MNectar Launches Playable Ads That Reward Users For Playing, Not Just Sitting There

thinkingapeAlmost every game developer uses rewarded video to monetize because it’s lucrative – but there’s also a lot not to like about it.

“A 30-second video ad just isn’t that engaging, and there’s no reason for users not to put their phone down when the video’s playing and just wait for it to end,” said Tayber Voyer, product lead at A Thinking Ape, a mobile game studio responsible for multiplayer titles like “Party In My Dorm” and “Kingdoms at War.”

For the past several months, A Thinking Ape has been working with app-streaming ad network mNectar to test an alternative to reward video in the form of rewarded playable ads. The format came out of beta on Wednesday.

Rather than rewarding users for passively watching a video, rewarded playables allow users to actively demo games within the ad unit itself in return for in-app currency.

“We’re seeing higher eCPMs and a higher completion rate on playable ads versus video ads,” said Voyer, who noted that playables are generating four times the revenue of video for A Thinking Ape. “There’s also a higher chance players will actually go on to install the game and be engaged in that session because they get to try it out before they download.”

That helps combat what can often be pretty dire retention metrics, said mNectar CEO Wally Nguyen. According to research conducted by SimilarWeb-owned mobile analytics company Quettra, the average app loses 77% of its daily active users within the first three days of install – a number that goes up to 90% after 30 days.

“The main reason for that is the download itself – they’re a massive barrier to app discovery because you have to install something to discover it,” Nguyen said. “And everything that’s been thrown at the problem doesn’t really solve it because it’s all about driving the download, including rewarded video.”

The argument for rewarded video is compelling: a nonskippable 15- or 30-second app-install ad complete with sight, sound and motion that compensates users for their time with a prize at the end.

According to Unity Technologies, for 71% of users, watching rewarded video is their preferred way of earning free digital goods, and of the developers that integrated rewarded video into their games, fewer than 10% saw any sort of drop-off in retention.

Which is great news for the app publisher running the video, but perhaps less so for the advertiser. There’s also no guarantee players are paying attention or making an informed decision about what they do download.

“Video is really hot right now, but it’s also sort of like a movie trailer,” Nguyen said. “We’ve all seen trailers that look amazing, but when you actually watch the movie it turns out to be a waste of time. The thesis with playable is to let people play a game before downloading it so they know what they’re getting.”

MNectar creates virtualized versions of games by pulling publicly available files directly from Google Play and Apple’s App Store and streaming them through its network. Because the unit is inherently interactive, mNectar can track user engagement and see when players are playing, what they’re doing in the unit or if they seem to get bored and X out.

The company also built its own data centers across the US to handle the two-way back-and-forth touch events required to stream interactive units. To avoid latency, the ad adapts to the user’s connection, providing a downgraded version if connectivity is poor.

Although playables make the most sense for games, other more brand-focused mNectar clients like Audible and HotelTonight have also taken advantage. In the HotelTonight example, users could search for hotels in the streamed version of the app, but had to download it if they actually wanted to conduct a transaction.

There are other companies in the space that offer playable units, including Voxel, Tresensa, CrossInstall and inMobi, but Nguyen claims mNectar differentiates with its streaming technology. Rather than using HTML5 or JavaScript to create a limited mini version of the game, mNectar’s playable is a streamed version of the actual game direct from the respective app store.

The dual trend toward more accessible mobile content and app streaming – Google brought its own app streaming offering out of beta in February – is all to the good, said A Thinking Ape’s Voyber.

Although video ads are still a part of A Thinking Ape’s monetization strategy, it’s starting to lean more toward rewarded playable, giving preference to playable over video in its waterfall.

“All I want to do is get more value out of players and get as many eyeballs as possible without hurting their experience,” Voyber said. “Most ad tech companies are focused on giving value-adds to developers so they can monetize, which is great, but it’s the solutions that focus on the end user that are going to win in the end.”

1 Comment

  1. James Malone

    "Almost every game developer uses rewarded video to monetize because it’s lucrative – but there’s also a lot not to like about it." - I mean, c'mon. This sentence is so borked.

    Reply

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