Thought Leadership
Unity Ads on the Prerequisite of Rewarded Video for Mobile App Monetization


Paul Bowen
VP, Global Account Management
Unity Ads



Unity Technologies is most famous for Unity, your game development engine that touches over 770M game players worldwide through your game development partners. Can you share more on your other business unit Unity Ads, and how it interacts with the broader Unity ecosystem?

Unity offers a platform, including a powerful 3D engine, that gives you all the resources and built-in features you need to create, promote and monetize amazing 2d, 3d, VR and AR games and experiences. Unity Ads allows creators who use the Unity platform to monetize their games and experiences. Clients such as Next Games, Halfbrick, and SEGA tap into the power of Unity Ads to monetize their entire player base with rewarded video ads, which are designed to become a natural part of the game that actually enhances your players’ experience. Our monetization offering interacts with the broader Unity platform literally with the flip of a switch. By being natively built into the Unity Engine, all a Unity developer needs to do is turn on Ads and insert a few lines of code. Being coupled along with Unity Analytics, developers can optimize their ads experience by identifying and studying behavioral trends where players are more likely to engage.


What types of ad units does Unity Ads offer – and do you have any benchmarks for average eCPMs developers can earn from these units by genre / geo?

Unity Ads offers video, the highest performing ad format. Our :15 and :30 videos can either be used as a skippable interstitial — for example between levels; or as a non-skippable rewarded video which the user opts in to watch — in exchange for virtual currency, in-game items, extra lives etc. Regarding benchmarks we believe the true measure of success is not eCPM, but instead, the lifetime value (LTV) of the user that is generated from the average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU).


What are some best practices for points in a game to implement rewarded video, interstitials, or just mobile video ads? (e.g. when a game goes to the next level, start screen with Video for Virtual Currency, etc)

If there were a one size fits all answer to the question the entire developer ecosystem would rejoice, but every game is different as must be the approach taken. (When implementing rewarded video into game, many developers’ first instinct is to shoehorn a currency system into their game, but of course there needs to be an existing value to the currency for players to make the choice to engage.)

Firstly, I’d recommend taking a long hard look at your game and truly understand how people play and what keeps them playing; do you make your users wait, make them grind, puzzle them, challenge them and [hopefully] keep them coming back for more. Rewarded video must be part of the core game loop , and feel native otherwise users will not engage with it.

Once you understand what keeps player engaged, you will also see where your players get frustrated most frequently. With the above play style in mind, here are a couple of starting points for implementing rewarded videos:

Wait – If you make your players wait, you have to find a very careful balance. As your players progress, you systematically increase the time they have to wait; make it too long of a wait and you could see retention fall off considerably over time.

To both combat retention and to drive greater engagement with rewarded video you could allow the user to watch a video to reduce wait times, or pay to cut the time down completely; an excellent recent example I have seen is from Tinker Island, a strategic adventure game developed by Tricky Tribe and published by Kongregate. In Tinker Island, you can cut down the recovery time of injured tribe members by watching a rewarded video or pay gems to skip the wait completely.

Video example can be found here

Grind – Making players grind away to collect XP, Coins, or other items needed to play, progress or evolve can be a great way to drive session length; it can leave a user tired or that they have been hard done by. Occasionally you need to make them feel like they are winning, give them a disproportionate advantage; doubling their booty, offering them a sack of cash, or providing them with tools to overcome obstacles.

Nonstop Knight uses this model, and actively gives away random freebies every so often, it can be coins or consumables but all allow users to get passed natural sticking points in the game

Video example can be found here


The mobile app ecosystem has exploded over the last few years, with recent reports stating that over 50,000 new apps are submitted to just the Apple App Store per month. Do you think that this is sustainable, and how do you see the market evolving over the next few years?

It is clear to see that Google Play and the Appstore have reached such scale that visibility is becoming a massive issue. With big boys in the space such as Machine Zone and King buying up attention across the whole industry, it is becoming increasingly costly to buy your way to fame. And, given how crowded the app stores are, it is becoming increasingly hard to be discovered (Hence why Apple is making a play in search this fall).

It isn’t sustainable to have so many new game each month competing for attention. Developers should double down on producing high quality games and ensure they have strong in-game social layers to leverage the power of “word of mouth” and get that all needed visibility in an ever busy vertical.


Are there any benchmarks you can provide as to the amount of hard virtual currency / player life / time a developer should give a user for watching a rewarded video?

We believe that video ads should be designed to become a natural part of your game that actually enhances your players’ experience. We’ve seen numerous examples of how our clients have increased engagement, retained players for longer periods of time, and ultimately extended the player’s lifetime value (LTV), the true metric of success.

