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How to make $3,000 per day from advertising in your free-to-play game

By on March 30, 2012

Last week, Nicholas wrote a post on Five reasons why you shouldn’t carry advertising in your games. Not everyone agreed. Simon Moeller is the Chief Creative Officer of Kiloo, and in this guest post he shows how free-to-play games can make $3,000 a day from ads.

How we Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Interstitial Ads

At Kiloo, we’ve been experimenting with mobile ad networks since we first launched Whac-a-Mole on iOS in 2009.

We use advertising as a secondary monetising tool in both Frisbee® Forever and Bullet Time HD, and are constantly but carefully exploring new ways of generating secondary revenue without churning players.

A market has appeared for Cost-Per-Install marketing after the fall of incentivized app downloads in April 2011. As a developer, you advertise other apps in your app and get paid anywhere between 0.50$ and 3$ when your users download the advertised app.

Up until april 2011, direct user acquisition on iOS was dominated by TapJoy with their incentivized installs. Apple severely limited this practise last year. Chartboost, Playhaven, Flurry etc stepped up and filled the space.

In 2011 and Q1 2012 we’ve generated significant revenue from primarily ChartBoost and secondarily AdColony in addition to IAP. Monitoring the thousands of reviews of our apps on the iOS App Store, I can count the number of complaints over the ads on one hand. Users have no problem with ads if they don’t interfere with their gameplay experience.

Advertising we tried in the past

Admob & iAd banners – Very limited eCPM, no control over ads, no relevance, annoys users ingame
Nexage – mediation layer to Admob and others. Same problems as above
TapJoy – limited revenue after the fall of incentivized installs

What we are still using, this works

ChartBoost – Full screen interstitials shown 1-2 times a day at app launch. eCPM’s anywhere between 4.5$ and 40$ (rare, limited campaigns). Note chart of Kiloo’s average eCPM in 2011
AdColony – Incentivized video. Awards currency to users for watching advertising. eCPM’s between 5$ and 10$

What we’d like to try, but have no experience with

Flurry Video – Incentivized video. Can complement AdColony.
Playhaven – Full screen interstitials & more, could complement ChartBoost.


How to Publish a Game

For more advice on monetising your games, buy How to Publish a Game

At 100k-250k DAU you will probably be able to average anywhere between 500$ and 3000$ a day depending on active campaigns if you use ChartBoost and AdColony. Possibly more with Flurry Video as backup if AdColony runs out of inventory.

We have been happy with ChartBoost and AdColony in combination in the past, and we will continue to use advertising as a secondary revenue stream as long as we feel our userbase is comfortable with the methods we apply.

Opinion: Stuff to look out for

Any kind of incentivized advertising. Being able to award users to watch and engage in advertising with virtual currency

You should follow me @simonmoeller on twitter if you like more opinions on gaming trends, mobile developments and general rants

About Simon Moller

Simon Moller is Chief Creative Officer at Kiloo, a game developer working in co-production with other studios such as Sybo to create high-revenue free-to-play mobile games.
  • Mark Johnson

    Great, thanks.

  • 2D Party

    Thanks for the post. 

    I am not an expert, but did try iAds and noticed they are getting better fill rates, these days in some markets. AdMob seems to be a choice but with a huge amount of exposures, which of course is unlikely.

    I added AdColony (really easy framework to add on) , but removed it again in the game I was working on as I could not find places where it made sense to ask the player to watch a video (I guess on my next app gamers will exchange for virtual currency, which makes sense to me). 

    So on this one I am counting on AdMobs (not expecting a lot) and in app purchase (hope a few % go for that). I did add Greystripe too, any experiences there? 

    (posted as @2dparty by accident, I am @cujino)

  • Simon Møller

    No experience with Greystripe, they are on our radar though.

  • Nadya JAHAN

    Really interesting, thanks! Have you any company to suggest for Facebook free-to-play games?

  • Simon Møller

    No real experience from the Facebook side of things, I’m afraid. Suppose Offers/Lead generation (although controversial in my eyes) is one route to take.

  • Dennis Adriansyah Ganda

    is it easy to get 100-250k DAU for a free game in iOS?
    In android even just get 10k total download require such a high amount of marketing in my experience.

  • Simon Møller

    You can’t effectively market your way to X amount of downloads, unless you have lifetime values (LTV) of your users that is higher than 1 USD. It’s all about

  • Ben

    Thanks for the article, its interesting reading.

    Just one question, can you give any more definition on the $500 days occurance compared to the $3000 ones. If the difference comes from active campaigns as you say, what kind of pay out would I get on a normal day, and whats the frequency of both higher campaigns, and ones when there are unsuccessful ones?

  • Simon Møller

    It’s really hard to say anything concrete about. We’ve had great days and not-so-great days. It’s all about the demand for installs in the market.

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  • Nicolas Godement

    If it’s any help, our game Ski Champion got about 120K DL in 2 weeks on iOS without any paid marketing or Apple backing. We did run free emailing and facebook campaigns though. 

  • Online Shooting Games

    This is nice strategy and good one way to earn money as well. There are lots of advertisements way but this one is really nice and worth usable. 

  • Philipp Gartlehner

    IF you want 100-250k you must have a app which is in the TOP-Overall list(world wide).

