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User Acquisition Headaches: Unveiling the Most Common Hurdles of Growth Teams

Niccolo de Masi, Chairman of Glu Mobile:

“The golden days of easy user acquisition are over. The cost to attract and retain players has skyrocketed, putting immense pressure on margins.”

Jens Begemann, Co-founder of Wooga:

“We are in a period where the cost of doing business in mobile gaming is higher than ever, and profit margins are being squeezed by both competition and user expectations.”

Jeff Karp, President of Big Fish Games:

“The mobile gaming industry is experiencing significant headwinds. From user acquisition to monetization, every aspect has become more challenging and costly.”

Gabe Leydon, CEO of MZ (Machine Zone):

“The era of easy profits in mobile gaming is over. We’re facing an environment where only the most innovative and adaptive companies will thrive.”

Anyone in the gaming industry now is probably feeling on some level the difficulties that the industry is facing. This is why it becomes even more important to aim to tackle every challenge a gaming studio is seeing, especially in their User Acquisition function with the right strategy & processes, in order to increase chances of success in this downturn.

Gamesforum did a great survey & released a report, whereby they asked UA managers to list their top challenges. Below are the results (in random order):

Having worked with 40+ studios, I can corroborate and say that indeed these are common issues I see & help studios tackle.

The top 3 issues by order are:

A. Creative Ideation & Testing

B. Data Usage & Segmentation

C. Privacy Changes

Creative Ideation & Testing

Top issue for growth teams. It's also one fo the most common tasks I help gaming studios with. It's worth mentioning that the bigger the gaming studio, the more difficult it is to build & maintain a robust creative process.

When I start working with a gaming studio, I usually identify AT LEAST one step in the creative process that is broken. The most usual problematic steps are the below:

1. Brainstorming: It shouldn't be just people throwing ideas in a meeting. There should be structure and a specific process to make the most out of brainstorming. It's a vital step of the process.

2. Performance Feedback Loop: Do you have an effective process of sharing back the performance of all your creative tests? Do you feed this data into your brainstorming process?

Testing creatives is also a very important pain point: there are so many channels and strategies to test creatives. There is no textbook "right" way. The goal is to get the right data to be able to make the right decisions & improve UA performance.

Data Usage & Segmentation

This challenge ranked almost as high as the Creative Ideation & Testing issue. It also stems from the fact that privacy restrictions on iOS have restricted access to data, but not only!

I come across many issues on that front:

1. Studios not knowing what data to look at to make the right decisions.

2. Studios having access to a lot of data but not analyzing it correctly and/or not knowing what decisions to make.

3. Studios having a lot of fancy dashboards for tens and hundreds of KPIs but are not able to monitor correctly and be in "control" of what is happening. For example, sudden drop in the trial rate for a new client of mine recently and it was identified by me one month later.

Having access to the right data and then knowing how to use this data in order to troubleshoot in case of issues or to make the right decisions is really not easy.

Privacy Changes

The recent privacy changes have really rocked the UA boat and it still hasn't stabilized for most developers. Not only that, it has really changed the UA landscape completely.

Many gaming studios are still able to profitably scale iOS however.

Building a UA Team

The basis of strong UA performance is having capable and great UA managers. Especially in those tough times. Having a growth manager that is just ok at their job won't really do it anymore. This job function requires a unique set of skills and person's profile. I deconstruct what a good UA manager looks like in this blog post.

Because of that, I find it really difficult to come across good UA managers. But... If you cannot find them, train them! I very much encourage and help clients train & upskill UA managers.

Working with Product Teams

This is one of the most fascinating topics for me: Improving human interactions with the aim of making a game's growth more efficient & effective! It gets difficult when internal politics get in the way of that but UA teams cannot work optimally without the help of and input of different functions internally. This is why much effort should be put into building communication & cooperation.

Having worked with many gaming studios I have helped build many bridges between UA teams and different teams such as Product, and it always starts with one thing: Education. Educating internally about what UA is and why all the layers of complexities are important.

If someone does not understand what UA is exactly and how it can benefit the company, then they will be less prone to helping & cooperating.

I've built this Gaming Growth Masterclass that does just that: Give working knowledge to anyone working with UA in order to facilitate understanding & efficient cooperation.

If any of the above issues reasonate with you & your team, feel free to reach out to and we can discuss more!


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