Moneyadviceblog » Business » The Beginner’s Guide to Mobile Game Monetization – Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of our series exploring everything you need to know about monetization in mobile games. In the previous article, which you can read here, we discussed why planning how to monetize your game is an integral first step of game development. In this and future articles, we’ll explore the 4 main monetization models in F2P games.

In-App Purchases

In-app purchases (IAPs) are the leading monetization model for mobile games. According to Business of Apps, 79% of mobile games monetize with in-app purchases.

IAPs are the basis of what we call a freemium game economy. This term is coined from the words free and premium, and here’s why.

In this kind of economy, players don’t need to pay anything to install and play a game. However, if they crave a premium in-game experience, they can make in-app purchases. In-app purchases are also known as microtransactions and in-game purchases. Whatever the term you stumble upon is, they all apply to the same thing.

When players make purchases, they pay real money to get certain items or features from the game. Some examples of in-app purchases are extra lives, coins, weapons, moves, boosters, etc.


What Should You Offer in Your Game?

Well, this very much depends on your game and its genre. The main thing you need to think about is – what do my players need and crave most? For example, if your players are craving progress, you shouldn’t focus on selling them extra content. Instead, you should offer them items that will help them advance.


This is the most common type of in-app purchase found in mobile games. Once players purchase a consumable item and use it, it disappears for good. Some examples of consumable items are in-game currencies, boosters, and health.

In-game currencies are the most common type of consumable items we can find in mobile games. Some of the most popular choices of currencies are gems, diamonds, and coins. Let’s say a player bought some gems from the in-game store. After the purchase, the player used the gems to skip wait times three times. Now what? All the gems have been consumed. The only way to get this amount of gems again is to repurchase them.

However, it is important to mention that games should give out small amounts of consumable items through gameplay too.


Non-consumables are exactly the opposite of consumable items. Once players purchase these items, they get permanent access to them. For example, non-consumable items include selling access to a new level, game characters, cosmetic items, etc.

Say a game includes different characters. Games usually give players a basic set of characters. As they progress through the game, they gradually unlock new ones. However, if the players want a special character they did not unlock yet, they can get them instantly. Once they do, this character is all theirs – without an expiry date.

Popular In-App Purchase Features

Besides knowing the categories of in-app purchases, it’s useful to know some common forms they come in. One of the most common IAP features we can find in mobile games is time-limited offers. These are discounted offers, only available for a set amount of time (e.g., 24 hours).

Bundles are another frequently used in-app purchase feature. These are basically different items put together in one purchasable pack. Also, they commonly come at a discounted price. A lot of games purposely make players wait to finish some tasks in the game. This is where they stumble upon monetized wait timers. Players can then pay to skip wait times and continue with the game.

One of the main things players want from games is to progress fast. For this reason, a lot of games offer them something that can directly help them do that – purchasable boosts. Finally, there are items that don’t help players progress, but they are still popular purchases.

They are called cosmetic items, and they change the appearance of characters or items in a game. For example, clothes, hairstyles, weapon skins, etc.


In-App Ads

In-app ads are the second most popular mobile game monetization model for free-to-play games.

In this model, game developers make money by serving advertisements to players. Players can get all the features in these games for free, but they have to watch ads as they play. In most cases, these are ads for other mobile games or non-gaming apps.

There are three sides involved in the ad-serving process:

  • players

  • publishers

  • advertisers

Players are okay with this monetization model because it grants them free gameplay. Developers need to display as many ads as possible to make money. At the same time, advertisers are happy to show their ads to potential users. However, ad monetization is something you need to be very careful about. The thing is, players don’t really like ads; they tolerate them. Plus, there are always some players who really hate them, but are not willing to pay extra to have them removed.

If you plan on monetizing your game with ads, you need to be ready for a lot of “too many ads” reviews in the app stores. The next part of this series will cover everything you need to know about in-game ads and how to properly leverage them without putting off your players.