Paid Installs or Organic Installs: What Is Best For Your Game?


In the world where mobile app charts are dominated by a few big brands “stealing” a whopping 86% of all downloads made in stores, user acquisition has become a single available path that can lead small free-to-play game developers up and beyond a few thousand installs.

The study, however, shows that about 90% global app installs are organic. One might think ‘What’s the point in spending on UA, when most downloads you get come for free?’, but are those really gratis?

To understand what organic install really is, it’s necessary to look at the full chain of events leading to it. An install can result from owned or earned social channel promotion, SEO or ASO efforts, PR activities, basically anything other than a paid ad campaign and it will be organic. But it doesn’t mean you didn’t invest any money to have it.

Around 3-4 years ago - in the early days of paid UA - paid game installs were easily outperformed by the organic ones due to poor targeting and lack of research. This changed dramatically with the onset of advanced analytics for measuring ROI and overall boom in the field of user acquisition. The performance of paid installs increased, but does it make them better than organic?

To dig deeper on that, DeltaDNA teamed up with Appsflyer and Adjust and collected data from across 100 mobile games, focusing entirely on US players who made install in the first seven months of 2016. The purpose was to break it down by install source and compare KPIs.

DeltaDNA revealed that in the first 30 days the paid users spent at least 2 times more than organic ones across all mobile platforms (compare: $0.24  to $0.95 on iOS). Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the campaigns paid off within the first month as, for example, CPI on iOS is $2+. On the bright side, the retention of paid-for users was considerably higher on the 1st day and dropped less radically over the next 7 days compared to the organic players. There was also a minority of games-exceptions: 10% of iOS and 16% of Android titles had better KPIs among organic players.

We can’t refrain from comparisons, but it’s important to remember that paid and organic users are closely connected. We’ve known that paid ad campaigns boost organic, and thanks to Tune we finally found out the amount of impact.

Key takeaways:
1) For every paid install, an app or game gets 1.5 organic installs on average.  
2) Categories of Android games that see the major organic boost are: racing (x13.3) and word games (x7.2).
3) On iOS, games do better than any other category of apps with a 5.4 increase to organic per each paid install.

A user acquisition campaign helps your game climb up the store ranking and have high visibility. People discover it easier, downloads go up and the average cost of user goes down. So, first you work for installs, then installs work for you; that’s why spending big on a paid campaign does make sense. But even with that done, you should use every other possible way to drive more people to your game - optimize app store page, improve discovery through search, and create buzz in social networks.

By the way, you might want to try a special calculator for planning your next campaign.

Feel free to leave comments, and good luck with growing your audience!
Posted by Renatus on November 08, 2017