Thought Leadership
Machinations of a Mobile Monetization Maestro


Adam Schroeder
Co-Founder & Head of Mobile Monetization

Adam Schroeder co-founded FGL along with Chris Hughes. FGL has grown into a thriving marketplace and community which represents over 36,000 game developers, and over 8,000 companies interested in getting access to their content. Today, FGL is a team of 26 people, supporting all technologies.


Being a partner of indie game developers that helps them find the right publisher and monetization solutions, what would you say are some of the biggest challenges in mobile monetization today?

The biggest challenge in mobile monetization today is generating revenue from free content. Everyone immediately thinks of in-app purchases but it’s difficult to build a game that has enough engagement to convince people to make a purchase. Even if you do have a thriving in-app economy it’s likely that less than 5% of your players are actually paying. Generating revenue from the non-payers is the key and particular for Indie content which doesn’t usually have the mechanic for driving significant in-app purchases.


What are some tactics you use when thinking about monetization, and, is there a specific way you segment users when doing so? 

Most of the games we work with don’t have any in-app purchases so there isn’t a user segmentation. For the titles with successful in-app economies, we do stop showing ads to paying users. The paying users will still get access to rewarded videos that are sponsored by brands.


There are quite a few monetization options out there, what are some ways in which you discover new monetization partners, and how do you go about testing their efficacy?

We try 5-6 new monetization partners each month. They are tested out in a game or two mixed in with the existing leading partners. This way we can compare them against what is working now with the same users and ad placements. Without that type of a/b testing its difficult to gauge the performance against the normal variances in eCPM across titles.


Do you have some general eCPMs you’ve seen by genre / country / ad format, that you can share with our audience?

Currently 80% of our audience is from the US so that is what we focus on. For static interstitials we see $5-$10 CPM, video interstitials are $8-$15 and rewarded video is $15-$40 eCPM.


Other than eCPMs, what are some other key metrics you look for when evaluating monetization partners, and why?

By far revenue is the most important but other factors to consider are the user experience and the permissions needed.

The landscape is tricky and it’s easy for someone inexperienced to make decisions that hurt the bottom line. One very important thing to watch out for is don’t focus only on the CPM that ad companies claim. Unless they fill near 100% its very difficult to compare them against other vendors.

Here is an example to illustrate the point.

Your game has 20,000 impressions per day.

25% are from high value users (Tier 1 countries, etc.)

75% are from low value users

This breaks down into 5000 high value impressions and 15000 low ones.

Your current network fills them all with an average CPM of $5

20,000 x $5 = $100/day

Now you try network B who promises $10 CPM. You replace your current network. Look at your dashboard the next day and see:

5000 impressions x $10 = $50/day

Hopefully you notice the lower impressions but it can be hard if your traffic is fluctuating or the update to your app is propagating slowly to existing users. You might simply be smiling and happy at a $10 CPM and dreaming of all money you will make once you get back to 20,000 impressions.

If you do notice they are lower and contact your rep. He says:

“Oh, yea we only take the inventory that we think will be worth that $10 CPM. You can send the rest of your inventory to your other network. Since you had $5 CPM before you are making more money letting us go first.”

That makes sense. So you setup your own little waterfall with the new network on the top. Whenever they don’t show an ad you show your old network. Now you check your dashboard and see

15,000 x $2 CPM = $30/day

Now you are making $80/day… why did the CPM from your old network drop so much?

The reason is that your old network actually did a better job of monetizing those high value impressions than the new one but it was all blended into a single rate.

In this example they are paying:

$14 CPM x 5,000 high value impressions = $70/day

$2 CPM x 15,000 low value impressions = $30/day

Together you are making $100/day, or said another way you are getting $5 CPM x 20,000 impressions.

This is all pretty clear when shown in this much detail but its all a dynamic system with the inputs changing every day. Even with a lot of logging and looking carefully it’s not always easy to understand what is going on. It’s like an onion, every time you figure something else out you just realize there is another deeper layer you don’t yet understand.


For existing monetization partners, what are some tactics you use to maximize yield?

We have setup multiple waterfalls with different networks at the top. Typically we have a primary waterfall with the leading providers that gets 75-80% of the impressions and then secondary waterfalls that each get 5-10% of the remaining impressions. The secondary waterfalls are there to give the non-leading networks a short at the first tier inventory so if they still have a chance to perform better. Without this approach the other networks will never get a chance to show what they can do. A network in the 3rd position never gets the top tier inventory.


Are there any counter-intuitive data-driven insights you can share, from managing monetization solutions across such a wide variety of mobile games?

One interesting thing we have seen in our network is that games with low engagement have higher eCPM’s when running performance based ads. This makes sense when you think about it since a player is more open to trying out what is advertised vs. wanting to quickly dismiss the ad and get back into the game they are loving.

This isn’t counter-intuitive but still worth noting. The type of ads shown in game has a big impact on the conversion. Most of our current demographic is housewives playing hidden object and other casual games. When a big campaign is launched targeting this demographic we see big jumps in our eCPMs. Agent Alice was the most recent example of this where our average eCPM whent from $5-6 to $10-$12. The bump was across most of our network: all of them got access to that app campaign and it converted very well within our network.


Having worked with a wide variety of indie game developers, what would you say is the largest frustration you hear about mobile monetization?

The extreme amount of effort to integrate with a vendor combined with 100s of options available. It’s tough to decide which system to use and the integration time is usually 3-4 hours on the low end and sometimes taking 1-2 days if something doesn’t go as planned. Then once you have finally got the SDK working it might not even perform well. Most of SDK’s we try are not competitive vs. what we are already using. When we do find a new leader it doesn’t stay that way. In many cases, the networks that were leading the pack a few months ago are not the leaders today.

Every SDK integration is a waste of time… except the ones that aren’t.


Lastly, what is your vision for the future of mobile monetization, and how ideally it should work?

Ideally the developer would only need to worry about the mechanics and strategy of the monetization and not which of the 100s of the vendors to use to fill the placements they created. Mediation systems like Fyber and Mopub try to solve for interstitial and reward ad placements but they don’t always have the leading demand sources. At FGL we ran into the SDK management/fatigue issue all the time with our 1500 catalog of apps that we manage.  We built a tool internally to help us manage that and it worked so well we are now launching it as a product. With Enhance™ you can integrate a single universal SDK to get access to all of the 3rd party SDK’s hooked into Enhance™ both now and in the future. We even have a suite of SDK’s that can add value to your app without needing ANY coding or integration.



FGL is the largest broker of indie games in the world. We have helped indie game developers make over $20,000,000 by assisting with finding publishers, distributing games to various mobile and web marketplaces, and monetizing games through our various services such as ADsorb – an ad mediation platform for games.

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