Masterclass #1: How to lower your CPI

When it comes to publishing a hyper-casual game, one of the biggest challenges can be meeting the tough benchmarks set by mobile games publishers. CPI, CTR, IPM and retention rates among other metrics are all analysed by publishers to determine the potential success of your game. While some may be optimised and determined through the guidance of the publisher, there is still a lot that developers can do on their own to help improve these metrics. 

In our new Masterclass series, we’ll explore the metrics CPI, ARPDAU and retention rates and identify what developers can do from their side to improve them. In our first instalment, we’ll explore how developers can lower their CPI through engaging game design and effective gameplay videos.

How the CPI metric determines marketability

Cost per install or CPI is a key metric that has acted as a benchmark in mobile game publishing for years. It is calculated from market tests and determines the cost that you’ll pay for each user that installs your game. Understandably, the lower this metric is, the better as it will increase the margin between the cost of acquisition and revenue generated from the game.

Every market test will feature a short gameplay video that aims to grab the attention of users and convince them to install your game. When a great concept is paired with a gameplay video that effectively showcases it, then the CPI results can be amazing. 

Lower your CPI through Game Design

When creating a mobile game, particularly hyper-casual games, great game design is key to enhancing the user’s game experience. Whether its bright colours, animated affirmations, sounds & vibrations, there are a number of game design aspects that developers can utilise in their subsequent gameplay video to help lower their CPI.

  • Eye-Catching Design
    Using eye-catching artwork, characters or backgrounds in levels is an easy win as it will catch audiences’ attention when watching or scrolling through.
  • Visual Reactions & Affirmations
    This may seem like a no brainer, but including visual affirmations and reactions on screen can make a big impact. Consider including emojis or words such as “Awesome!” “Perfect!” whenever a user succeeds or alternatively fails (this will come in handy for scenes in your video, which we’ll get into later!). Candy Crush is the well-known ‘king’ of visual and audio affirmations.
  • Music & Sound Effects
    While not all users will play a game or video with sound, it is another element of your game that can be used to help lower your CPI when included in gameplay videos

Create a video that showcases your game correctly

While your game concept may have potential, it’s ultimately how you present it that can result in a strong CPI. Market tests are a video ad shown to real users and will contain a gameplay video that is generally around 15-30 seconds long. To create an effective gameplay video, it is important to include a number of different elements to ensure you’re receiving the lowest CPI and most accurate reading of it.

Include a Fail Scene

The best way to show a user how to play your game in a short period of time is to include a fail scene. Including a fail scene in the first 5-10 seconds will set an example for the user of what not to do and will have them wanting to continue watching to see a subsequent win. It will also add a sense of difficulty to the game and have them questioning whether or not they could play the game themselves.

Use Eye-Catching Levels & Artwork

In your gameplay video, it’s important to catch the user’s attention. Most market tests are conducted on social media via the Facebook Ad network, so they are likely to appear in someone’s feed, rather than a viewer being forced to watch them as an interstitial. For this reason, best practice is to showcase levels that have eye-catching artwork or backgrounds and colours that are visually appealing.

Include a Callout message or Mission

You may have seen many market test gameplay videos that include a callout banner of some sort: “Save the Girl!”, “Harder than you think”, “I couldn’t reach level 10” and so on. While it may seem like a strange marketing technique, including a statement or callout engages with users and prompts them to view the video and understand the context behind the callout. Furthermore, specific messaging that challenges the user (“No one can reach level 94”) is also another technique that may encourage users to install the game and try for themselves.

Keep it simple!

While we want to grab the attention of users and have them install the game, it’s important to ensure that the overall gameplay is kept simple and uncluttered. This means editing out or cropping the gameplay recording so that the screen is not distracting with unnecessary UI elements or buttons.

CPI is a critical metric that can be the deal-breaker for many publishers when it comes to that first initial market test. To ensure that your market test is doing your concept justice, it is imperative to create an effective gameplay video that showcases your thought-out design and concept. Opt to include eye-catching visuals and artwork in your game that can be later used in your gameplay videos, as well as obvious affirmations or fail scenes that can also be included.

Check back in next week as we dive into our next Masterclass chapter, focusing upon ARPDAU and what you can do as a developer to optimise and increase it.


Three ways that market testing drives success for hyper-casual games

Market testing is a crucial step in mobile game development. Contrary to what some developers may think, it shouldn’t first occur when your game is complete. In fact, market testing should happen early on to give you the best shot at developing a successful game that has the potential to become a hit.

Market testing allows you to gain feedback from real users on your game to determine whether your game has potential and also identify weak points that need improvement. We’re not just referring to CPI or IPM though, as market testing can go far beyond this to help improve aspects from game design to monetization. In this article, we’ll explore rapid market testing and identify three ways in which it can help you to achieve success faster.

Rapid Market Testing Helps Set Direction

Choosing the right hyper-casual concept is easier said than done, with many developers often investing time in an unmarketable game concept. Coda data reveals that only 3% of prototypes actually pass the first marketability test, which is why rapid market testing is so important. 

