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Gaming Marketers Flock to Android Ahead of iOS IDFA Changes, Driving 120% Spike in Install Costs According to Liftoff’s Casual Gaming Report

The new report also sees opportunities for marketers in global regions, and the rise of high-performance ad formats as marketers look to reach users in new ways


Liftoff, a global performance-based mobile app marketing optimization platform, today released its first report dedicated to casual gaming. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a spike in mobile gaming -- and increased competition for marketers -- as consumers searched for new ways to pass the time in self-isolation. Notably, Liftoff finds a steep increase in costs on Android year-over-year, likely a result of looming IDFA changes on iOS. The data also highlights key trends in user behavior across North America, Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe and the Middle East (EMEA), and shows a spike in playable and rewarded ad formats. 

Analyzing 340 billion impressions across 416 mobile apps, 5.7 billion clicks, 246 million installs and 231 million first-time events between March 2020 and February 2021, the report found the following:

Install Costs Spike 120% as Gaming Marketers Explore Opportunities on Android 
As consumers adapt to their new normal in the COVID-19 era, Liftoff’s data shows casual gaming marketers are spending more to engage users: costs-per-install (CPI) rose a whopping 45.2% in the last year alone, with a 20.22% decrease in 30-day return on ad spend (ROAS). 

“There were a number of factors at play this year: (1) Increased saturation in the gaming market drove fierce competition for user attention; (2) Users were highly-distracted, so holding that attention was even more of a challenge; and (3) iOS 14.5 loomed on the horizon, prompting marketers to increase testing and ad spend across platforms,” explained Mark Ellis, CEO and co-founder of Liftoff. “But the data tells an illuminating story. Though iOS costs are generally higher, Android’s rate of increase is steeper -- a possible indication that Android specifically attracted marketers in advance of IDFA changes.” 

Android saw a 120% increase in CPIs from March 2020 to February 2021 ($0.92 up to $2.02), while iOS CPIs increased only by 47% ($3.28 up to $4.82). The shift may pay off for marketers: iOS acquisition costs overall, at $4.30, are nearly 4x that of Android’s $1.15, and the platforms are comparable in ROAS -- on Day 7, iOS performed only slightly better than Android. 

The North American gaming market is fierce, with acquisition costs 6X that of APAC and EMEA 
North America is a mature market for casual gaming, and users tend to already know what they like -- as such, getting them to try a new game can be tough going. At $6.36, CPIs in the region are nearly 6x that of EMEA ($1.12) and APAC ($1.29), but ROAS is uniform across all areas. Casual gaming marketers may want to explore campaigns in other global regions where casual gaming may still be gaining popularity and users engage at similar rates but cost far less to acquire. 

With IDFA changes shaking up the industry, marketers explore new ad formats to reach their audience
With the ad industry entering a new era following iOS 14.5, casual gaming marketers explore new ways to reach their audience. High-performance playable ads saw a massive 113% rise in use and popularity by the end of 2020, while impressions for the format increased by an average of 53% per month. Rewarded ads similarly performed well, with a 2x increase in use from July 2020 to January 2021. 

To learn more about Liftoff and view the complete findings, view the full report here.

The Liftoff 2021 Casual Gaming Report is based on an analysis of internal data from March 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021, including 340 billion impressions across 416 mobile apps, 5.7 billion clicks, 246 million installs and 231 million first-time events. Moreover, the report tracks costs, conversions and ROAS, lifting the lid on critical data to inform winning strategies for the year ahead. It also breaks down data by platform (iOS and Android) and spotlights regions, countries, and seasons marketers can target to get the most for their money.

About Liftoff 
Liftoff is a complete mobile app marketing platform that helps companies acquire and retain high-quality mobile app users at scale. Liftoff uses prediction intelligence and unbiased ML to find engaged users at scale for mobile app marketers, creative testing to deliver the most engaging ad experience and a unique cost per revenue model to optimize for LTV goals. Liftoff is proud to be a long-term partner to leading brand advertisers and app publishers since 2012. Headquartered in Redwood City, Liftoff has a global presence with offices in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Berlin, London, Paris, Singapore, Seoul, and Tokyo.

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