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5 best rewarded video placements for idle games

Since Cookie Clicker brought idle games into the mainstream in 2013, these addicting apps have attracted a highly engaged and valuable user base. In fact, the average user session duration for idle games is 8 minutes compared to 4.2 minutes, which is the average across all mobile game genres. And, hyper-casual idle games in the US earn more revenue than hyper-casual games. To achieve returns like this, though, you need a monetization strategy that’s tailored for idle games - a big part of that is rewarded video. 

Why rewarded video works best for idle games

Whether it’s tapping the screen to make the man on screen squat faster in Idle Success or repeatedly clicking the cookie on screen to trade them in for upgrades in Cookie Clicker, the action-reward cycle is an essential part of idle games. Since rewarded video is a user-initiated placement that rewards users after they watch a video (aka, take action), it fits the psychological motivation of a user perfectly.

Nate Barker sums it up well on the LevelUp podcast: “Rewarded video works tremendously well in idle games as it provides a way to manipulate speed and payout - two core variables in most idle games. Rewarded video is non-interruptive, and is entirely opt-in, so players like the fact that they can engage with the ad unit at their own leisure. And oftentimes the content that is being advertised is similar to other idle games that the players like.”

The stats are there to back up the effectiveness of rewarded video, too. Idle casual games have a 2x higher usage rate than other casual games - users watch over 11 rewarded videos in one idle game session. 

The best way to reap all the benefits that rewarded video offers is to diversify your strategy. Here are 5 rewarded video placements you can use to boost performance in your idle game. 

1. The daily reward multiplier

The daily reward multiplier appears each day that a user returns to the game, giving players the option to watch a video and multiply their daily reward. The enticing offer, which happens just once a day, not only gives users more currency for reinvestment, but also encourages them to return to the game each day and in doing so, boosts retention.

In idle games, this concept of incrementality is key - even when users aren’t playing the game, they are earning rewards that they then receive when they come back to the game. In this way, the daily multiplier fits in with the entire psychology of idle games, which centers around the flow of accumulation, reinvestment, and acceleration, because this placement immediately increases the amount of resources the user accumulated while they were away. 

2. Time booster

When monetizing games, think about how you can use rewarded video to solve players’ pain points. As this relates to idle games, instead of just offering currency in return for watching, you can offer players more creative rewards, like speeding up time or multiplying in-game currency. In the case of a time booster rewarded video, users can watch an ad to speed up time so they can accumulate resources more quickly. 

To reiterate, the psychology of idle games is all about accumulation, reinvestment, and acceleration. It’s simple math - would you rather wait as your primary currency increases at X speed or watch a video ad to double the speed (acceleration) and amount (accumulation) of resources earned? It’s an easy choice.

3. Primary currency booster

Primary currency refers to the main resource that’s incremented in idle games. In Idle World!, for example, the primary currency is energy. In Prison Empire Tycoon, it’s cash. A primary currency booster is similar to a time booster, but it accelerates the pace of accumulating the main resource instead of accelerating time. No matter where the booster is placed - on the main screen vs. dynamically during gameplay - this mechanic lets users opt in to watch a rewarded video and multiply their earnings.

4. Progression-based

The effectiveness of progression-based rewarded video has to do with the economy of idle games. When a user first begins playing, their production - the amount of resources they’re earning - initially exceeds their costs. This means they can progress through the game quickly and easily. As they move through the game, though, costs start exceeding production. It’s at this point that monetization can make a bigger impact on gameplay because players are in need of more resources as costs become higher. 

Progress-based rewarded video is a way for them to earn resources and reduce costs. The further into the game that a player is, the greater the reward and the more valuable that reward is at that later stage. It’s also a way to keep users engaged and retain them even as the game becomes more difficult and strategic. 

5. One rewarded video after another

Like we mentioned earlier, the average idle game player watches over 9 rewarded videos in a single session. Why not take advantage of this usage rate and show them a sequence of ads all at once? That’s the idea behind this type of rewarded video, which offers players a reward for each video they watch. One way to do this is to scale the rewards and offer larger rewards after each completed video. 

For example, let’s say the primary currency in your game is rubies and the reward for showing the first video is 100 rubies. For the rewarded video right after, the awarded currency increases to 300 rubies. Then for the third video, it’s 600 rubies. The reward keeps increasing until the final video, which ends with a spinning wheel that has a few high-value rewards (like 20 diamonds, which in your game is the primary exchange currency for rubies). 

Increasing the amount of in-game currency awarded after each video is a way to keep people engaged and watching as many rewarded videos as you’re willing to show. Alternatively, you could offer the same reward for watching each video, but still offer a larger one at the end. This is what Idle Supermarket Tycoon does - the user can watch up to 6 rewarded videos (with each one offering a 2x income multiplier as a reward) and get 30 gems as a final reward. 

Regardless of how you implement a sequential rewarded video, monitor usage rates carefully to determine how many rewarded videos are too many. This way, you can figure out the right frequency and capping settings that get users through the entire sequence. Also, include a checklist or progress bar of some sort so users know how many ads they need to watch to earn the rewards, what the rewards are, and how they’re progressing through the reward sequence.

Bonus: Best practices for rewarded video

To make these different types of rewarded videos as effective as possible, here are a few best practices:

  • Make the value prop clear: What do users get if they watch the video ad?
  • Natural look and feel: Though rewarded video is user-initiated, it should still flow seamlessly with the rest of the game’s design so it doesn’t interrupt the UX.
  • Inform the player about the reward once they’ve achieved it: Offer them a quick message of congratulations, highlight their resource total to make it clear they’ve earned the reward.

Rewarded video fits seamlessly into idle games because of the psychology behind them. Taking advantage of the accumulation, reinvestment, and acceleration cycle with types of rewarded video can maximize ARPDAU and boost retention because you’re tapping into the behavior that gets people playing - and returning to - idle games in the first place.

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