Game Monetization Guide Monetizing with In-Game Advertising

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You did it. You created a killer game that people genuinely love to play. Now how do you make it profitable? 

Whether you’ve created a mobile gamedesktop application game, or web-based game, it’s time to start thinking about game monetization.

It would be great if monetizing a game was as simple as slapping a price on every download and watching paid users roll in. But with a gaming market that’s bigger and more complex than ever, there are many potential game monetization strategies to consider, each with their own pros and cons based on your unique game.

For savvy game developers, greater complexity is actually good news because it means more opportunities to earn money from your creation. For developers at nearly every stage, there’s really no better way to monetize your game than with in-game advertising.

Welcome to our complete guide on how game monetization works, where it can succeed, how to make it work for you, and much, much more. 

Let’s get started.

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Game Monetization Basics

When we talk about game monetization, we're referring to all the different ways that developers can generate revenue from their games. The most traditional form of game monetization is through actual game purchases, where players simply pay a set price to download and play a game. Some of you may remember the early days of gaming when you either walked to the store and bought a copy or plunked a quarter into the slot at the arcade. 

Today, there are a lot more ways for game developers to earn revenue. In-app purchases, rewarded video ads, standard display ads, and game sponsorships are all powerful opportunities for monetization.

In-game advertising is one of the most popular game monetization methods because it offers a number of advantages for game developers, advertisers, and the players themselves.

Game publishers can generate revenue from their games without having to charge players a dime, which means fewer barriers to getting audiences into your game’s ecosystem. And because in-game ads are targeted at specific demographics, advertisers can be sure that their ads are reaching the right audience. 

As for players, in-game advertising doesn't interrupt their gaming experience and can even offer a variety of benefits, such as free in-game content.

Increasing Revenue Through In-Game Advertising


In-game advertising can take many different forms, such as banner ads, interstitials, video ads, or even native ads that are fully integrated into the game itself. And because in-game advertising is targeted at specific demographics, advertisers are typically willing to pay more for these types of ads. Game developers can often generate significant revenue from in-game advertising, even incorporating it with other game monetization methods, such as game purchases or in-app purchases.

However, there is a wide spectrum of factors that will determine how much game monetization through ads can really earn you or your business. These range from audience size and geographic location of your audience to the device a player is using, their device software, and other audience data.

Game Monetization Models

To understand where advertising fits into your monetization strategy, let’s zoom out and look at the range of monetization models available to game developers or publishers — including those that don’t traditionally involve advertising.

In-App Purchases (Freemium Model)

The freemium game monetization model is one of the most popular methods for game developers to generate revenue. With this model, game developers make their games available for free, then offer in-app purchases that players can use to unlock additional game content or features. 

Players can test out the game before they decide to make a purchase, which can increase the likelihood that they'll actually do so, and we assure you that every single “microtransaction” is worth fighting for. When implemented correctly, even the smaller $0.99 purchases can add up to significant revenue over time.

One-Time Purchase Model

With the one-time purchase model, game developers charge players a single fee to download and play their game. This tried and true, traditional game monetization method is still used by many game developers today. 

The main advantage of this model is that game developers know exactly how much revenue they'll generate from each game sale. A downside is that some players may be reluctant to pay for a game upfront without being able to try it out first, which can lead to far less game downloads compared to those than use some of the other monetization models.

Subscription Model

The subscription game monetization model is similar to the one-time purchase model, except players pay a recurring fee (usually monthly) to access the game. This model is frequently used for games that require an ongoing subscription in order to play, such as massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.

Ad-Supported Model

With an ad-supported model, game developers make their games available for free and then display ads in the game itself. These ads can take many different forms, such as banner ads, interstitial full-screen ads, rewarded video ads, or native ads that are integrated into the game. 

For games using this monetization model, a player’s choice to remove these ads is typically not an option. However, some game publishers will blend this model with the one-time purchase model noted above, giving players the opportunity to play the game without ads if they pay a premium one-time fee (see below for more on blending monetization models).

Blended Model

One powerful way we help publishers monetize their games is by using rewarded video ads to blend free and subscription-based revenue models. By offering a game for free, then gating premium features behind a rewarded video ad (more on these later), developers allow users to preview the paid elements of their game before deciding to purchase. 

This gives users the opportunity to test out key features and become fans of the game, making them more likely to pay for full access later on.