What sets successful hyper-casual developers apart is that they test early, they test fast, and they test often. They will create their first gameplay video in less than five days and use it to gain an initial snapshot of the market’s reaction. From there, they can decide whether to move or iterate further depending on the metrics (we talk more about this decision in our recent article). 

For every successful game published, a hyper-casual developer will have tested at least 15 prototypes prior. This number doesn’t seem as daunting when we clarify that you don’t actually need to have a fully completed game to conduct an accurate market test. Developers can test the marketability of their game with a simple gameplay video. They can either create their own campaign or look to publishers to create an initial market test using a gameplay video. 

The video above is an example of a recent video from Coda's latest hit game "Brick Builder" which had particularly successful results when used for testing. It's an effective gameplay video that includes the following key features, which we recommend using when creating your own gameplay video for testing. 

  • Include a fail scene in the first 5-10 seconds
  • Include a mission/call out banner
  • Feature an eye-catching background or level
  • Crop out distracting UI elements or parts of the game

Once you create your gameplay video, then it's time for testing! Coda actually gives developers the power to create their own market tests for free through our self-serve testing tool. You simply upload your gameplay video, and a test campaign is created automatically. Ads for your game are served to potential players, and you can view the results directly on the platform. 

A/B Testing Boosts Retention

Another way to conduct market testing is through the use of A/B testing, whereby you test one variable of your game against another. In market testing, it can be used in two different ways:  1. to test marketability and 2. to optimize your game design and KPIs.

A/B testing for preliminary market testing will give you a broader view of the potential success of a game concept or theme. You can A/B test gameplay videos with different levels or background environments. This can save you time later in the process because it will give you a better idea of what to build upon. It's also a good way to let the data do the talking if you're unsure about certain features or design elements in your game. 

In the latter, A/B testing can be used to help shape the overall design of your game and improve retention. Whether it’s testing different colour schemes, the timing of push notifications, different level roadmaps or skins, you can use A/B testing in market tests to pinpoint exactly how users will react to different aspects of your game’s design. You can zero in on how these affect engagement and retention metrics. 

Late Stage Testing Optimises Profits

The third way in which market testing can help you to achieve success is by helping to optimise your monetization strategy.

Publishers before launch will look to ensure that your game can achieve maximum profits without negatively impacting the game experience. Getting the right balance of advertisements vs game time can be tricky, which is why market testing is so valuable.

For these tests, developers integrate real ad networks into their game (or via Coda's SDK) to conduct a market test showing ads to a small group of users. This type of market test allows you to tweak the ad set rules that determine the frequency, density and placements of your ads. From the results, developers can then create a tailored monetization strategy designed to reach a high ARPDAU upon launching.

Traditionally, market tests conducted for monetization will occur later in the publishing process, typically right before launch. It is also not uncommon for publishers to continue these types of tests after the launch to ensure your game is generating optimal revenues.

Whether it’s to assess the potential marketability of your game, improve the overall design or optimise your monetization strategy, it’s imperative for developers to market test their game as soon as possible. By creating a gameplay video of your concept and testing it in market early on will help capture a snapshot of your game’s performance and further improvement opportunities.

Keep an eye out next week as we launch our Masterclass series, diving into best practices and insights into how to create an effective gameplay video for your market testing!


A Guide to Exclusivity in Mobile Game Publishing

Hyper-casual gaming is a lucrative genre of mobile gaming that has attracted a host of new mobile gaming publishers to the industry. Due to the highly competitive landscape, it’s in the interest of both publishers and developers to protect themselves through a publishing agreement.

One of the key aspects of a publishing contract is the condition of exclusiveness. Exclusivity in hyper-casual gaming can come in various forms and it exists to protect the interests of the publisher and developer during the period of publishing. 

Restrictions in any form can sound daunting and can be difficult to navigate for starters. However, once you understand the ecosystem, you’ll know what to look out for when considering an agreement with a publisher.

We’ll explore where exclusivity stands in the current hyper-casual environment and how to protect yourself when moving forward with a contract. Is exclusivity in mobile game publishing as negative as it seems or are there pros to an exclusive agreement between you and a publisher?

What is exclusivity in mobile game publishing?

Exclusivity is a restriction to a particular person, group, or area and it exists in mobile gaming to protect the interests of both parties. Most publishers will have some form of exclusivity in their contracts and it can depend largely upon the studio or developer their working with. 

In hyper-casual gaming, exclusivity can come in a number of different forms. For example, it can state that a developer can only publish with the contracted publisher while the contract is active or for an agreed period of time. It can also include the testing of prototype games, requiring developers to test prototypes with the publisher first or restrict them from testing the game with other publishers for a certain period of time.

There is currently no industry standard for exclusivity agreements and for some publishers they may not even exist at all. In saying this, there can be other agreements such as Non-disclosure Agreements or the Right of First Refusal, and it’s the responsibility of the developer to check and clarify this in their contract. 

The pros and cons of exclusivity agreements

Exclusivity in publishing contracts is nothing new to the developer community. Since they vary widely depending on the publisher, it can be hard to say what is a strict or exploitive agreement as it depends largely on other benefits that the developer may receive.

