Retrospective: The Top 4 incredibly important developments of 2018 that app marketers can’t afford to ignore

Retrospective: The Top 4 incredibly important developments of 2018 that app marketers can’t afford to ignore-

Retrospective: The Top 4 incredibly important developments of 2018 that app marketers can’t afford to ignore

From the scandals that rocked tech giants to the ASO changes that change all the rules, 2018 has been a busy year filled with big developments. We gather together the 4 developments that made (and will continue to make) the biggest impact on the mobile world.


#1 Fortnite breaks records and transforms models.


This truly epic game (made by North Carolina-based Epic Games) won the breakthrough game of the year at the Esports Awards. The game continues to shatter records, but the real news is how it has transformed the business. For one, the game forces studios and publishers to up their game and rethink how their products are developed, monetized, and updated over time. There are clear benefits to achieving cult status –even better when the game rakes in massive cash from in-app purchases of items like costumes, dance moves, and other things that have little effect on how players play the game but a lot of impact on how studios produce blockbuster hits. Second, Fortnite led to eSports becoming ever-more mainstream. In 2018, over 380 million people are now watching other people playing games online. This has moved big brands and advertisers to get in on the action--a trend that will continue well into 2019. The competition is bound to get more intense as other games rise up the charts. One title moving the needle is PUBG Mobile, the mobile version of "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," the PC game that kicked off the battle royale genre in the first place. According to SensorTower reports, PUBG Mobile has been downloaded more than 240 million times and has earned more than $113 million through microtransactions. Little wonder it’s been named Google Play's Best Game of 2018 and Fan Favorite Game of 2018.


#2 Facebook at the center of controversy – and date protection is law in Europe.


File this under “public outcry is huge and won’t go away any time soon.” Over the last year, Facebook has been at the center of social and political controversy—providing us proof that personal data is something we shouldn’t compromise or handle lightly. It all started when Facebook provided Cambridge Analytica — a data firm used by U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign to target voters — with personal information from some 87 million users' accounts without obtaining proper consent. From there it went from bad to worse. For example, a security flaw in the site's "View As" feature gave a hacker access to millions of users' accounts and gave the #DeleteFacebook movement a massive boost. In Europe alone Facebook has lost a million daily and monthly active users in the last three months, according to October 2018 reports and the company's latest financial results. All this may push more app marketers to look for other channels to reach and engage their audiences with app advertising they will accept and—more importantly—trust. In Europe, this isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s a must. In May, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became law in the European Union. What started as an attempt to take back some control from the Internet giants (translated: GAAF) who mine our personal data and use it for their own benefit, has made the lives of everyone else a lot harder. The GDPR stipulates that user data can be used only if that individual gives a company explicit permission. Getting it is another story. Marketers may not comprehend the law, but they have no choice but to do the legwork and the legal homework to make sure they are 100% compliant. Companies found to be in violation of the GDPR face a fine of €20 million ($22.1 million) or 4% of global revenues (whichever is greater). The good news: To date, few fines have been issued. The not-so-good news: That doesn’t mean the law lacks teeth. In fact, with many companies still so far behind on compliance, you can expect a tidal wave of fines and disciplinary action in 2019 as regulators realize it’s high time enforce, not educate.


#3 Google gets AI, Apple gets personal.


In 2018 it started to sink in that Google’s move to UAC had some unexpected repercussions--wresting campaigns control from app marketers. Back in 2017, Google moved all-new app install campaigns over to Google UAC (Universal App Campaigns). Then they turned off any Search, Display and YouTube app promo campaigns that were running. As a result, mobile app install campaigns on Google are done via Google UAC, which puts Google’s algorithm (not app marketers) in the driver's seat. Some app marketers may complain UAC is a black box , but--with Google doubling down on UAC in 2018--you can bet the trend will continue into 2019. (Expect Facebook to follow suit.) Meantime, Apple ups the ante with a move to provide users a more customized, personalized experience. The App Store in iOS 12 gets a new look matched by a smarter approach to bubble up apps that might interest users and deliver recommendations. Significantly, Games--the most popular category in the App Store--get an entire page strictly devoted to the Games experience—allowing users to navigate and discover available games without sifting through other app types. In a nutshell, the new “Games” page is designed as a news feed--with the top of the page displaying a carousel of new and featured games with titles and more visually appealing previews. Featured apps are presented in a carousel with an icon, title, and subtitle—allowing developers to describe their app in greater detail and utilize keywords. This presentation and personalization boost the discovery of new apps. It’s a boost to organic, but changes should also encourage app marketers to get creative about how they stay relevant to their audiences through advertising. Paid campaigns that deliver a strong message at intent-rich moments when your users are deep into activities where your app (and UA efforts) will continue to pay dividends well into (and beyond) 2019.


#4 Hyper-casual games score massive growth (and VC cash).


While other games genres--particularly mid-core titles--feel the squeeze in 2018, hyper-casual games rise to dominate the landscape. The titles, which take little time to produce, flood the market and benefit from the universal understanding and acceptance of minimalistic interfaces paired with instinctive gameplay. The games are lightweight, but the trend produces some heavy-hitters. In May 2018, Goldman Sachs’private equity fund invests about $200 million in Voodoo, a French mobile video game maker riding on the hyper-casual wave. Voodoo counts about 150 million regular users per month and its games were downloaded about 300 million times last year. In the same month, Zynga Inc. acquired Gram Games for $250 million. Gram’s nine titles, including Merge Dragons! and 1010!, have been downloaded 170 million times and will add about 3 million daily active users to Zynga’s lineup. The moves show hyper-casual is incredibly successful, but 2019 won’t be a walk in the park for app marketers operating in this genre. Look ahead to a year where the emphasis is on growth through ads that are more relevant and entertaining for your users. Sure, you can still run ads within your competitors' games. But you will most certainly generate more revenue by showing more contextual ads.

For us, these are more than major headlines. Together they are pivotal moments app marketers can’t ignore as they plan and prioritize for what’s to come in 2019.

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