How to Monetize Games of All Types

Let’s get specific on game monetization based on each unique platform. When it comes to gaming, there are three main platform options: web-based, mobile apps, and desktop apps. Many of the same principles apply to all three, but there are some important distinctions to consider.


Web-Based Games

First and foremost, there are several ways to monetize web-based games with advertising. The most common method is to sell advertising space within the game itself. This can be done by placing banners and/or video ads on game screens or incorporating ads into the gameplay. 

For example, some games display ads when players pause the game or complete a level. Because web-based games are played inside of web browsers, banner ads or muted video ads can also be placed in the browser space outside the game window without disrupting the player’s view of the game.

Another way to monetize web-based games is to offer branded virtual goods or power-ups that can be purchased with real money. These items often provide a competitive advantage over other players and can be used to promote a particular brand or product. 

Finally, some games offer premium memberships that provide access to exclusive content or features not available to free members. Premium memberships usually come with a monthly subscription fee, but they can also be blended with in-game advertising. For example, some premium games offer ad-free gameplay or early access to new levels and content.


Mobile App Games

Mobile app game monetization is always evolving. As the mobile gaming market becomes more competitive, game publishers are constantly looking for new ways to generate revenue. In-app purchases have become the standard method of monetization for mobile games, but there are a number of other techniques that can be used to boost game revenue.

Game monetization with rewarded video ads are a favorite here at Playwire because they put the power in players’ hands. That may seem scary for developers (What if no one chooses to watch the ad?). But by testing the balance between what you’re asking of players and the reward they get in return, you can ensure happy advertisers, due to the strong brand perception that has now been created for users, especially if the advertisement is helping them finish a level or advance further on a stuck puzzle, which in turn will lead to happy users, and a happy bottom line for your game.


Desktop Application Games

Desktop app games have traditionally been the “final frontier” when it comes to game monetization. 

Across the gaming industry, desktop apps are considered the trickiest platform to monetize with ads. A few reasons for this are:

  • Most demand partners use approval processes that automatically decline desktop advertising opportunities.
  • Desktop apps don’t have access to tracking methods such as domain names and cookies which track users.
  • Fraud monitoring is a concern even for demand partners that will consider non-web-based platforms.

Considering you can’t even use Google Adsense for a desktop game, taking a DIY approach to monetizing your game is incredibly difficult.

At Playwire, we’ve made a name for ourselves as experts in getting desktop apps approved by demand partners. It’s simply about trust. If you’re going to convince demand partners to look past their automated processes and consider a platform they would normally exclude, they need to know it’s coming from someone they can depend on. 

Over the years we’ve built strong relationships to get our publishers’ desktop applications approved by demand partners, including vigorous education and demonstrations of entire gameplay and user experience, at a rate rarely seen with other solutions.

Once you overcome that barrier, you can monetize desktop games in many of the same ways you might monetize web-based or mobile games. Interstitial ads, rewarded video, and immersive in-game advertising are all on the table — and they all have immense potential.

Game Monetization Best Practices

If you want game monetization to work for you, you basically have to do all the things. Here are some critical best practices to know as you begin building your game monetization strategy, from basic design principles to advanced tricks of the trade.


Use Space Creatively

In gaming, visual real estate is tough to come by. Unlike websites, which offer plenty of built-in space for banners and video ads, every game is unique in its design and use of space. That individuality is what makes game development special — but it can make ad creation and placement a challenge.

The best in-game advertising experiences use space creatively to display ads that are both highly visible, which advertisers love, and unobtrusive, which users appreciate. Using load screens and transitional periods are both effective ways to do so. 

Another option we implement with large-scale games is a custom solution that appears in the world of the game itself. Imagine game characters gathered around a pool table with an advertiser’s logo printed on the felt. These types of custom integrations become possible — and scalable — with games that attract large audiences.


Quality Over Quantity

On average, users might spend just a few seconds on a web page before navigating to another page on the site. 

But in web-based games especially, players may spend 45 minutes or more per session during a single visit. That means that game monetization requires a quality-over-quantity approach. 

For example, you might display two ads on a page for thirty minutes as opposed to ten or more ads for just a few seconds each. The quality of those ads — including their design, viewability, placement, and relevance — is absolutely essential.


Embrace A/B Testing

When it comes to ad timing, placement, and design, testing is your friend. Don’t leave anything to chance. Conduct A/B testing that compares factors like how many ads to show per session and for how long. Then refine your ad strategy based on the results. 

