How to Earn from Your Mobile Games?

Dec, 2018

- By Game Art & Design Department of ICAT Design and Media College

Business and Monetization Models in Mobile Games


With the increase in usage of smartphones and availability of low-cost internet with high bandwidth, the mobile game industry is witnessing a drastic growth. There are many games being made and released by enthusiasts, hobbyists, and professionals with the help of many tools that eases game production and distribution.

Though there are millions of games available in the app stores, only 10% of these games are commercially successful. This is because of the lack of understanding about monetization methods. Just making a great game will not fetch money if there is no utilization of effective monetization methods.

Here, let’s discuss top business models employed in the monetization of mobile games.



1. In-App Purchases

This is one of the most effective methods in monetization of mobile games. In this, though the games are free to download, the players will be presented with various in-app purchases to enhance the gameplay.


Game: Angry Birds — In-App Store (Image Courtesy:

 The in-app purchases include hints, health, life, level progression, characters, upgrades or virtual game currency. Sometimes, the player can even be asked to pay for blocking advertisements. Such in-app purchases can be done through real money or virtual game currency. This model is highly successful because the player decides whether a particular purchase needs to be done or not, as these items will not affect the original gameplay, but just upgrade the gameplay experience.



2. Advertising

In a broader category, there are two types of advertising in games: In-Game Advertising and Around-Game Advertising.


(A) In-Game Advertising 

(a) Brand Placement: In this model, the products or brands are placed inside the game, as part of the game world. The advertisements are integrated within the story of the game and the player experiences the advertisement as part of the gameplay. This model is very effective when your game and/or company and /or franchise are/is already popular.


Game: Uncharted 3 — Brand Placement (Image Courtesy:

Game: PUBG — Tournament Advertisement (Image Courtesy:

(b) Custom-Branded Games: In this model, games are made for the sole purpose of advertising a particular product/service. Such games are called AdverGames. The gameplay is designed in such a way that the product proves attractive to the player, rather than focusing on the game experience.


Game: Krrish 3 — The Game - Advergame (Image Courtesy:



(B) Around-Game Advertising

In this model, advertisements are not part of the game world. These are displayed around a game — at the top or bottom of the screen, or at the start, end or middle of a game. The revenue in this model depends on the impressions (seeing the ad), clicks on ads or the transactions made based on the ad. Some of the most used advertisement methods in this model are:


(a) Based on Ad Placements and Size

  • Banner Ad: This is one of the oldest advertising methods. In this, a banner is positioned at the top or bottom of a game. A simple banner ad is often overlooked or avoided by the players, because of which advertisers are opting for other formats like videos or playable ads.


Game: Tricky — Banner Ad

• Expandable Ad: The expandable ad, as the name suggests, will get expanded when clicked.


Game: Cut the Rope — Expandable Ad

• Native Ad: The native ad does not stand out like a banner ad, but blend with the game background.


Game: Sudoku — Native Ad

  • Interstitial Ad: This ad can be a static graphic or video placed at the breakpoints of a game like progression to the next level. This is a full-screen ad and most of the times the players can dismiss it as per their wish or after waiting for a certain number of seconds. This is one of the most used formats.


Game: Game of War - Fire Age — Interstitial Ad (Image Courtesy:



(b) Based on the Content

  • Static: In this type, an image of an ad is placed in the banner or in full-screen to provide the necessary information to the player. This is often overlooked or closed as this looks plain and uninteresting amongst other interesting ads in video or playable formats. 
  • Video: In this type, videos advertising for products or for other apps as part of cross-promotion are presented. Some videos provide rewards like hints, lives, health, wealth, upgrade, and level progression if the player watches the video.


Game: Hello Stars — Rewarded Video Ad

  • Playable Ad: Such ads are commonly used to promote games. Here the player can experience the gameplay by playing a shorter version of the game. This type of ad creates interest among the players and triggers them to download the game.


3. Freemium / Premium / Paymium Models


(A) Freemium

In this model, games are free to download and it’s free to use the core game elements. Because the game is free, many users download the game and play, and if they don’t like the downloaded game, they may uninstall without worrying about losing money.


Freemium Games in Google Play

Game: PUBG — In-App Store


Game: PUBG — In-App Store

To enhance the game world and gameplay experience, the player can purchase from the in-app stores, which we have already discussed. This Free-to-Play (F2P) feature makes this model the most used business model in the mobile game industry.


(B) Premium

In this, a player needs to pay to download a game. The major disadvantage of this model is that players hesitate to buy a game that they have never played because they doubt if the game would be interesting. So many game production companies have freemium and premium versions of the same game, wherein the premium versions come with extra features like an arcade mode.


Premium Games in Google Play



(C) Paymium

This is a combination of Freemium and Premium. Like Premium, a player needs to pay to download the game and like Freemium, the game will have an in-app store for buying various items like currency, dresses, ammunition, and so on.




Each of the business and monetization model has its own pros and cons. Understanding where to use and when to use each model is the key for the success in monetization. You may need to avoid invasive, intrusive ads, such as the ads that pop in the middle of the screen, pop over content of the screen, or pop in all of a sudden to make the player click without his knowledge — this will annoy the player and create a wrong impression on the game as well as the advertising product.

To understand more about the various models, you need to brainstorm, research, experiment, and analysis. Some formats will work for certain audience, for certain games, for certain duration, or time. You can mix and match the formats to effectively earn money.

By selecting the right business model, you can make your game commercially successful.