May 22 2010

Why in-game ads (Updated)

Here’s why…

Below is a screenshot of my developer’s dashboard, showing the number of ad impressions in a group of random weeks. (Most players are not playing on Nightflyergames.com, or even aware that it exists and that’s fine with me.)

Below is this week (I had to do a cut and paste to make the screenshot fit in my blog layout… The black line is to make the location of the break obvious, and the other splotch of black is to obfuscate a line which lists todays earnings.) Notice how my normal baseline gets compressed to a near horizontal line near the x-axis:

The vast majority of those impressions are coming from DayTrader, which I released 2 years ago. I’ve done no promotion for that game since. Even though most of the players seem to be in developing countries, and my eCPM is around US$0.05 for that traffic, DayTrader is paying the cost of this server today. (And since the rightmost dot will keep slowly creeping up for the next several hours, quite possibly tomorrow).

So that’s why the ads are there. I still think it would be madness to write a business plan that solely was dependent on in-game ads for revenue– one minor contract or small sponsorship will cover the costs of my hobby into next year and beyond. But they let me capture random spikes like this with no cost to the player, so they’ll stay in. Even though they can be a bit annoying.

EDIT 5/23/10:
So Daytrader ended yesterday with 16k impressions/plays, and looks like it’s going to do about the same today. I also figured out what was occurring:

The traffic is mostly playing at a site “whatzfun.com”.* I knew that from the start of the spike, but I couldn’t figure out -why- the game was getting played there. As it turns out, Daytrader is sitting on it’s front page at the moment. Whatzfun is a minor arcade, with 26 games. What’s interesting is what games it’s providing– they’re all either stock market/trading games or hospital games. The site is using 2 Google Ad-sense ads, a Wild Tangent skyscraper ad, and a footer which is some type of referral program with a site called “ztage.com”. I’m not familiar with zstage, Wild Tangent and Google are contextual ad providers. With Google it’s possible to look up** what it would cost to advertise in those spots by checking what it would cost to advertise for keywords such as ‘Stock Market’, ‘Daytrader’, or ‘Broker’.

Keyword CPC
Broker $4.83-$6.48
Daytrader $1.98-$2.47
Stock Market $3.64-$5.20
Stocks $3.44-$5.16
Trading System $3.36-$4.25
game $0.44-$0.65
flash game $0.41-$0.61

Data acquired from Google AdWords Traffic Estimator at 2:23 pm AKDT on May 23, 2010. CPC is an abbreviation for ‘Cost-Per-Click’ and is what the advertiser is paying Google for each click the ad generates. (Google then pays the website running the ad some percentage of that).

One of the mysteries of the web is that if you get enough people to look at something, eventually someone will click it. Assuming the webmaster for “whatzfun.com” has a way to get traffic to his site cheaper than what he’s making from the contextual ads, he’ll turn a profit. To give himself the best chance of doing so he’s targeting high CPC keywords. Best of luck to him, he’s welcome to use my game in his plan… I was baffled and concerned because there was no reason for -this game- to develop a following at this time. I’m much happier knowing that it didn’t, and the reason for the sudden increase in plays.

*- I feel under no obligation to provide a link. You’re smart enough to enter the address in your browser if you’re curious.

**- The link has a session id variable in it, so it may not persist. Do a search for ‘Google Adwords Estimator’ and you’ll find the tool if the link breaks. Obviously, be smart and use the search result that points at an https from adwords.google.com…

EDIT 5/25:
26,000 plays yesterday. Up from a long term average of about 100 per day. Put another way, my DAU (daily active users) has increased by a factor of 260 times over the past 4 days. I’m choosing to assume that will continue, and I’ll have 6.2 million DAU by Friday, and 1.7 BILLION users by next Tues. NightflyerGames will acquire both Activision and Electronic Arts the week after. LOL :)

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