Rewarded audio - A love story

By Wilfrid Obeng
15/09/20 · 5 min read

Rewarded Audio is new, it’s here to stay and it’s here to be loved! Some people say it’s the best, most obvious idea that they have never had. Some say that it’s been around for ages...hasn’t it? The fact is that audio advertising online and in apps is not new BUT audio ads in games - and especially Rewarded Audio - is new and, for posterity, here’s how it evolved….

In the beginning there was the iPhone...and we fell in love with mobile games..

With the arrival of the iPhone in 2007, and after years confined to basic handsets and a wildly disjointed delivery ecosystem, mobile gaming finally found its feet. Soon after the release of Apple’s disruptive phone, ‘free-to-play’ became one of the most important commercial forces in mobile games. Games are made available for free, earning their money (monetising) through means other than charging for the game itself. Over the years we have seen many  monetisation models from the sale of in-game items (like skins or collectibles) to intricate GaaS (games as a service) subscriptions.

It's no surprise that advertising has emerged as the most popular way of monetising free mobile games. Ads can generate revenue for game makers and bring brands exposure without asking the consumer to pay a penny. Simple interstitials were initially popular with the player seeing static or animated banners pop up on a game screen in various forms. Those evolved into video interstitials, before ‘rewarded video’ became the go-to option in the mobile gaming space.

Rewarded video isn’t complicated in principle. At a defined point in a game, players are given the option of watching a full-screen video in return for some kind of reward – perhaps some extra lives, in-game currency or exclusive content. Historically, rewarded video has worked well for the mobile game sector: In 2016, Unity found that 54% of players would prefer to see rewarded video over other forms of ads. However, despite it being the best of the ad options for the player - who actually got something for being sold to - the rewarded video format had its challenges.

You might give me things but I still don’t like you….

All advertising to gamers is annoying and Video ads, for all their strengths, bring two significant failings. For one, their full-screen appearance can clash with the creative vision or style of a game. That can make them unpopular with game developers. More problematic still is the fact that, in taking over the whole screen, rewarded video ads entirely interrupt a player’s experience of a game, damaging the relationship between user and content. When a player has not had to pay for a game, they have already only invested little. So, when video ads leave them feeling intruded upon, they will simply move on to one of the other thousands of free games available.

And when I don’t like you, I will leave and what is more I will tell everyone about it...

A player leaving a game is like a person leaving a relationship, they still have a gripe. Player dislike of traditional video and banner advertising is apparent in user reviews left at various app stores, where even popular games can attract negative comments thanks to the presence of rewarded video ads. Here’s a typical example we found for Scrabble GO, which is based on the beloved word board game.

“The game itself is great. I'm playing with my coworkers and it's been fun. However, the sheer amount of ads is sickening. I can't make a move without having to wait for a 30 second video to finish right after.”
Michael Carnovale (02/05/20)

Another review expressing a similar sentiment can be found for the popular casual game Idle Arks: Build at Sea, where players are challenged to build an ark using various collected materials in order to survive a flood.

“It could have been an amazing game if it didn't have so many ads. EVERYTHING costs an ad. Even for the achievements you have to watch an ad to get them.” 

Sotiris Sotiropoulos (12/07/20)

Not even game classics like Sonic the Hedgehog can escape a bad review when using too many video ads. In this case, the user was hoping to enjoy playing Sonic the Hedgehog Classic with his son, but felt forced to delete the game due to the overwhelming amount of video ads, turning an otherwise fun and nostalgic gaming experience for the whole family into a negative one. 

“Ads are super intrusive. I would love to let my toddler play (he's super interested in Sonic), but unless I stand over him and watch every second, he'll end up in the play store because some dumb pop up ad caught his attention. I'm sadly deleting this app now.”

Sean Seilheimer (03/05/20)

Love will bring us together…..well, a very strong Like!

The industry has been clearly crying out for an alternative approach to rewarded video. Nobody wants to see all these relationships falling apart - we want the love story, the happy ending! That’s when we had our big idea at AudioMob. Game developers and publishers had long seen advertising as the necessary evil. We weren't happy with that - we wanted to make it the necessary good!

We came up with our own proprietary audio format, Rewarded Audio. It serves the same fundamental purpose as rewarded video without the accompanying interruption and irritation for the players. With Rewarded Audio, as the ad comes on it simply plays in the background, allowing the player to just listen as they play - rather than be dragged away to watch an ad!

I don’t like it...I love it!

That is the key advantage of rewarded audio; in avoiding interrupting gameplay, it avoids irritating players. Happy players mean better review scores, positive word-of-mouth, longer retention and greater engagement - all things that lift revenues considerably. Furthermore, rewarded audio avoids clashing with a given game’s aesthetic or tone in the way a rewarded video can - something that will be powerfully important to many developers. Some developers have already seen the benefits, including teams we’re already working with such as 9th Impact with their soon to launch Big Brother MMO.

Rewarded Audio has been designed to allow players to enjoy games without needing to invest their own money, and through the element of rewards, earn additional content and abilities. Rewarded Audio also connects advertisers with a vast and broad pool of the 2.6 billion mobile gamers globally. Our technology means Rewarded Audio can be highly targeted and highly impactful. It even has the potential to be woven into the creative fabric of a game’s design to make the ads part of the experience. Which brings us neatly back to where we began, with the games we love to play, now without interruption.

Wilfrid Obeng
Co-Founder & CTO
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