For example, a publisher may require a developer to publish with only their publishing studio for 12 months. The downside to this may be that it restricts a developer’s ability to make a profit elsewhere with another publisher or another app store. 

In saying this, the publisher may offer a larger revenue or added benefits to compensate. As a result, it really depends on your studio’s objectives and whether or not an exclusivity agreement will prevent you from achieving them in the short or long term. 

What to consider before signing with a publisher

Before signing a publishing contract, take the time to consider your partnership with the publisher and how you see it developing in the months to follow after launch. 

Publishers may have varying exclusivity agreements and it will depend upon how much you are willing to commit to and the current size of your studio. For example, if you predict that you produce a small number of prototypes in the time period of exclusivity, then exclusivity may not be a restriction to you. 

We recommend chatting with your publisher to understand the full extent of exclusivity in the contracts if they operate under a different model (ie. Pay per Prototype as opposed to a complete ban of working with other publishers). 


Developer Debrief: How Clever Turtle achieved global success with Brick Builder

This week, we sat down with the Michele Matriciani, the developer behind Brick Builder, Coda’s latest hit game. Brick Builder is different from our previous titles because it was built on a Coda concept, and it is the first game to come out of the Coda Partner Program.

What is a Coda Concept?

With a comprehensive view of all hyper-casual games in the market, Coda’s technology automatically tags games. It’s then able to consolidate and analyze all market data to detect signals of demand in the market. We use these signals to make predictions and identify concepts that are likely to achieve a CPI below $0.20.

What is the Coda Partner Program?

The Coda Partner Program offers select studios access to the latest hit game concepts. Coda concepts are made available directly on the Coda platform, so that partner studios can start prototyping right away. Our Games team also provides best practices and feedback to make sure developers test and iterate as quickly as possible.

Michele Matriciani was one of the first members of the program and develops under his studio name: Clever Turtle. Read for more on how Michele was able to publish an iOS game for the first time and make it a chart-topping game in 8 different countries.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you started Clever Turtle?

Clever Turtle is really just me and sometimes my girlfriend who helps me with design, game styles and graphics  I studied computer science about 10 years ago, but game development was always just a hobby. About a year ago, I started becoming especially interested in hyper-casual games. It looked like there was a lot of potential in this market, and so I decided to dedicate more time and get more serious about game development. I moved to part-time with my job and created “Clever Turtle”.

Q: What did your game development process look like when you first started?

Initially, I didn’t really research. I would just start building any idea that came to mind. Now, when I look back at those games, I realize that those game ideas weren’t great.

Q: So, how did you start coming up with game ideas after those early days?

I started spending more time brainstorming and thinking about the game idea, probably about 1-2 weeks. I used YouTube to browse hyper-casual games and watch the gameplay of Top Chart games. I would always follow the Top Charts. I usually tried to replicate some of the ideas that I saw or combine different ideas together to come up with something new. 

Michele was able to optimise Brick Builder into the best version possible through the Coda Partner Program

Q: As one of the early adopters of the program, what made you want to join?

I had worked with other publishers, but I wasn’t able to get a game published.  After joining Coda, I started using the Market Intelligence dashboard, which made it a lot easier to analyze games and see which game mechanics were working well. The Market Intelligence dashboard gave me a clearer way to do my research, analyze the market and come up with better game ideas. The Coda Partner Program gives you an even bigger boost by sharing proven concepts. It gives you a better chance to get good test results on your game because it shares ideas based on current trends. So, I can just go and look at the latest good game concepts that Coda has shared and start from there. 

Q: Can you share the process behind Brick Builder’s launch and how you worked with the Coda team?

I actually had started prototyping for this game a while back, just for a couple of hours, and then decided to ditch it. Then, when I saw a similar concept from the Coda Partner Program, I picked it back up and looked at how I could repurpose it.

I spent 5 days on the first prototype. After it got good test results, I started building the levels and the playable iOS version of the game. During the first month, we did a couple retention and then monetization tests. After each test, the Coda team helped me make improvements. They did a great job with market research to constantly find new ways to improve the game.

We then spent some time on game design, adding a shop with new skins and additional prizes, and optimizing the game. Coda provided new 3-D models and graphics to make the game more engaging. I was in contact with the team every day throughout the process. And, of course still in contact now as we continue to work on Brick Builder. I’d like to thank the team for all of their support. 

Brick Builder's popularity has been credited to the stacking mechanic, running gameplay and bonus levels.

Q: What do you think made Brick Builder so successful?

What made this game a success is for sure the stacking mechanic, which was definitely a strong trend. Also, the running gameplay keeps users engaged.

I think that collecting a lot of bricks combined with the ability to build bridges between platforms brings a feeling of satisfaction. The surprise at the end of the levels and the bonus level also helped make it more appealing.

Q. How many games had you prototyped and tested before launching Brick Builder?

I probably tested more than 15 prototypes in the past year since I started.

Q: How do you prototype?

Once I have my idea, I spend no more than 1 week prototyping the first version of my game. I focus on gameplay and create 1-2 levels. I don’t polish the game. I just make sure I can record a good video to test as fast as possible. 

It’s important to focus on what you learn when you fail because you can always find ways to improve. 