At Playwire, we build this kind of testing into the initial integration as well as the ongoing management of your game monetization strategy using our proprietary Revenue Intelligence {RI} model.


Manage Load Speed

Core Web Vitals (if you are in a web environment) are a series of metrics that measure user experience on your website, particularly as it relates to your on-page ads. Understanding your core web vitals can help optimize overall ad load speed and the way your ads load relative to the rest of your content. Ad load speed is vital for game monetization because it directly impacts game playability and the overall user experience. 

If there’s one thing we know about serious gamers, it’s that they won’t spend one minute longer on a game that fails to provide a quality, virtually uninterrupted user experience. For this reason, ad load speed is absolutely vital for game monetization as it directly impacts game playability. 


Don’t Interrupt or Disrupt

Your in-game ads should never feel as though they’re keeping players from the best game experience. Fortunately, games offer plenty of opportunities for you to place ads in natural ‘transitional’ spaces such as loading screens, game lobbies, and menus., These types of in-game spaces offer great opportunities to present ads in a non-disruptive way. 

Not to mention, fully immersive ads can be featured within the world of the game itself. These are not only unobtrusive but can actually enhance the game experience when done right. Take a look at one of an example of just such an experience, from one of our partners:




Reward Players for Unblocking

Gamers are savvy. Many know how to quickly and easily block ads from displaying inside the games they love. So how do you get around those ad blockers? It’s simple. You incentivize players to turn them off themselves.

We’ve seen plenty of successful cases of game developers simply leveling with their players. “If you turn off your ad blocker, we’ll reward you with X, Y, and Z.” You can fill in the blanks with whatever makes sense for your game — additional skins, an improved experience, or even access to exclusive playable content. 

If seeing ads in their game means accessing rewards they really care about, many players will happily turn off their ad blockers.

Another strategy is to clearly articulate that revenue from ads is what makes it possible to fund the game. Some players don’t even realize they are blocking ads and would happily disable these settings to support the growth of their favorite game. Pulling at the heartstrings of players, and making it clear that the game would go under without ad revenue, can incentivize gamers to leave ads in the experience.

Game Monetization Examples

Here are some real-world examples from real Playwire publishers to help get the ideas flowing regarding just how much is possible under the monetization method that is in-game advertising.


Rewarded Video:


Puzzle Mini-Game:


The Top Game Monetization Ad Types

When it comes to in-game advertising, especially in mobile app games, there are two clear winners: interstitial ads and rewarded ads. Here’s what you need to know about both.

Interstitial Ads

Interstitial ads are full-page ads that cover the entire interface of whatever app or web browser is powering the game. These ads are designed to occupy spaces between the primary content screens of your game.

We already mentioned how games naturally offer a lot of these types of ads during transitional periods. Respawns, game lobbies, game endings, loading periods — gamers are comfortable and familiar with interstitial ads appearing in these transitional spaces. 

Interstitial ads should be high-quality and well-targeted, which makes them effective at generating revenue. But as with any advertising strategy, they can be intrusive and disruptive if not properly integrated into the game experience, so use them with care.

In summary, an effective interstitial ad meets four key criteria: high-quality, well-targeted, properly timed, and non-disruptive.

Rewarded Video Ads

It’s not hard to see why we love rewarded ads at Playwire, particularly rewarded video ads. 

Rewarded ads are a type of game monetization strategy that allows players to watch an ad in exchange for in-game rewards. This type of ad is becoming increasingly popular because it doesn't interrupt gameplay and it provides real value to the player in the form of extra lives, exclusive content, access to premium features, or whatever reward best suits a specific game. It’s worth noting that rewarded video ads generally take over the entire screen while playing, which means they’re also technically interstitial ads.

Rewarded video deserves a classification of its own because of the relationship between players and the ads. That relationship means rewarded video ads are particularly effective for preserving user experience. Why? Because they put the power in the players’ hands.

The player decides whether or not to watch the ad, which makes advertising seem less like something that’s ‘happening’ to them and more like a strategic choice they’ve made in order to access a promised reward. This makes them more receptive to the advertisement and less likely to be frustrated with the in-game ad experience.

Bonus: Custom Immersive Ads

There’s another highly effective ad option, but it’s usually only economical for games that reach large audiences. Custom immersive ads don’t appear in the menus or transitional spaces of your game, they appear within the world of the game itself.



