The gaming industry is dynamic and highly competitive, requiring developers to employ strategic user acquisition (UA) methods to attract and retain players. This comprehensive guide covers the core principles of UA, best practices, and advanced techniques to help your mobile game stand out in the crowded market.


What is user acquisition?

User acquisition (UA) is a key term in mobile marketing. The primary objective is to attract new users, persuade them to install an app, and encourage ongoing interaction that leads to revenue, whether through ad views or in-app purchases.

It encompasses a range of marketing strategies. Effective user acquisition demands strategic channel selection, advanced technology, intelligent data analysis, and compelling creatives to secure users who offer high lifetime value (LTV) and positive return on investment (ROI).

What is user acquisition in mobile gaming?

Mobile games dominate both the App Store and Google Play, driving a significant portion of publishers’ revenue. User acquisition in mobile gaming is the process of attracting new players to your game. This can be achieved through both paid advertising and organic methods, with the benefits varying based on factors such as the game’s age and category.

Importance of user acquisition

User acquisition is at the top of the funnel in a gamer’s journey from finding a game to becoming a monetized player – which are necessary for a game to be successful. Without gamers, the time and money invested in developing the game are wasted. Therefore, a reliable strategy for acquiring users is crucial.

Best practices for user acquisition

Data-driven user acquisition optimization

Learning about your users and optimizing your user acquisition efforts through data is vital. This helps identify the highest-value users and increase your return on investment (ROI) and other key performance indicators (KPIs).

Choose the right channels

Select UA channels that have a user base similar to the players you are trying to target. Consider your KPIs, the genre of your game, and your goals – such as installs or revenue. For instance, if your goal is installs, it could make sense to go after cheaper gamers with a lower lifetime value (LTV). This can make sense in the early stages of game marketing. But if you’re trying to drive revenue, it could be better to target higher-cost users who have a longer LTV curve.

Unique, targeted creatives

Testing different ad formats and ideas for different audiences is recommended. High-quality, engaging creative content can significantly impact your UA success. It is important to create ads that resonate and connect with your audience – as well as iterate regularly to avoid ad fatigue and maximize return on ad spend (ROAS).

Types of user acquisition strategies

Organic strategies

Organic UA includes methods like app store optimization (ASO), search engine optimization (SEO), and social media marketing. These strategies aim to increase the visibility of your game naturally without utilizing paid campaigns. Some quid pro quo influencer partnerships can also fall under this category.

Paid strategies

Paid UA involves investing in advertising campaigns on platforms like social media and mobile ad networks – as well as paid influencer marketing. These campaigns are designed to attract high-impact users who are more likely to engage with your game and make in-app purchases.

The evolving state of mobile game user acquisition

In the past, game publishers aimed to achieve low CPIs and secure favorable market positions quickly through extensive CPI testing – particularly on Facebook (Meta). However, this approach is no longer as effective due to increased market complexity and evolving consumer behavior. Truthfully, the mobile game market has become less forgiving, particularly for smaller studios striving to establish themselves amidst intense competition.

an image representing the evolving state of mobile game user acquisition

Shifting strategies for success

In response to these challenges, successful developers are adopting strategies focused on developing games with longer lifespans and attracting higher lifetime value (LTV) players through engaging core game loops. Marketability tests have also become more sophisticated, relying heavily on comprehensive data analysis.

However, these advancements come at a cost. Post-IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) changes have significantly increased user acquisition and marketability testing costs. Consequently, developers are expanding their testing strategies across various platforms to enhance market success, albeit with no guarantees.

Embracing platform diversification

To mitigate rising costs and uncertainty, diversifying user acquisition portfolios has become essential. Developers are exploring new platforms beyond traditional channels like Meta – opting for emerging networks and social media platforms like TikTok and Reddit.

TikTok, for instance, has emerged as a formidable UA platform, boasting high conversion rates and effective bidding strategies tailored for mobile games. Similarly, Reddit is also gaining traction among game publishers due to its ability to target users based on specific interests and topics.

