s website for Clash of Clans.

It’s just a landing page, and that’s a good thing.

Custom Web design and development is expensive.

What used to cost upwards of $50,000 can now be obtained at the click of a button for $8 a month from Squarespace, WordPress.com or LeadPages.

Less fireballs jumping out of the screen, more traffic analysis and conversion rate optimization.

7. Brand Positioning

I said it before, and I’ll say it again…

The mobile games market is increasingly saturated, oversaturated if you will.

Go look at top 10 paid mobiles games in the App Store and Google Play.

You’ll see that most of them are a certain type of company known for a certain type of game.

And I’m seeing a lot of other developers follow suit.

In other words, mobile game developers will stop trying to be every game to every player. Instead, they’ll position their brand (or company) to be the best FPS or match-three candy-themed games on mobile.

Not having a position will become the fastest way to win the race to the bottom.

6. Permission Marketing

It’ll be 17 years since Seth Godin published his ground-breaking book on this subject in 1999.

Why offer people services they don't want?

The almighty Seth Godin.

Talk about being ahead of your time.

Anyway, the big idea is reciprocal relationships in marketing, providing your potential players value in exchange for the opportunity to ask for their money.

I call this giving before asking.

For example, an email newsletter opt-in that gives potential players a free PDF comic book in exchange for their email address.

Why will mobile game developers everyone finally listen to Seth?

Ad-blocking.

You give them value, you get permission to market to them.

Permission marketing.

5. Video Display Advertising

There’s no way around it, paid advertising is a huge mobile game marketing tactic. But it’s also a numbers game.

And at 0.06%, click through rates (CTR) are depressing to say the least.

However, analytics prove the best of the worst is video.

We’ll continue to see this trend rise, mobile game developers will invest even more money in video next year.

In trying to say something positive, I think homegrown native video advertising can be very lucrative for the average mobile game.

But let’s not forget, what goes up…

4. CPE Mobile Ad Networks

The newest trend in mobile ad networks is a turn away from cost per install (CPI) in favor of cost per engagement (CPE) or retention.

Long story short, installs don’t equate high quality players.

Go figure.

But engagement and retention do.

At best we’ll see mobile ad networks release new features to tackle this problem and restore the confidence of paying customers.

At worst, we’re going to see wrapper networks designed to maximize profit by eating the souls of games.

3. Phased Soft Launches

At first it was just launch. Then it was a soft launch and a real launch. Now we’re seeing several soft launch phases.

That escalated quickly.

It’s an issue of the combination of regions, devices-OS combination, device fragmentation and genre.

Launching hasn’t traditionally been viewed as marketing, but it very much is.

Developers will start adopting launch strategy as a real mobile game marketing task even if it’s not identified as such within the company.

2. Virtual Reality Games

Even if you live under a rock you’ve heard that virtual reality games and augmented reality have made (another) comeback.

This time, I think they’re here to stay.

But I also think they’ll stay niche.

Forever.

Hollywood's representation of VR in the movie, Lanwmower Man.

Hollywood’s representation of VR in the movie, Lanwmower Man.

The reality is (pun intended), we live in a time where the technology can actually produce what we dreamed about in the 80’s.

Or, technology can now solve the puke factor.

In all seriousness, this is a big deal as the entire video game industry rallies around this, not just mobile.

1. Long Term Marketing Strategies

The number one trend I’m seeing in mobile game marketing is a turn towards long term marketing tactics and techniques that seek to build an audience and attract players, and away from short term tactics such as paid advertising.

Or simply doing nothing.

In other words, mobile game developers are getting serious about being a Blizzard, and not so much a Flappy Bird.

Although paid advertising such as mobile ad networks have their claws in deep, we’ll begin to start seeing its downfall as the only way to sell or monetize mobile games.

Conclusion

If you haven’t already caught the trend of these trends, it’s that the mobile games industry is maturing.

Dare I say settling down.

It’s finding its groove in traditional business because there’s no gimmicks left.

The most successful mobile game developers in 2016 will be the ones who understand they probably won’t be Minecraft, that they can’t just build it and rely on the game development community to push it viral.

It will also be those who understand marketing means something more than publishing a game and playing catch up with advertising.

The most successful mobile game developers in 2016 will take their businesses as serious as the top 10 developers always did, those with a long term mobile game marketing strategy to sustain them despite any mirages of overnight success.

What mobile game marketing trends do you think we’ll see in 2016? Post your thoughts in the comments below!