Q: What would you recommend to developers who are just getting started with hyper-casual games?

First, don’t give up. At the beginning, it’s hard because you spend time on your games and think they will be very good. But, you generally end up with bad test results, definitely below your expectations. It’s important to focus on what you learn when you fail because you can always find ways to improve. 

I would also suggest that you don’t immediately start prototyping when you come up with an idea. Spend some time making sure your idea is promising. Think it over and try to justify it first. 

Look at Top Chart games, but don’t copy them. Try to think about concepts that could use similar mechanics or elements from those games. Innovate the concept by bringing something new to those game ideas.

We’ll leave you with Michele’s recommendations. As you can see from Michele’s experience, the key is to keep prototyping and testing. Coda Concepts are proven to have a better chance at success, and we are starting to see increasing performance with each new game that our partners submit.

So, if you’d like to make your process more efficient and receive hit game ideas every week, check out the Coda Partner Program.

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Knowing when it’s time to move on from your game

In mobile game development, it’s crucial for game developers to act quickly. Particularly in hyper-casual, you need to be quick to ideate, quick to develop and quick to test. Otherwise you run the risk of spending time on an idea that’s not marketable or having your idea published by a competitor.

For many game developers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of investing time into an unmarketable concept. Coda data reveals that only around 3% of prototypes pass the first initial market test. This is not only indicative of the amount of competition but also may suggest that you are gratuitously investing time in fixing a game when it may be time to move on.  

In this article, we’ll explore what successful hyper-casual game developers have in common, how long they spend prototyping, how many different game ideas they go through for each game they publish, and the key metrics they take into account. 

Acting quick will increase your chance for success

Estimated to generate up to $2.5 billion of revenue annually, hyper-casual is a notoriously lucrative genre of mobile gaming.  However, it requires developers to be incredibly fast to keep up with demand in the market and the competition. As a rule of thumb, the faster you are to test your game idea, the better chance you have at publishing. 

Why is testing your game idea early on so important?

Publishing is all about developing a game that will draw users, and in turn, generate revenue. And, the most effective way to figure out whether your game idea is marketable is to directly test it in the market. The first test is not about the quality or the intricacies of your game; it’s about gauging interest and understanding whether it has the potential to become profitable. Your goal here is to create a very basic gameplay video to make sure you are not wasting time on an unpromising idea.

On average, seasoned developers spend no more than 5 days on their first gameplay video. For larger studios, this may be even quicker in 2-3 days. 

We offer a free, self-serve testing tool in order to make it as easy as possible for developers to test new game ideas and keep testing iterations of their games. 

An aspect to consider that many developers overlook is that hyper-casual game concepts are not marketable forever. There are multiple factors at play here, including trending game mechanics, popular cultural themes, and saturation in the market.  The most popular game concept can become yesterday's news in as little as three to four weeks. So, even if your first marketability test performs really well, you still need to be quick to build and launch. 

When is it time to move on to a new concept?

When deciding whether to improve upon a game or move on to a new concept, your initial test results are your best reference point. There are various benchmarks that publishers look at when determining the potential success of a game 

IPM or Installs per Mille can be an immediate giveaway for whether or not continue working on a game. Coda’s Chief Gaming Officer, Cemal Gunusen, provided more insight, explaining that “if an IPM is not too low [somewhere near 30], then it’s worth iterating and trying another version with different levels, skins or themes. If however, the IPM is below 15, you are best cutting your losses and moving on.”

If an IPM is not too low [somewhere near 30], then it’s worth iterating and trying another version with different levels, skins or themes. If however, the IPM is below 15, you are best cutting your losses and moving on.

Your CPI is another key performance indicator that can tell you whether or not you should invest more time in a game. Your CPI is largely determined by how desirable your game looks from a single gameplay video. On average, game developers should not spend more than 5 days on a gameplay video, with a timeframe of 2-3 days being ideal. If your CPI is close to the publishing benchmark, we recommend trying another iteration of your gameplay video, perhaps in different colourways or themes, to see if you can lower it further. If it is very high above the publishing benchmark, then we recommend moving onto another concept. 

These metrics act to gauge the overall marketability of your game, and should be used as cues as to whether or not to invest more time in a concept. By missing this small window of opportunity to either iterate or move on at the start of the prototyping stage, you not only lose time and resources but you drastically reduce your chances of publishing since competition is so high.

What to do if it’s time to move on

We’ve discussed ways that testing early can help avoid wasting time on an “unmarketable” game idea. However, more often than not (97% of the time), your test results will direct you to move on to a new concept.  In this case, there’s no secret. Your task is to prototype and test again, as quickly as possible. 

Successful developers will create and test around 10-15 games for every one game that they get published. 

While our key piece of advice to developers is to stay focused and not get discouraged, we are working to reduce this ratio through technology and tools that optimize the ideation and testing stage of game development. 

With a comprehensive view of market data, Coda’s AI-powered technology is able to detect signals of demand in the market and make predictions on hit game ideas. We share the latest marketable game concepts with Coda Partners every week in order to boost their chances of publishing. See how you can start receiving access to these concepts.

