Pangia Games doesn’t have money to waste.
What app developer does?
Monetization and user acquisition are tricky for anyone – although it certainly helps to have extra cash to throw at the problem. But the smaller devs out there, like Pangia, need to get creative.
“We’re a team of two," said Nick Barbato, managing partner at Pangia. “We work nonstop.”
Pangia’s crown jewel is called Dice World, an app comprising six different dice games, yatzy, balut, pig and farkle among them. Players can challenge their friends or random opponents and the action takes place in a turn-based fashion à la "Words With Friends."
After being in the market for about a year, Barbato started to notice something interesting about Dice World’s 20,000 monthly actives – about 20% of its user base was either blind or visually impaired.
Both iOS and Android have guidelines developers can follow to make their apps accessible to people with visual impairments, including voiceover descriptions of everything happening on the screen and audio cued navigation. Pangia had coded most of the buttons in Dice World for accessibility. When Barbato saw the reaction, he realized that it was both a worthy initiative and a potential differentiator.
“We spent the next 12 months straight taking our games and making them completely accessible,” Barbato said. “It’s a nice market, but it’s also an extremely loyal and devoted one. We get ‘thank you’ emails daily. That said, it’s always a challenge getting users. Anything you can find that helps at all is a great thing.”
Most of Pangia’s acquisition comes through word of mouth. Users are rewarded with in-app currency – referred to as “gold” in the Dice World universe – for tweeting about the game or inviting Facebook friends to play. Many of its blind users will invite people from the blind community and their sighted friends and family to join in.
Pangia also messes around with Facebook demographic targeting a bit “to help us reach specific users – more than 70% of our users are female aged 35 and over,” Barbato said, “but that can get pretty expensive as well.”
Other than that, paid methods haven’t really panned out, although Barbato noted that Pangia’s will soon try advertising on podcasts with large audiences of visually impaired users.
“User acquisition has been the big question for us. What can we do on a limited budget? We tried doing pay-per-install campaigns with various vendors, but unless you want to spend a lot of money, you don’t get much out of it,” he said. “Something like 90% of users who install an app delete it within 24 hours. If I pay $3 or more for a user and then that user deletes the app? That hurts. Our model is to keep making our game better so that people tell their friends.”
One way Pangia’s trying to improve the game experience is through monetization that acts as an engagement mechanism, rather than a turnoff, which it can often be. “To maintain your five-star rating and make money on this whole thing is a struggle,” Barbato said.
Most of Pangia’s users stick with the free version of Dice World, although it is possible to dish out $1.99 for a version that doesn’t include banners.
“There’s no real incentive to remove the ads because it’s just a small banner ad at the bottom, although some of our users will do it just to support the game,” Barbato said. “It’s not a big part of our revenue at all.”
What has become a big part of Pangia’s revenue, however, is rewarded video. The company’s been working with mobile video monetization platform AerServ for the last six months to include branded videos inside the app. The product had been in beta, but will be generally available starting Thursday.
If users want to earn more in-app gold, they can tap on a button on the main page labeled “Free Gold.” Each video viewed equals a certain amount of gold earned. If users don’t want to see ads to earn free gold, they can get their gold as an in-app purchase.
“When you hit that button, it shows a video and awards gold and after that there’s a little prompt that says, ‘Do you want to watch another video and earn more gold?’ But it’s the user’s choice,” Barbato said. “If they don’t want to watch an ad, then we don’t force them. It doesn’t interrupt the gameplay.”
AerServ maintains the direct advertiser relationships.
“Developers [can] allocate their rewarded video inventory to buyers of their choice or receive additional monetization support through the aerMarket ad exchange,” said AerServ CEO Josh Speyer. “The number of videos available through the platform is in the billions per month.”
For the moment, Pangia also has to rely on monetizing with videos that promote other games, although it’s hoping to get to 100% branded videos soon.
“I don’t like advertising the competition in our games, but we only have so many videos available to us, and if we were to run out of videos, our users would actually get upset because they want to earn free gold without having the same ad play over and over again,” Barbato said. “We’re trying to keep as much inventory going as we need to keep our users happy.”
According to Barbato, users don’t just tolerate the ads – they seem to really appreciate them.
“Our users realize we’re a small company,” he said. “We’ve also received great feedback on rewarded video from the blind community. They complain when ads come up that have no words. Interstitials tell them nothing at all. But video ads talk to them. It’s like when a commercial plays on TV. They feel engaged."