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Tapjoy says 50% of mobile gamers prefer free ad-based games

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Mobile ad and monetization firm Tapjoy says gamers prefer free ad-based games over pay to play titles and in-app purchases.

The company’s survey of more than 9,000 mobile gamers found that players prefer ad-supported games, according to Tapjoy’s Modern Mobile Gamer 2022 Report.

Tapjoy said the survey shows how attitudes towards mobile gaming, in-app advertising, and in-app purchases have evolved over the last five years. In 2017, just 21% of mobile gamers said they favored ad-supported mobile games in Tapjoy’s survey, which asked the same questions. But today, 50% of today’s mobile gamers say they prefer the ad-supported model over pay-to-play games or those based primarily on in-app purchases.

That’s an increase of 138% over four years.

Tapjoy used its MobileVoice platform to survey data from 9,352 respondents across five surveys. The report found that mobile gamers play 10 or more hours a week, on average. In fact, 57% say they play more mobile games than they did five years ago, with the biggest increase being among parents (68%).Nearly half (49%) of all respondents say they play mobile games multiple times a day. Parents (58%), Gen X (54%), and women (52%) are the most likely to play at this frequency.

Puzzle is now the top mobile game genre among all age groups, with 55% of respondents calling it their favorite. This is a drastic change from 2021, when action/adventure was the most popular mobile genre; now action/adventure, strategy, and simulation are tied for second place with 33%.

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About 60% of respondents discover new mobile games via ads in other games, making it by far the most popular way to discover new apps. Additionally, 39% will try new mobile games if their friends are playing it, and 33% find new games via app store recommendations.

Rewarded video ads remain the top ad type among mobile gamers (preferred by 53% of players), while support for other ad types is growing; survey ads have increased in popularity from 8% in 2017 to 17% in 2022) and playables increased from 9% in 2017 to 16% in 2022.

When it comes to data privacy, 43% of mobile gamers say they are open to app tracking, citing trust in the app developer as the top reason for opt-in. Meanwhile 39% say they never opt into data tracking on iOS, and the remaining 18% were not sure.

Mobile gamers are happily engaging with multi-reward cost-per-engagement (CPE) offers, which Tapjoy introduced in 2020. Of those surveyed, 64% are fans of the progress bar that lets them see how close they are to earning rewards.

Lauren Baca, senior director of marketing at Tapjoy, said in a statement, “We’ve found that most mobile gamers are playing every day, often multiple times a day, sometimes switching among four or more favorites. They also discover new games from ads and, in general, are much more receptive to ads in mobile games than they were five years ago.”

The report data was gathered from surveys run on the Tapjoy network in February 2022. Responses were filtered to only include responses from those ages 18 and older. Users received a small reward of in-game currency for completing the survey.

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Tapjoy’s data on mobile gamer preferences.

I wasn’t sure I believed the Tapjoy results. So I asked them to explain more.

The company said users expressed a preference for games with ads over games with a traditional freemium economy reliant expressly on in-app purchases (IAP).

“We interpret the reason for this change to be largely due to a shift in monetization models over time,” Tapjoy said. “First, the majority of apps were pay to download. Then the majority of apps were ‘freemium’ and users had to pay to engage in full game play. Now most apps are adopting a hybrid strategy that uses both ads and IAP. As this became the norm, developers became more skillful at integrating placements in a way that complemented gameplay, rather than disrupting it. Modern users are more amenable towards ads because it gives them a choice about how to earn access to content, and the ads themselves are less disruptive.”

Tapjoy said that the percent of users who selected “free – with ads” went up from 21% (2017) to 50%, representing the majority of responses. The percent of users who prefer “free – with optional in-app purchases” went down from 55% to 33%.

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“While users may express a preference for ad-supported apps, that does not preclude them from making in-app purchases. However, since 26% of users said they would wait months before making an in-app purchase, the preference for ad-based monetization is highly relevant for developers,” Tapjoy said. “Furthermore, we interpret this shift in user responses to be a bias towards choice. Most ad-supported apps have paid options that remove ads or offer in-app purchases which users can choose over rewarded advertising. It’s not that users have suddenly become enamored with advertising; rather that they have a clear preference towards apps that provide free paths to premium content.”

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