Last but not least,  there may be ways to  ‘recycle’ or repurpose your game into a trending concept that has greater marketability. If the core of your game is a popular game mechanic, you can look to change the theme or game design so that it resonates more with current trends. Take a look at our HyperCompact Games guide for more detail on these types of hybrid concepts.

It can be hard to let go of a game concept, particularly if it’s a concept you love and have spent countless hours creating. However, if you’re looking to publish hyper-casual games successfully, it’s imperative that you are fast in your development and only invest time in concepts that have a good chance of being published. At Coda we’ve designed our platform and tools to help streamline this process, so that you can test and iterate quickly, while working confidently on games that are more likely to be successful. Learn more about our capabilities and our platform by signing up for free.

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How SDKs streamline your game development process

Whether it’s a menu screen, in-game currency, or the integration of attribution platforms or ad networks - there are numerous processes that are constantly repeated with the creation of every new mobile game game. Seasoned game developers will be all too familiar with the tedious process of manually integrating these, which is why they turn to SDKs.

SDKs are small yet powerful packages of code that allow developers to shave precious hours off their total production time of a game. We asked our expert Games team at Coda to help define the pros of integrating publisher SDKs and the industry SDKs that developers should have integrated in their games.

SDKs are integral to creating a beautiful & functional mobile game

SDK stands for ‘Software Development Kit’ and is essentially a collection of software tools compacted into one easy installable package of coding. The core tools that developers need can be broken down into four categories: Game engine, development aid, advertisement and mobile analytics. 

These building blocks help mobile developers create a beautiful game and ensure that it is functioning properly. However, when it comes to preparing your game for publishing, the integration of individual SDKs can become considerably time consuming. 

For example, before a game is launched by a publisher, developers will need to integrate a long list of different third party platforms relating to the monetization, user acquisition and attribution of their game. If you were to integrate these manually, you’d be expecting to spend at least a day or so for monetisation and another day for attribution alone. Not to mention at least a week to set up all the different remote configs for different ad networks. 

This is when publishers will aim to save both your time (and theirs) by creating their own SDK to package the core platforms into a more lightweight and compact package. 

Publisher SDKs save you time

We all know that if you want to be successful in publishing hyper-casual games, you have to be quick to create, prototype and launch. Therefore, SDKs become even more important to help speed up this overall process.

Certain SDKs, particularly publisher SDKs, aim to include all of the core module integrations in a lightweight package, saving you days of work without increasing the overall size of your game. For example, Coda’s SDK eliminates at least 1-2 days of constant work by providing a number of platforms and ad integrations in a few lines of code (28 lines to be exact!). 

SDKs are not only a great way to help build and monetize your game, but also to collect important information about in-game data and events. Again in the case of the Coda SDK, we run machine learning models on the device in order to understand players and their gameplay behavior. We are able to better personalise the overall game experience for that user without collecting personal data. This is just one example of how publishers can help developers save time by integrating data tools & industry SDKs together into a single SDK.

The most popular Industry SDKs worth including in your game

As mentioned previously, there are typically four main categories of SDKs that appear in mobile games. SDKs can include functions across a number of areas, including:

  • Testing: A/B Testing, Tracking, Remote optimisation, 
  • Client-side and remote notifications, 
  • Store and in-game economies
  • Attribution, monetisation, cross-promotion
  • In-game data management
  • Navigation
  • Inter-service connections

These functions are crucial as they not only help you to create a beautifully designed game, but also a game that is functional with sticky mechanics. So what are the top industry SDKs that are being used? Based on a survey by Mobile Action, the following SDKs were considered the most popular for each category:

While these SDKs are the most popular amongst the four categories to be integrated, when publishing your game it will really depend on the SDKs, ad networks and attribution that your publisher will require you to install. When working with a publisher, ask them if they have their own SDK or if you will have to account for manually integrating each SDK individually. 

Whether you’re creating your first mobile game or you’re a seasoned developer, it’s important to identify the roadmap of your game, it’s capabilities and where SDKs may help you to streamline your processes and save you time overall. More importantly, do your research when choosing to launch with a publisher and understand if they have an existing SDK that will also benefit the overall functionality and performance of your game in the long run. To learn more about publishing with Coda and our SDK capabilities, reach out to us or check out our changelog for the latest up-to-date information..

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An Introduction to Mobile Gaming Ads

When we talk with our game developers we find that they are often very passionate about two things.

  1. Creating new and exciting games
  2. that are played by as many people as possible, potentially generating a significant source of income for them.

Yet for many developers, they really want to focus on the former more than the latter. They prefer to spend time tweaking their game to perfect the design and create seamless addictive game play. Naturally, they are not as interested in marketing, analytics and advertising.

At Coda, we have worked to automate as many of those processes as possible. By allowing developers to spend the majority of their time on what they do best, the industry can expect a higher caliber and broader umbrella of games.

The Coda SDK includes key integrations in a compact & lightweight package

We have developed an SDK that includes everything developers need to bring their game to market. We intend to make creating a successful game as simple as possible for developers. Part of our package is a monetisation solution which has MoPub as the mediation layer and includes access to 15 ad networks including AdMob, Ironsource, Facebook Audience Network, Vungle and Unity plugged in. 

