Mobile Game Monetization: 6 proven ways to earn money

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According to the latest counts, more than 2.5 billion people on the planet play video games, and 95% of this number use mobile devices for entertainment. Therefore, the pace of mobile development is accelerating, and the number of entertainment applications is increasing. However, simply developing a game and releasing it will not be enough to generate profit, thus mobile game monetization plays an extremely important part in any strategic plan for a budding developer.

First and foremost, you need to ensure that the purchases are attractive to the customer himself. He must understand why he is paying money and what he will get for it. Quality monetization of the game is needed, without it you are unlikely to achieve good results. Next, we will discuss how the monetization of games occurs, and consider the most successful ways to earn from them.

Mobile Game Monetization

Game Monetization: 6 Top Models

Monetizing mobile games is definitely a topic worth spending time on. First, decide on the model you will use to generate income.

There are six main options that developers use:

  • Premium. There is no monetization in the games here, but you get money immediately, as the player must purchase the application. From the start, the user has full functionality, and further support of the entertainment is provided for free.
  • Freemium. This is a variation of the conditionally free model, where access to content is limited. For example, you can unlock secondary levels for money or not allow free progression through the storyline.
  • Free-to-Play. Usually, such a model is used for monetizing games with basic functionality. To speed up the gameplay or gain an advantage, the user needs to pay extra. However, they have the choice — to pay or not — so you need to nudge them towards a beneficial decision.
  • Subscription. A variation of the Premium concept that gives access to the entire gaming world, provided that there is monthly or annual payment. There is no one-time calculation here, but interest in the game must be maintained by releasing updates and presenting new features. By the way, subscription often occurs in the monetization of flash game sites, where users get access to all content without restrictions.
  • Advertising. Indie studios, which lack budgets for advertising campaigns and creating AAA masterpieces, typically use internal advertising. These can be banners and additional features unlocked after watching a video.
  • Donations. This is the domain of true independent studios that make games for fun and do not really earn from them. Profits can only come from voluntary contributions (like Wikipedia), but sometimes they exceed the income from other monetization methods.

So, you should consider which model will be best for your game and whether users will bite. Simply copying the work of your competitors or top developments is not advisable. Usually, choosing a model is an individual task — monetizing mobile games requires a tailored approach. Below, we will examine specific monetization methods in detail and provide advice on their application.

The Most Effective Types of Mobile Game Monetization

We previously looked at thematic groups that combine several types of earnings. There are about 60 in total. With a skilled approach, you can combine several methods of earning in one game.

In-game Purchases

Free-to-play monetization, namely the model with purchases within the game, is one of the most popular mechanics.

The monetization of online games follows this scheme: you offer a basic game without charge and additional fees, but introduce special content. These can be items or boosters that offer an advantage, and in titles with social elements, skins are very popular. Thus, Free-to-Play games can be monetized through:

  • Special currency. The essence is simple — you give players regular game money and an additional currency for purchasing premium items. Wanting to gain an advantage, users will buy bonuses and spend them. However, we recommend providing the opportunity to earn them in small amounts — this will increase player loyalty.
  • Consumables. Monetization in mobile games often involves consumable items. For example, in shooters, you can introduce paid grenades and accelerators, and in casual games, special assistants and instant building functions.
  • Seasonal Items. Add themed holiday items to your assortment and set a countdown timer, after which the offers will disappear. The desire to stand out works wonders, and this is true in games as well.
  • Random Rewards. The opportunity to win a special reward attracts players, especially with the availability of free tries. There’s an element of chance, and you can always slightly adjust the algorithms to not spoil the users too much.
  • Extra Lives. Along with additional moves, they will be a treasure trove of in-game purchases. Not every participant will want to struggle for hours on the same level, preferring to pay the developers and ensure passage.

Among other ways to implement in-game purchases, we note speeding up leveling, special skills, and increasing rewards. A good approach, which makes the mobile game monetization of more interesting, is the “offer wall”, which will be displayed in certain situations.

Advertising in Mobile Games

Advertising in Mobile Games

This is a more straightforward method of earning — you place advertisements within the game, and you get paid for views and clicks. The team doesn’t need to worry, as all actions and issues are handled by third-party services. Monetization of flash game sites often uses this type of earning, and there are several types in mobile games:

  • Banners. A small panel that annoys players with accidental clicks. Not very necessary in network action games, but works well in puzzles and arcades. If you need full screen visibility, this is not the best method for generating profit.
  • Full-Screen Ads. During pauses or specific game events, advertising covers the whole screen. The user must skip the video or close the image to continue playing, which means that the chance of viewing increases.
  • Exit Ads. The least intrusive version of advertising, which does not stress the users. After all, they are already exiting the program and will only be pleased if they see something useful or interesting.