As with all metrics, the actual value of a reward varies game by game. I always recommend finding the ideal value through A/B testing. It shows what reward values yield the best results in terms of monetization while balancing IAP revenues.

For a quick and easy calculation, you should take a look at the minimum value of an IAP in this game; if it is $0.99 then would aim for 2-4% of that value i.e. $0.02 – $0.04. This fraction means the reward value is meaningful enough to watch the video but not as easy as performing the IAP.

Many developers have great success capping how many videos a user can watch, this allows them to give away a higher value reward which increases the amount of users watching videos, without increasing the amount of free items they give away.

If your game doesn’t have any IAP then the value consideration is less fiscal and more about keeping the user engaged. For example, you may give a user the chance to respawn upon failure of a level; this increases session length and there is no value loss for the developer.


Any thoughts on playable ad units?

Playable ads have the chance to be a very engaging format, but networks/developers must be careful with this format as it has a larger potential to disrupt the user from the gameplay and make them lose track of why they wanted the reward in the first place.

I see a great potential for developers to use playable ads for their own cross-promotional purposes, effectively creating a separate inventory source for their own games. But, only time will tell if playable ads find a home alongside rewarded video, or as a hybrid format with mini-playable ads used as an end card to rewarded videos.


What do you think are some of the biggest challenges the mobile ad ecosystem faces today?

One the biggest challenges in the mobile ecosystem is to bridge the divide between the wants of the advertiser and the consumer. The retail industry was quick to realise that the consumer is always right and that the consumer always gets what they want (Within reason); yet, advertisers in the mobile space are still keen to spend their money on forced ads.

Advertisers on the cutting edge on the industry who have dived in head first into rewarded video have found that when a user chooses to engage with their content they are much more likely to convert into a valuable customer; respecting a user by fairly compensating them for their time has much more impact on the sentiment towards your brand. I think once the ecosystem is educated of this fact things will step up a gear.


Many sophisticated mobile user acquisition managers are moving beyond the install, to optimize towards post-install events like a user sign-up, or even in-game purchase. Do you think there ever will be a point where networks will be able to charge advertisers on a Cost-per-X, where X is a post-install event?

For now, I think many developers would do well to use post-install as a further validation tool for any changes to the game economy and to better understand the type of paid users that typically provide higher LTV (Lifetime Value); ultimately this will make their buying strategy smarter and give better ROI (Return on investment).

It is hard to see a future where advertisers are only charged for post-install events; a network can improve the relevancy of the ads they show to a user which in turn increases the likeliness a user is to install, but they have very little control over what actions the user performs in game; this really comes down to how the advertiser has built their game economy. I can, however, see a time in the near future where advertisers use a combination model where they pay per-install and post-install.


There is such a glut of ad vendors to either advertise, or monetize with. What are your suggestions for best ways in which a developer can evaluate which of these networks to advertise, or monetize with?

Just like the mobile gaming space, the ecosystem of vendors serving the market is also bloated and fragmented. There are so many similar and overlapping vendors vying for attention and offering vaguely differentiated products, promising the highest ARPDAU, global fill and eCPM rates.

I would always recommend starting from the beginning and follow these principles:

1.     Play games similar to yours, which vendors are they using?

2.     Look on forums and talk to industry contacts, you’ll hear the same names come up again and again.

3.     Look at the tech and see how big is the SDK? What additional permission will your game require to use this specific vendor? Is it stable?

4.     Where are your users based? Ask the vendor if they can service your key market to a high level.


Lastly, what is your take on the future of mobile app monetization?

The future holds a lot of mystery but there will definitely be a shift towards a more consumer centric approach where both advertisers and developers will have to use data and insights to shape their products, drive value for their users and target the right users, with the right messaging, at the right time and in the right place. And with other technologies like VR, it’s only a matter of time advertising evolves into those realms. Imagine the possibilities with VR, for example, where someone could see an “ad” for a pair of shoes and explore in all dimensions, even “try” them on.



Unity Technologies is the creator of Unity, an intuitive and flexible development platform used to make wildly creative and intelligently interactive 3D and 2D content. The “author once, deploy everywhere”​ capability ensures developers can publish to all of the most popular platforms.

Unity Technologies boasts a thriving community of millions of developers including large publishers, indie studios, students and hobbyists. Unity Technologies aggressively re-invests in its award-winning 3D development tools and democratization initiatives, such as the Asset Store digital content marketplace and Union game distribution service, in order to remain at the forefront of innovation.

Unity Technologies is headquartered in San Francisco and has offices in Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Singapore, Sweden, the United Kingdom and elsewhere the United States.

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