We are convinced that there are significant revenue-generating opportunities for developers. In a survey undertaken before the Covid19 crisis the global mobile gaming market was projected to be worth $174 billion by 2021 (for context global movie box office in 2018 was $41.7 billion). The growth in game play during the crisis, Adjust reported a whopping 75% increase in mobile game downloads globally in Q1 2020, as well as a 47% increase in user session times, could make that figure even higher.

We believe that games should be monetised in a way that not only generates the most income for the developer, but also crucially doesn't detract too much from the gaming experience.

This wasn't always the case. Until about five years ago mobile gaming ad formats tended to be static display formats. This has changed in recent years as new formats, invariably video-based, have been introduced. In some ways the pace of innovation has now slowed. But what we are seeing is a consolidation of the key formats. So which are the key mobile ad formats in mobile gaming? 

Rewarded Ads

Rewarded ads are a clever way of encouraging game players to watch videos. Essentially the game players are incentivised to watch a video and if they do so are gifted extra lives, additional items, increased functionality and so on.

From a developer’s perspective Rewarded ads are often perceived to be an ideal format as while they do interrupt game play, they don't actually take the gamer away from the game. In fact they can work positively for the game developer in increasing loyalty and engagement. They can also highlight the most loyal gamers. A study carried out recently by indie publisher Kongregate found that people who watched an ad in their very first session are 2.5 to 5 times more likely to make subsequent in-app purchases. 

From a gamer’s perspective Rewarded video allows users to control when and how they receive ads. It is arguably a transparent and respectful way to deliver ads which at the same time has clear benefits for the gamer.

Interstitial full screen ads

Interstitial ads have been a feature of gaming for a while. This is when full screen ads are shown. There are some ads that are static, but today many are video-based. Video is the most popular format for online advertising so not surprisingly it features in mobile gaming.The key thing about video ads is their placement. They need to be inserted into a game at the correct and appropriate time. This is especially true as interstitial full screen ads are very popular and are limited to being deployed at the start of the game or at another point such as the end of a level or the end of a game.


Traditional banner ads are a long term staple of games advertising. They remain on the screen within the app’s layout while the user is interacting with an app. They often include a combination of static/animated images and/or text.  

Playable Ads

Playable ads essentially offer gamers a taste of another game invariably with a "try the gameplay,” featured button. Once they have clicked on a button the user has the chance to play a demo version of the game, or specifically a single game play mechanic. Examples include a single basic challenge from a larger puzzle game or a single scene from an interactive storytelling game. Playable ads are often introduced by a brief lead-in video which presents a game demo which typically lasts for a number of seconds and then moves on to a ‘Call to Action’ link. If they like the sample of the game users then they visit the app store (it obviously is well suited to both Apple and iOS platforms) and download the game. 

The jury is still out on Playable ads, and they are not popular with everyone. One tactic, for example, that some ad companies use is to automatically direct the user to the app stores if they don’t click on anything. 

There are however ad networks committed to using them in an ethical way and it will be interesting to see how they develop in the coming years. We use them at Coda to encourage people to play games from our studios.

Ultimately we want game creators to worry about the things that they are good at resolving and leave the rest to us. In saying this, we also encourage developers to gain a base understanding of the in-game advertisements likely to appear in your game. While you may not have to worry about managing monetization, knowing where and how these ads will appear can help you to create a more seamless user experience for the player and in turn have them spend longer time in your game. If you’ve got a quality game concept and would like to see it published with monetization and marketing covered by an expert team at Coda, submit your game today with us on the Coda Platform.


Five Questions Developers Always Ask Coda

If you have landed on this page, you are probably a mobile games developer with big ambitions. You ultimately want to have a hit game that will reward you both creatively and financially.

Well, that’s why we created Coda. We aim to help smaller studios and individual game developers create games that will prove popular and lucrative.

In some ways, the odds are stacked against you. The bigger studios not only have significant amounts of money to spend on perfecting games, they also have the financial muscle to market them effectively.

If you are an indie game developer, you need to be super savvy to compete. That’s where we come in. We can help you to find the right game to create, perfect that game, and ultimately monetise it. We passionately believe in indie developers, and we know that our technology will give them a chance to compete with the big boys.

When indie game developers talk to us, they invariably ask very similar questions. Here are five we get asked all the time.

1. What kind of help can you give me?

From our experience in the hyper-casual industry, the first stage of development is actually the most critical but it also tends to be the biggest barrier. Unless you are strategic at the ideation stage, you are blindly betting. No matter the quality of the game you build, your efforts are largely futile. At the end of the day, you need to build a game that attracts users. 

  • Finding a game idea based on market data
    Our Market Intelligence tool offers a comprehensive, informed view of all of the games that are in the app stores, including trends and top charts. Developers can use the dashboard to easily pinpoint and zero in on games and mechanics that are doing well. 



We take this one step further with our Coda Partner Program. We’ve built the technology to more systematically identify game ideas that have the greatest potential to become a hit game. Each week, we share the latest hit game ideas with our partner studios and developers. This makes it possible for them to direct their efforts on games that increase their chances of publishing. Our goal with the program is to enable talented developers to focus on what they do best -- creating great gameplay. 