A billboard the player passes in the game. A TV playing in the background of a level. A logo featured prominently in a key scene. All of these are opportunities that can be sold to advertisers.

While the initial setup of custom immersive ads can be intensive, the process of updating them with new brands is simple and scalable. It’s as straightforward as swapping out one brand’s asset for another.

As we mentioned above, these types of ads can be very powerful because they go beyond just staying out of the player’s way. These ads actually make the world of the game feel more realistic and richly populated with real-world references. This helps players view featured brands and their advertisements in a more positive light, without interrupting game play.

How to Evaluate Game Monetization Companies

It’s time to pick a game monetization partner. How do you choose? 

Sure, your decision will partly depend on your unique needs. But the best game monetization solutions will be fully customizable to all of those needs and meet this list of essential criteria.


Cross-Platform Capabilities

Find a game monetization network that works with the platform your game is built on. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But we’re not just talking about the basics. The best game monetization companies have mastered a range of ad types for even the toughest platforms to monetize (we’re looking at you, desktop gaming).

Whether it’s mobile app, web-based, or built for desktop apps, Playwire has earned a reputation as the best game monetization company because we excel on every platform. The partner you choose should be able to say the same.

Below are some additional top factors to consider when choosing a game monetization platform.


Quality of Demand

Your platform of choice should offer a high-quality of demand to fill your ad inventory. That includes the competition that their partners offer as well as advertising models (CPA or CPM, etc.)

A partner that sources demand from multiple partners will naturally increase competition for that inventory. You’ll want a healthy balance of competition (many sources) with quality (partners that work with top brands). 

At Playwire, we offer access to the most comprehensive set of demand sources including premium demand driven by relationships with the largest brands in the world through our global Direct Sales team.


Ease of Use

You’re a creative game publisher, not an expert on advertising. You might be passionate about the intricacies of monetization, but you shouldn’t have to be in order to profit from your work.

The best game monetization software should take the burden off your shoulders. It should combine artificial intelligence and human intelligence to create and refine an ad strategy customized to your game, your platform, your audience, and your unique goals.

Playwire’s Revenue Intelligence technology is designed to do exactly that, and there’s nothing else like it currently on the market.


Commitment to Innovation

The gaming industry is anything but stagnant. Innovation is central to what makes gaming so special. From an advertising and monetization standpoint, that means whatever worked last year probably won’t work the same way today.

Find a game monetization platform committed to continuing growth and innovation, not one that settles for offering the same stale monetization strategies regardless of changes in the market and player preferences. 

“Out with the old, in with the revenue.” 


Deep Demand Partner Relationships

Your chosen game monetization company should have demand partner relationships deeper than the Mariana Trench. It’s one of the reasons why smaller, upstart ad tech platforms — while admirable — can’t offer publishers in the gaming space the opportunities they deserve. 

Developing those deep-demand partner relationships takes time and expertise. And those that have built these relationships should be able to provide examples of proven success.

Industry-Leading Experts in Game Monetization

With these options on the table, why is Playwire the most trusted game monetization and ad tech partner? Let’s start with something really simple: we play the games we monetize.

That’s right — when we take on a new publisher, we study (and actually play) the game ourselves. Why? Sure, it’s fun to play video games at work. But more importantly, we recognize that user experience is as precious as gold to publishers. 

Gamers are savvy, tuned-in, and (let’s face it) pretty opinionated. If your ads disrupt or detract from the game experience in any way, they’ll be gone in a cartoonish puff of smoke faster than you can say “in-app purchase.” Not only that, but they’ll actively tell the gaming world to avoid the game you poured your heart and soul into creating.

Besides taking the time to really understand your game and its audience, the team at Playwire recognizes that we win when you win. We make decisions for your long-term monetization that go beyond quick, overly aggressive advertising choices that may offer an initial spike in revenue but will ultimately hurt your long-term audience and revenue growth. 

We’ll never show ads that aren’t appropriate to your audience or stuff ads in places your users don’t want to see them. We recognize that the short-term revenue those ads might generate will pale in comparison to the lost opportunities we could have shared when your excellent game takes off. 

You deserve a partner and platform that pours rocket fuel on your vision because they’re riding to the moon with you. Playwire is your ticket to uncomplicated, proven ad monetization that’s constantly improving and refining every day.

Game monetization isn’t a game to us. Partner with Playwire today.

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