The advertising market is especially popular among independent developers, who make it their primary source of income. However, it is not uncommon to find games where several types of advertising are mixed together — this should not be done.



Mobile Game Monetization in this variant is undervalued but requires caution. Profit in partnerships comes quickly, often even as an advance before release. Surprisingly, there are quite a few methods of earning like this:

  • Promotional Games. Such applications are created to promote a specific brand, and the developer’s profit is ensured by a fee from the customer, not by retail sales of the game. Such advertising has existed since the times of console eight-bit entertainments, when companies paid for titles about their characters.
  • Advertising Content. These are additional in-game items that are branded by the sponsor and given to the player for free. Profit comes from the company, which gains from the use of its name and products.
  • Partner Offers. You can issue players coupons for discounts in other applications, and have your own cut from each deal. It’s nice that cooperation is possible both with offline and online brands, and the offer can even be disguised as a contest or bonus giveaway.

Additionally, you can earn from games by selling licensing rights for their use (or offering a temporary lease), adding titles to bundle packs with other developments, and also by attracting investors — they will require a return, but will provide the money needed for everything.

Paid Distribution

Paid Distribution

Describing the types of mobile game monetization above, we briefly mentioned the Premium earning mechanic, and now we will look at it in more detail. First of all, consider the old-fashioned sale of the entire game in full. Prepare a good description, quality screenshots, and test the game — then the sales will be effective. Among other options for such earnings:

  • Gaming Portals. Unlike computer games, you cannot sell mobile games through a website. However, it is entirely possible to embed a link to specialized entertainment portals and transfer customers to the mobile store to close the deal.
  • Ad Removal. This is essentially a game with earnings through advertising, which can be removed forever by paying. The plus for the user is clear — they have tried the game and assessed its advantages before purchasing, and the developer quickly gets their money.
  • Premium Version. Upon payment, the buyer unlocks additional game features, such as special levels or abilities. Often, the premium aspect involves the external appearance of the character or the addition of secondary functions.
  • Additional Content. Considering a long-term and multi-tiered project, you can connect monetization to new narrative chapters and content. Then the user can buy DLC, improving the gaming experience.
  • Subscription. This method is relevant for AAA-class games or those with serious retention, as only then will customers be set up for long-term cooperation. Quite often, the subscription only pertains to additional content and privileges, while basic capabilities are provided for free (as in League of Legends).

If talking about less common models of paid distribution, among them will definitely be selling the game in parts and implementing the source code. By the way, monetization of Unity games often occurs according to the last scheme. Another attractive option is pre-ordering, which can also serve as crowdfunding for development funding.

Online Gaming

An online game is an especially effective source of profit, especially now, when hundreds of thousands of gamers prefer to spend time in online battles. Engagement in the game process prepares them for upcoming expenses, and you can offer the following options:

  • Gifts. This feature revolves around the social component and friendship. Develop the ability for users to give and receive gifts. Be assured — this will be a popular feature in teams.
  • Trading. The ability to transfer in-game items to each other will allow the formation of a game market. Users will be more willing to buy items for real money.

Also, within the online game, you can implement contests and betting to encourage user spending. It wouldn’t hurt to integrate the game into social networks, of course, if the concept and mechanics allow it.

Game Monetization on Android and iOS

Game Monetization on Android and iOS

We are considering the two main operating systemsAndroid and iOS, as they have the largest reach among users. Any of the listed monetization strategies in mobile games, including the Premium model, are suitable for both systems. However, the latter is not suitable for all games; use it only if you are confident in the product.

Monetization of f2p (free-to-play) games: what to consider

Beginners, who are unsure of the future popularity of their game, should choose other models. For example, gamers respond well to the Free-to-Play model with the addition of a premium subscription, and advertising, especially banner ads, is better excluded. We also recommend adding a content store, where you can buy additional items and design packs, including skins. But be careful with items that provide a gameplay advantage — this is a direct path to the unpopular Pay-to-Win strategy.

Mobile game monetization methods

In conclusion, or mobile game monetization is not that complex

We have understood what mobile game monetization is and which methods can be used to turn an application into a source of income. Remember, your primary task should be to create a quality product that users will want to play, and only in such a case will profit be a matter of time.


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