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Ask the Developer: How rewarded video helped Beeworks increase retention rates

by Tatsuo Sakamoto on Sep 20, 2017

AppLovin is a global brand and platform, which means we have the opportunity to work with developers from different markets all around the world. In our Ask the Developer series, we speak with developers to learn their strategies and best practices and share expert insights.

For this installment of Ask the Developer, we interviewed Mr. Cardboard Nameko of Beeworks Co., Ltd. about the use of rewarded video ads for their hit game, Nameko no Su, known as Nameko’s Nest (Android | iOS) in English. Nameko’s Nest lets you build and expand your town of sentient nameko mushrooms. The game is only one in a series of mobile games featuring the iconic anthropomorphized fungi, with other such games including Walk-A-Funghi (Android | iOS) and Mushroom Garden Seasons HD (Android | iOS).

Beeworks X AppLovin

Can you tell us about the sequence of events leading up to the development of Mushroom Garden?

Nameko Saibai Kit is a casual game series where users grow and harvest their own mushrooms, adding new types of mushrooms as the game progresses. Currently, there are over 700 types of mushrooms available in the game.

That’s a lot of mushrooms. How can players manage 700 types?

That’s exactly what sparked the development of this game. The degree of recognition for each mushroom became weaker even among the most avid players. That’s why we wanted to create a game where we could present our mushroom characters in a different way and have each mushroom be individually liked while continuing the Saibai Kit series. We created a game system where we could show users the mushroom characters moving around and living their lives, and around 2013, we began planning for Nameko no Su before beginning full-scale development on it about one and a half years ago.

So you began planning the game that long ago. What is the monetization strategy for Nameko’s Nest?

We utilize in-app purchases (IAP), banner advertisements, and rewarded video ads. We had only ever used banner ads before and never had IAP in any of the previous Nameko series games, so it was a new challenge for us.

How did you implement rewarded video ads in your games?

For Nameko’s Nest, we didn’t want to utilize rewarded video ads just for monetization. Instead, we came at it from the perspective that rewarded video would be good for both us and the player. Prioritizing monetization would have cannibalized our IAP and all of our resources would be eaten up in order to adjust the game balance, so we decided that there wasn’t a need to move in that direction.

We also didn’t want to give the impression to our users that we were only interested in making money, so we placed a heavy emphasis on implementing rewarded video for Nameko’s Nest with placements that felt natural.

For example, the first appearance of rewarded video happens after level 19, a milestone in gameplay where a movie theater is successfully built.

Beeworks Nameko theater level

When users watch the video ad in the theater, they receive a special ticket that can be exchanged for various items. We made the items unique in that they cannot be acquired through IAP or other login bonuses.

Beeworks Nameko theater rewarded video

Implementation of the rewarded video ad.

The frequency capping of the ads is set to once per day per user, so it means that we created an additional area where users can receive a login bonus. In reality, we could have increased revenue by showing video ads to users multiple times per day, but that was not our original intent, so we decided to limit the frequency of the ads. We hoped to see a slight increase in the retention rate, which in turn would lead to further profits from in-app purchases, so we purposely did not increase the frequency of the ads.

That’s impressive that you can increase your profits significantly while minimizing the frequency of the video ads. What kind of effects have you seen by implementing the rewarded ad videos?

Originally, there weren’t many in-game items that tickets could be exchanged for, so users were not motivated to watch the ads, which resulted in a decrease in the number of ad views. We issued an update at the end of last month and increased the number of desirable target items that could be exchanged for with tickets. As a result, we were able to increase the number of views, and improve the retention rate and revenue.

Bewoorks Nameko cardboard mask

By the way, this is completely off-topic, but is that a handmade cardboard mushroom head?

Yes, it’s handmade. Initially I made a full-body version, but it was hard to move around in, so I decided to just make the head. I’ve been using the same one for about six years now and it’s been surprisingly durable. I uploaded a tutorial on how to make the same mushroom head, so please check it out if you are interested!

Tatsuo Sakamoto is AppLovin’s director of sales in Japan.

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