TL;DR See what we’re using now.
After you make a great game, it is very crucial that you find a good Ad network(s) that gives you a stable revenue, so you can focus on what you good at — developing game. There’s already a lot of in-depth articles listing each one of them. This article will show you how our experience trying different networks with (biased) opinions on them, and list a few more options that may not be well-known but suitable for indie developers like us.
We have went through 4 stages:
- Using one single Ad network
- Using multiple Ad networks manually
- Using an Ad mediation
- Using a managed Ad service
1. Using one single Ad network
This is the simplest way to do monetization. Just pick one and get the SDK to integrate into the games. Using a single Ad network is sometimes beneficent for big developers, where they can have an exclusive deal with the network with a considerable price. Here’s few ones we’ve tried:
If you’re using Unity for developing your game, Unity Ads is the first option to go. You can simply enable it with few clicks, and it’s also well integrated with its Unity Analytics, so you keep track with the data precisely.
Chartboost comes to the second because it focuses on mobile gaming Ads and probably having the most well-targeted users — the game players. Integration is relatively easy, but of course not as simple as Unity Ads. The web console is very simple to use and not much setup needed too.
Sadly, the giant Google’s Ad network came last here. We found that the integration is slighter harder than the two networks above. Unfortunately, our account gets banned unexpectedly after it went live. We suspected that it’s because we mistakenly pressed ads too much with test devices, or there are players out there did the “invalid actions”. However, we couldn’t find out the reason because we got no response at all from the appeal. Not surprisingly, we were not the only one and a lot of developers is having the same problem. Although we can probably create another account, we decided to move on and dropping it from our games. For indie developers, it is important to note that Google takes this very seriously and you have to pay good attention to its rules. (Or use the Ad services we are going to mention at the end)
2. Using multiple Ad networks manually
The last section we mentioned few networks we tried, and we did use them all in the games. The main problem of using a single network is that the Ad fill-rate can be low for indie games, and you’re putting your bet in one place and have no control of it. Therefore, we built a very simple Ad system that switches to another network if one has no filled Ad, and we control the weight of each network to be used in the back-end. However, this is not recommended for indie developers. It costs time to develop the system and it was like an old-school way and there’s far better and easier ways we are going to talk about in the next sections.
3. Using an Ad mediation
Just like using multiple Ad networks by ourselves, someone out there has already built the great platforms that allow you to use multiple Ad networks — they call Ad mediation. You choose which networks to integrate and the platform will pick the one with the best performance to show to the players.
We started using Heyzp (later acquired by Fyber) because a publisher asked us to. We were pretty surprised that it works very well and boosted our revenue by a lot. The only con for this is that the SDK integration is extremely tedious. We failed in the building process many times because there’s library conflicts or incorrect settings. Every time an SDK needs to be updated, it would be a nightmare. You probably consider mediation only when your game has 100+ daily downloads, so your time spent on the integrations can be meriting. There are the networks we used with Fyber: AppLovin, AdColony, Chartboost, Unity Ads, Tapjoy, Vungle.
Although we never used IronSource, it’s worth to mentioned here because many Australia developers are using it, and it’s one of the top Ad networks. Their document is pretty well organized.
Yes, it’s Google again. Not surprisingly Admob developed as mediation too a few years ago. It seems to be a good option if you’re the Google guy.
4. Using a managed Ad service
If you’re smart and lucky, you probably spend a week getting 5 or 6 Ad networks working in your games with the Ad mediation: from registering accounts for each network, setting up the payments, reading the long integration documents, and finally scratching your head fixing the build errors that most likely happened. That probably worth the effort if your games are having numerous downloads, but sadly that’s not the case for most indie developers. Luckily, there are actually no-brainer solutions in the market and they do all that for you, so you can, again, focus on making the game.
You probably heard of Yodo1 gaming before. They are a publisher published popular games like Crossy Road, Rodeo Stampede and Steppy Pants. They have solid experience in causal game monetization, and they have developed their own Ad service. We were one of their first clients and we were surprised that the SDK integration is very easy. They have already setup 8+ networks in the SDK and well tested without any library collision, and their support team is also very active for solving any problem I encountered in the integration process. I pretty much completed the integration within a day so we can start having revenue in the next day. The eCPM was even doubled from Heyzap we were using. I don’t need to login and monitor each Ad network anymore. They charge 10% of the revenue but I think it’s fair. The only cons here is that you have very less control over things and you have to trust their data (and I do). I really suggest it to any indie developer who wants to start making money.
Our Game No Humanity was a 5-years old game with very limited revenue before we adding MAS, and we had to keep it as a side project and maintained it only when we were free. Putting MAS in bought it back to live with considerable revenue, so we can keep it updated more often.
That’s it! I hope this article can help you decide which Ad network to go and wish you getting some good money from your great games soon.