Challenges in organic acquisition

Organic user acquisition remains challenging for mobile games outside of app store optimization (ASO) and search engine optimization (SEO). Successful examples typically leverage existing powerful social channels or viral phenomena, which are not sustainable strategies for consistent user acquisition.

Uphill battle for smaller players

The mobile gaming market is heavily dominated by larger publishers, maintaining top chart positions through strategic shifts towards games with deeper engagement layers. These publishers prioritize acquiring high LTV players to sustain revenue growth.

The transformation of user acquisition into a complex and costly endeavor has led publishers to focus resources on fewer, more promising games. This strategic shift involves continuous testing across diverse channels and requires substantial investment in experienced teams – which smaller studios often have trouble affording or properly supporting.

Opportunities amidst challenges

While the landscape is challenging for smaller developers, opportunities exist through strategic partnerships and innovation. By leveraging the right tools and alliances, smaller studios can overcome barriers and achieve success in the competitive market.

Why you need a user acquisition strategy for your mobile games

Without a well-thought-out user acquisition (UA) strategy, getting players into your mobile game will prove to be challenging – if not impossible. It is incredibly unlikely for people to simply stumble upon a game.

Why you need a user acquisition strategy for your mobile games
Additionally, it’s worth noting that consumer spending on mobile games hit $90 billion in 2023. However, most of that revenue was consolidated into the hands of top-performing games.

This highlights the importance of a robust UA strategy to avoid getting lost in the red ocean of new releases. Unless you have a smart strategy, spending money on user acquisition could be like setting your money on fire. Initiating UA campaigns and advertisements is crucial to start gaining traction. And to reach thousands or millions of users, continued UA efforts are essential.

User acquisition also impacts brand perception and user engagement. A well-executed user acquisition strategy is essential for bringing in the right users for profitability. As more people become regular players of your game, organic discoverability improves and the ability to monetize players increases – ensuring that overall player growth includes a higher lifetime value (LTV) curve.

Understanding UA also allows developers to optimize marketing spend, allowing game marketers to quickly adapt to market trends and shifts – ensuring that every dollar spent gets the best ROI.

User acquisition (UA) for mobile games involves two main approaches: paid and organic. To maximize results, it is essential to integrate both strategies into your mobile game marketing plan. Focusing solely on one approach can limit opportunities to attract more users.

Paid user acquisition

Paid user acquisition involves converting users through paid ads on social media platforms and ad networks. This approach primarily uses ads that encourage people to download and install your game.


  • Effectiveness: This tactic is highly effective if you properly optimize it – allowing you to reach people who are most likely to become high-performing players.
  • Reach: Running ads on popular ad networks exposes your game to vast audiences.

Key Elements

  • Ad creatives: Ad creatives play a crucial role in the success of paid UA campaigns. While campaign management is increasingly automated, creating compelling ad creatives remains a task best handled by humans. Investing time and effort into creative production is vital.
  • Campaign management: Effective campaign management involves continuously optimizing ads to ensure they reach the right audience and achieve the best results.

Organic User Acquisition

Organic user acquisition focuses on driving installs without paid ads by improving the discoverability of your game. This approach often includes app store optimization (ASO), search engine optimization (SEO), and content marketing.


  • Cost-effective: Organic UA is free, making it a cost-effective strategy.
  • Brand awareness: This approach helps improve brand awareness and grow a community around your game.

Key Elements

  • App store optimization (ASO): ASO is the process of optimizing your game’s app store listing to improve its visibility and increase the number of downloads.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): SEO is the process of optimizing your website to improve visibility for your target audience – ultimately to increase downloads.
  • Content marketing: Posting on social media channels and your website to engage with users, build a community, and enhance brand awareness. While it may not yield immediate results like paid UA, it contributes to long-term success.

Integrating paid and organic UA

To achieve the best results, it is crucial to combine both paid and organic user acquisition strategies. Paid UA provides immediate results and broad reach, while organic UA builds long-term visibility and community engagement. Together, they create a balanced and effective user acquisition strategy.

