Changes to Apple’s IDFA are already affecting game design and monetization

Changes to Apple’s IDFA are already affecting game design and monetization

Already we are seeing notable differences to the way many games are designed and developed, and especially to the game mechanics that drive their monetization strategies. After all, when game developers can no longer target ad campaigns based on specific criteria and are forced to rely on a broader campaign distribution strategy, they must rethink the way they monetize the broad-based audiences they will now attract.

When Apple updated its ad tracking ID from opt-out to opt-in with the launch of iOS 14.5 in April, the industry’s primary concern was how it would affect mobile app marketing — and rightfully so, given how reliant marketers were IDFA’s capability to target relevant, high-value users. This policy change has disrupted the entire app marketing ecosystem, with significant repercussions to the way we track, measure, target and re-target ad campaigns. But perhaps just as important, if less heralded, as those changes were, is that Apple’s policy has also had significant implications for game design and monetization.

The hybridization of hardcore and casual games
Hardcore and casual games have traditionally represented opposite ends of a spectrum based on factors such as the depth of the storytelling experience, the length of the sessions, and more. These disparate gaming styles have typically attracted very different audiences: Core gamers are more committed and more willing to invest in game setup, while casual gamers typically look for a quick payoff or a bit of light entertainment.

In the post-IDFA era, we are beginning to see many developers take a hybrid approach in which they include features attractive to a broader player audience in a single game. For example, hardcore strategy games built around exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination (the four Xs in 4X games such as Civilization) are starting to see more straightforward RPG-type character development and fast-paced combat layers. The idea is to provide a little something for everyone and introduce different gameplay verticals within the same title. We’ve seen this happen in games like State of Survival, a strategy game from KingsGroup. Whereas it does utilize the typical 4X strategy game feature-set in that it involves building armies and waging wide-scale war against other players, it also has a separate RPG layer with character development and light narrative elements mixed with fast-paced combat sequences.

At the same time, we’re also seeing a hybridization of the art style and design aesthetic. Whereas core games have traditionally relied on relatively realistic (even if fantasy-driven), highly detailed art design and casual games have been more cartoonish or minimalist, we’re witnessing plenty of games that strike a middle ground between the two, such as Rise of Kingdoms and Top War. Both of these very successful strategy game titles use an art style that could be described as casual and cartoonish. As with the game mechanics, this hybridization of game design is intended to appeal to a broad audience of both core and casual gamers.

The News Highlights

  • Changes to Apple’s IDFA are already affecting game design and monetization
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