  • Testing your game idea for free
    Because hyper-casual is fast and constantly evolving, developers must be quick to prototype and test. In order to make testing more readily available, we have self-serve testing on the platform. Coda’s self-serve testing lets developers directly upload their gameplay video and run their own marketability test. We cover the testing costs and share the results once the test is completed.

2. How do you help produce my game?

Once you have your game idea, we can work with you to ensure that the game you produce is as sticky as possible. Launching a successful mobile game requires multiple integrations, adaptors, and gaming modules. We have developed the Coda SDK, a Unity plugin that handles everything from Attribution and Analytics to Monetization, all in one go. You don’t need to have in-depth knowledge of all the different SDKs. The Coda SDK also delivers a better experience for players by reducing bugs and increasing the quality of your game. Again, we want to take care of as much of the games production process as possible, leaving you to focus on the creative component of the game.

3. Can you help me fund my game?

This isn’t something we do, but we can certainly help. We can introduce you to companies like Fast Forward Games. This is an initiative that aims to bring gaming CEOs, angel investors and VCs together to jump start investment opportunities for developers and studios. They offer their time, expertise, network and experience to help accelerate the funding process for gaming start-ups.

There are other ways of securing funding. Some countries, especially post Covid19, have business development funds which you can use to invest in your games. There are also the crowdfunding options with sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter. If your game has potential, but needs financial backing, we can point you in the right direction.

4. How do you monetise my game?

Many times, we see game developers focused more on their game construction and not on the way they might make money out of it. Securing contracts with lots of ad networks can be time consuming. Coda rationalises this process. We have a simple plug and play monetisation solution which has MoPub as the mediation layer and provides access to 15 ad networks, including AdMob, Ironsource, Facebook Audience Network, Vungle and Unity. We also work with the companies to incorporate all types of in-game advertising, from standard display ads to more integrated deliveries. 

The Coda SDK uses machine learning to ensure that your game is as successful and profitable as possible. By tapping into player activity in real-time, we can determine the best time to serve an ad for each player.  We also advise on which types of ads are the most relevant for your game. Is it just interstitials, or can you insert rewarded ads and how can they help your game become more sticky? We can predict player response and plan to deliver ads when they are most likely to click on them and most likely to continue playing your game. Read more about the technology behind how we optimize and monetize your game in our machine learning Masterclass series. 

5. Can you tell my game is going to be successful?

In short, yes. We will have a very good idea about whether or not your game is going to be a success or not within hours of it hitting the app store, thanks to our advanced machine learning technology. We have developed a Lifetime Value (LTV) model, which enables us to calculate how much a game is likely to make. 

As soon as the game is published on the app store, we closely monitor its performance and quickly gauge its potential.

The prediction is made by a machine learning algorithm called a ‘Random Forest’. It calculates average user playtime and how many ads they will see in that time.  It can then come up with a figure for how much the game will make.

If we see that the potential LTV is going to be high, then it makes sense to use our marketing resources to push players towards that game. We want the machine learning algorithm to suggest that a game will make more than we spend on it. When that is true, we can push that game forward much faster and acquire users more aggressively. You can read more about how the technology works in our Masterclass series. 

Regardless of the size of your studio or skillset, Coda is determined to help you optimise and improve your game development processes. Our tools are designed to help empower developers to give you access to market intelligence and features that would normally only be reserved for larger players in the industry.

So if you have been developing a game, or would like to develop one, and need a partner to take care of the tasks that you are less experienced at, like monetisation and marketing, sign up to the Coda Platform and come and talk to us.

Sign up to the Coda Platform

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What iOS 14 will mean for Hyper-casual Gaming

Last week, Apple announced the release of iOS 14, their latest software update that will be made available to the 1.5 billion iOS devices, coming this September. While the user interface will receive a facelift along with audio and app optimisations, perhaps the most notable change was the announcement of new data protection features for users.

In a bid to protect the privacy of personal user data and provide further transparency into how user data is being collected and used, Apple announced updates to user-tracking permission, location services and recording features. In particular, Limited Ad Tracking or LAT will become more accessible with users to receive automatic permission requests, likely causing opt-out rates for IDFAs (Identifier for Advertisers) to soar. This will undoubtedly have a huge impact upon the ad tech industry and the way in which advertisers can deliver user-targeted ads. 

Since in-game advertising makes up a majority of revenues and targeted ads are a valuable UA strategy, we’ve all started thinking about how this will affect the hyper-casual gaming industry. What can we expect to happen in the months ahead and more importantly, what can mobile game developers do to prepare?

iOS 14 will impact both sides of mobile gaming

Apple’s iOS 14 privacy update has essentially made IDFA irrelevant as advertisers will no longer be able to use them as shortcuts to finding and targeting users with personalised ads. While the ability to hide IDFAs has been available for some time through the LAT in iOS 13, the opt-out option will soon be glaringly obvious as it prompts users with the opening of every new app. As a result, opt-out rates are anticipated to be significantly higher and will undoubtedly have an impact on monetization and user acquisition for mobile gaming.

iOS 14 will make the choice to opt-out of IDFAs glaringly obvious

When it comes to monetization, the new iOS 14 privacy changes could see the Ad Network environment changing drastically. As it stands, several networks such as Facebook deny any request if an IDFA is not attached to it. This means that many networks, larger players such as Facebook and Google included, will have no choice but to adapt to the new changes imposed by Apple. 