Create a winning strategy for mobile gaming user acquisition

The mobile games market has evolved significantly over the years. Today’s users demand more complex gameplay with engaging meta layers that add real value to the experience. Adapting to these changes is crucial for a successful user acquisition (UA) strategy. Below are expert tips on creating a winning UA strategy for your game.

Identify your target audience

Understand your prospective players

  • Define your target audience: Identify who would be interested in your game by analyzing previous campaigns or starting broad and narrowing down.
  • Leverage market intelligence: Use growth acceleration and market intelligence platforms to access valuable player data. Many platforms offer player segmentation based on gamer archetypes and player demographics.
  • Test audience segments: Test different audience segments with a small budget before launching the main campaign to identify what works best.

Develop engaging gameplay

Focus on the fun

  • Focus on engaging gameplay mechanics: Entertaining mechanics and engaging gameplay are ultimately what keep players coming back to your game. So make sure your game is actually fun!
  • Build ad creatives around what your players love: Figure out what parts of your game your players most connect to and use this information to build ad creatives that prospective players are likely to engage with.

Choose the right marketing channels

Paid user acquisition

  • Use multiple channels: Platforms like Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Google, Apple, TikTok, and others are effective for gathering installs. Test on smaller budgets initially.
  • Focus on ad creatives: High-quality ad creatives are crucial. Automated campaign management emphasizes the need for compelling, human-created ad content.

Organic user acquisition

  • ASO and SEO: Optimize your game’s app store and search engine listings to improve discoverability. Use relevant keywords, impactful visuals, and compelling descriptions.
  • Content marketing: Use your website and social media to improve brand awareness and grow a community around your game.

Track and analyze key performance indicators (KPIs)

Monitor critical KPIs

  • Track important metrics: Metrics like ROAS, CPI, LTV, ARPPU, and ARPDAU are essential for evaluating UA campaigns.
  • Adjust based on data: Use performance data to make strategic decisions and optimize your campaigns continuously.

Create high-quality ad creatives

Video and playable ads

  • Video ads: Showcase in-game mechanics and core gameplay to potential players. Ensure ads accurately represent the game to avoid high drop-off rates.
  • Playable ads: These ads allow users to try the game before installing, attracting higher-quality players. However, ensure they accurately depict early gameplay stages.

Utilize creative trends, industry news, and influencers

Stay updated with trends

  • Watch your competitors: Keep a close watch on your competitors to understand their strategies, successes, and failures. Use this information to refine your own UA and game development efforts – and identify gaps in the market.
  • Experiment with crazy ads: Sometimes unconventional ads can go viral and attract attention.

Work with influencers

  • Influencer marketing: Collaborate with gaming influencers to extend reach and acquire high-quality users. Micro-influencers, in particular, can drive higher engagement. Watch your eCPM with your influencer partnerships.

Track updates and announcements

  • Stay informed: Regularly follow industry news, updates, and announcements to stay ahead of trends and leverage new opportunities for user acquisition.

Engage with player feedback

Respond to reviews

  • Show interest: Actively respond to player reviews and feedback. This not only improves your app’s rating but also shows that you value your players’ opinions, fostering a loyal community.
  • Continuous improvement: Use feedback to make continuous improvements to your game, addressing any issues and enhancing the overall player experience.

Continuous optimization and adaptation

Regular analysis

  • Consistent monitoring: Continuously analyze the effectiveness of your UA campaigns and make necessary adjustments.
  • Adapt to market changes: Stay updated with changes in the advertising ecosystem, such as Google’s Privacy Sandbox and Apple’s AdAttributionKit (AAK).

Key takeaways

The dynamic and competitive nature of the mobile gaming industry necessitates a robust user acquisition (UA) strategy for any game maker. By integrating both paid and organic methods, developers can attract and retain high-value players, ensuring sustained growth and profitability.

Understanding user behavior, optimizing data-driven insights, and leveraging diverse marketing channels is key to effectively leveraging both paid and organic user acquisition. And high-quality, engaging creatives and a strategic approach to campaign management are essential to stand out in this deep red ocean.

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