    One of my Apps was 15days in the TOP Overall list(place 38) in Germany and i got every day 18.000 downloads from this country, but if you are in the TOP Overall(place 25) you got many many more downloads think, between 30.000-80.000 downloads.

    My App has this rank without any internet /app marketing, only release push.

  • Lars Kelley

    If I may ask, roughly how many downloads did your app get and how much money did the incentivised video ads make (so far from release)? Trying to figure out the ARPU to decide rather to put it in our next games.  

  • Focused Apps

    For the beginners planning (dreaming) of how to get 100k DAU, don’t confuse DAU with downloads. Most downloads of a free game are just people taking a look, they don’t become players. And those who you do reel in as players, doesn’t mean they are daily players. 100k DAU does not come from 100k downloads, it takes a lot more.

  • Nicholas Lovell

    Thank you for those details. Fancy sharing more in a guest post

  • Gauravjalui

    Hi I have no prior experience using either. Although I used Adwhirl to get iAds and adMob in my game. For my next game I don’t want to use iAds and adMob also my game will be having virtual currency, so can you suggest me which ones used in combination would work well to gain more exposure as well as earn money. I mean a lot to choose from…………Adcolony, PlayHaven, Chartboost and TapJoy. And also if either one has banner ads like iAds. 

  • Nicholas Lovell

     Hey there,

    One of the ad companies dropped a note asking if they could talk to you directly. If you are interested, let me know, and I’ll connect you.

  • remi

    Thanks for your good article. I have an iPhone app (utility), with 50k DLs, and about 10k DAU. I am using banners from iAd and AdMob, with AdWhirl as broker. I am disappointed by my revenue (less than 10$ / day). I was thinking adding In-App purchase for frequent users of my app. But now I am hesitating with new interstitial full-screen adds at app launch. Good job. Except for one point. The Kiloo graph you provided is hosted on ChartBoost website. I understand you are part of Chartboost team, and so your article is subjective. Please correct me if I am wrong 

  • Jonathan Hillebrand

    I have an app on iOS with over 1.5mio downloads mainly in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France & Russia. But daily active Users are only around 10k. I published the same app on android with 16k downloads so far, with around 2k DAU at the moment. I use Vungle as my main revenue source, which works great for iOS with eCPM between 5-10 USD, but not as good for Android with eCPMs around 1 USD. I integrated Adcolony as an alternative today, so let’s see how this works out.

  • Dr. Bob

    Great article. Thanks! Please explain the monthly Network CPM in your chart. Thanks.

  • ameer

    hi, hhis link will help you

  • Ben Levy

    Thank you all for some very interesting comments.

    As a newby to the digital download remuneration, could someone explain this please:
    I have a chat download program (for pc’s), and I use affiliates to market this download. I pay my affiliates using a Pay per download or pay per installation.
    Ultimately, i want my users to use the program in order to generate a long tail.
    How is this normally done? (Sorry, i know its a very open question). Thanks

  • Andrew London

    I am going to have disagree with this article…. People are starting to get P’OD if there are too many ads. I am using only iAd and IAP — with a drop in revenue. Implementing adMob or AdWhirl or adWhatever in addition to iAd, generates complaints from users in ‘multi-ad’ areas and is not worth the increase in revenue.

  • Luke Jeffrey Smith

    Great post – there are so many more options now. Our Company Motive Interactive allows users full control over which mobile ads (IOS & Android) can be displayed and we have over 50 mobile Apps at any given time that you can monetize with. If interested in finding out more find me on twitter @LUKEJSMITH

  • wbmstrz

    I’m the creator of a paid app (not the developer) for sale on iTunes and Google Play. I’ve learned, like we all do – the hard way, that I need to create a free ad supported app version.

    After doing some research, I’ve come up with these ad networks combo:
    admob 33.3%
    Ad 33.3%
    Greystripe 33.3%
    AdColony ( I have a great place for this on my app)

    1. I need your option/advice on this combination of networks.
    2. Also, I wanted to know if I need an ad network broker company to see which ad network is performing better, and if so, what companies do you recommend.
    3. Also, I need recommendations for app analytics companies for app impressions, etc.

    Thanks so much.

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  • Jennifer

    $3000 per day from advertising? I can’t believe it. Too many ads means more complaint. IAP plus ads is a good choice, or paid for ads-free is also acceptable for players.

  • ling jin

    Not 3000$/per day,30$/per day it’s ok.

  • ling jin

    I got money too!
    Use “Direct Selling” & “Google Admob” make money.
    1. Sign up Google Admob account, apply for banner ads and Interstitial ads.
    2. Open “Direct Selling Admob” software, fill out banner ads id, Interstitial ads, EMAIL. After that click “Generate apk” generation Android game (apk)。
    3. Recommend game(apk) to your friend. He playing game, you make money. Bingo!

    More infos visit:

  • Sofía Santucho

    In my case, I use adtomatik. I tried many others and the best one is definitely adtomatik. The best ecpm than others by far.

  • Tim

    Have a look at who they are, then pull up the Google Play Store and check out their number of downloads…

  • zak

    yes, this would be natural if $30 per day

  • Daniel Moran

    i am creating an app and im just wondering how i make the money from using ad-colony and those companies