As a Monetization expert at Coda, Ozan Daldal predicts changes from both sides: “By not using an established identifier such as an IDFA, brand marketing may slow down significantly. On the other hand, performance marketing should be able to increase its volume as the inventory of the publisher is expected to grow continuously. If this new setup manages to establish itself, lower eCPMs are to be expected.”

“If this new setup manages to establish itself, lower eCPMs are to be expected."

On the other hand, it is very unlikely that the bigger players are going to vanish. Facebook and Google act as dominant channels for user acquisition and currently sit on large piles of purchaser data. That said, it looks like User Acquisition will be impacted negatively with this loss of personal data. Matching users with app events will become a real challenge. And just as non-gaming advertisers will struggle to target users through games, it will also become more difficult for publishers to target users directly to install new games.

As tracking and measuring becomes increasingly complex, we will be looking to MMPs and ad networks, in particular, to introduce new privacy-safe solutions that leverage aggregated data. At Coda, our data science team works on an array of R&D projects to optimize and improve live ops and feed their learnings to our SDK team. We see an opportunity to segment users without tapping into PII but still delivering a more personalized gameplay experience.

Where to from here?

Since iOS 14 is yet to be released, it’s difficult to say with certainty what we can expect to happen in the market and what solutions key players will create. However, there are some things developers can do now before the release of iOS 14 to prepare themselves. 

As a developer, for starters, it’s important that your game is compliant with the latest measures before Apple’s new update kicks in. If your app or integrated SDK isn’t compliant, then you could face challenges in getting your game approved and subsequent delays to launching your game. For example, many developers will need to ensure that they use App Tracking Transparency to request permission to track the user and access the device’s advertising identifier. It’s therefore imperative to check your current game roadmap and plan accordingly. 

Another factor to consider is that Android is yet to follow suit with the same privacy updates as Apple. Google’s Android currently offers similar LAT features to users, but their opt-out rates are relatively lower at 2-3% in comparison to Apple’s 20-30%. As a result, less restrictive data rules could see the value of Android users increasing. This could potentially incentivize publishers to start encouraging both OS versions of a game in order to launch. So, now could be the time for developers to brush up on their Android skills.

As for our CEO, Sekip Gokalp, he anticipates a change in the overall ad environment that will require publishers to step up for developers during this time. “It’s to be expected that there may be a period of uncertainty as the unit economics of hyper-casual games changes, but now is a good time for developers to prepare their games for the iOS updates and challenge their publishing partners to see how they will react to the new rollout. As for Coda, we’ll be in touch with our partners and working with our engineering team and expertise to navigate these new changes in the industry.”

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Introducing the Coda Partner Program

Delivering hit game ideas to hyper-casual developers

The speed of hyper-casual is not news to anyone in the industry. And, as it continues to gain momentum, it’s pushing game developers to be smarter, more efficient, and more strategic. So, it’s no surprise that 3 in 4 developers are in search of good game ideas. This first step tends to be the limiting factor for hyper casual developers. We know many developers have the skills to produce high-quality gameplay, but publishing is largely dependent on finding the right game idea at the right time.

Based on Coda’s market intelligence data, only 3.5% of prototypes are actually marketable.

Since we know that publishing a hit game should not be a game of luck, we are taking the guesswork out of the entire process to enable talented developers and increase their chances of publishing.

The Coda Partner Program

The Coda Partner Program offers select studios access to the most marketable game ideas each week. We do the research to identify concepts that have the potential to perform really well in the market. The game concepts that we share with our partner studios are likely to achieve a CPI below $0.20, setting them up for success. 

In order to streamline the process further, the latest hit game concepts are made available directly on the Coda platform, so that partner studios can start prototyping right away. The Coda Games team also provides best practices and feedback to make sure developers test and iterate as quickly as possible. 

How Coda Identifies Hit Game Ideas

If you are familiar with our Market Intelligence dashboard, you know that we keep track of all hyper-casual games in the market, sharing insights on trending mechanics and chart-topping games. Coda’s technology automatically tags all hyper-casual games with the genre and gaming mechanics. It’s then able to consolidate and analyze all market data to detect signals of demand in the market. Our Games team uses these signals to make predictions and test high-potential game concepts. 

And as a result, we’re able to share proven (to be marketable) game concepts with our partner studios. 

Hit Game Ideas Make Chart-Topping Games

We expect our partner studios to know how to build a good game. But, when it comes to foreseeing and predicting what hyper-casual players will love today, that’s a completely different ball game. With a full view of all hyper-casual games in the market, Coda's AI-powered technology has the power to more systematically and effectively make predictions on what the next hit game will be. As we continue to invest in the ideation stage of game development, the Coda Partner Program promises to deliver the most marketable game ideas that give you the best chance at publishing a hit game. 

Check out the Coda Partner Program