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Top 15 Mobile Game Ad Networks to Acquire Players

(This article was originally published on Udonis’ blog.)

Feel like you’re constantly wasting your user acquisition budget on the wrong users? Wondering where you can find engaged, loyal, and monetizable users for your mobile game?

To find these users in the right places, you must know which ad networks are the best choice for your user acquisition campaigns. For this reason, we’ve listed the top game ad networks for acquiring players.

The ad networks are separated into different categories based on the observed KPIs — retention rates, in-app purchases, ad monetization, retargeting possibilities, and growth rates.

Are you struggling with user acquisition ever since Apple’s IDFA depreciation arrived? We also have SKAN rankings you may be interested in.

If you’re more interested in the same rankings for non-gaming apps, check out our article on top ad networks to acquire app users.

Data source: the most recent AppsFlyer Performance Index for H1 2021 (623 media sources, 33 billion installs, 55 billion app opens, and over 17,000 apps analyzed).

Top Game Ad Networks: The Retention Index Power Ranking (Android)

If you’re looking to acquire loyal gamers on Android devices, these are the top ad networks to be on currently.

1. Google Ads

Just like in the previous edition, Google Ads ranked #1 when it comes to retaining users on Android. The ad network was the leader in retaining players in almost all mobile game genres.

With the tech giant’s focus on the App Campaigns tool, constant updates, and machine learning, it obviously has managed to reach the right users.

Using Google’s App Campaigns, your mobile game ads can appear across all Google’s properties: Google Play, Google Display Network, Google Search, YouTube, AdMob, at their search partners, and in other apps.

Generally, in Google Ads, you can target users by location, language, mobile platform, operating system, interests, topics, and other criteria.

On the other hand, in App Campaigns, Google automatically adjusts targeting and bidding to get maximum value from each install.

Furthermore, Google allows you to choose between bidding strategies based on the number of installs, in-app actions, and driving in-app action value.

When it comes to in-app advertising, Google supports all the leading app formats: banner ads, interstitial ads, native ads, and rewarded ads. Choosing the right ad format helps game advertisers to monetize games most effectively and retain the right users.

2. Unity Ads

When it comes to retaining Android users, Unity Ads has remained the leader of the so-called Gaming Triopoly (Unity Ads, AppLovin, ironSource).

This ad network was extremely successful in several mobile game genres. It ranked #1 in racing games and 2# in hyper-casual, action, arcade, and adventure games.

Since the Unity Ads network specializes in mobile game advertising, it comes as no surprise that it ranks this high in retaining game users. One of the key features of this network is that it can target users interested in a specific game type.

Another factor that makes UnityAds so successful is its focus on native video advertising. Of course, it also supports other ad formats like banners or interstitial ads.

Basically, if you are using video ads to monetize your game, this is an ad network you shouldn’t skip.

3. Facebook

Facebook is one of those ad networks that stay at the top of these rankings year after year.

According to this year’s Retention Index, Facebook has been exceptionally good at retaining hardcore gamers. It performed exceedingly well in hardcore gaming in Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Latin America, and North America.

One of the main reasons for this is its superior targeting options that include:

  • Location
    Target users by country, city, or area where your game is available to download.
  • Demographics
    Find your target audience by age, gender, and other demographics. You can test different game ad variations for different user groups.
  • Interests
    Reach your potential players if they’ve shown interest in something related to your game.
  • Behaviors
    For example, you can find people who’ve purchased similar games in the past.
  • Platform
    Target Android, iOS, or Amazon App store users.
  • Devices
    Allows selecting device types, but also device models.
  • Connection
    Only targeting users with a WiFi connection.

Facebook also supports different ad formats, including game-specific ones, such as rewarded video ads and playable ads. These kinds of ads help game advertisers reach high-value and high-intent users.

Finally, these ads can appear anywhere on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Audience Network.

From finding the right audiences to delivering the right ad format at the right place, all of these factors drive user retention on Facebook.

To learn more about advertising on Facebook to acquire mobile gamers, check out our guide on Facebook Campaigns for Mobile Games.

4. Mintegral

In the previous Retention index, this ad network wasn’t even on the top 15 list. But now, it’s right behind three mobile game advertising giants.

Mintegral performed particularly well in three mobile game categories: music, simulation, and mid-core, ranking #1 across six regions.

What is it about this ad network that has brought such a sudden surge?

Mintegral is an ad platform that originated in Asia and made a global impact. Today, it’s a part of more than 20 international ad exchanges and works with over 26,000 app partners.

It works as a supply and demand platform for mobile publishers and advertisers. If you are a mobile advertiser looking for a “smart” platform, you can stop looking.

If there’s one thing you should know about Mintegral, it’s this — it’s completely programmatic and interactive.

5. AppLovin

Compared to the previous Retention Index, AppLovin has dropped by one spot. Nevertheless, it still holds second place in the Gaming Triopoly.

This network’s main focus is finding high-quality users based on campaign analysis.

The ad formats on this platform include interstitial ads, banner ads, mobile app install ads, and video ads. You can mix these formats until you find the best performing combination.

When it comes to bidding strategies, AppLovin supports CPI and CPC-based campaigns.

6. ironSource

This ad network has experienced a minor setback since the previous Retention Index, dropping by one spot on Android. This puts it in the last position in the Gaming Triopoly.

IronSource comes with a set of tools that automate bid optimization across multiple breakdowns.

Moreover, it allows you to also place different ad formats like video, interstitial ads, and offerwalls.

IronSource’s retention scores have been best among several game genres: music, sports, adventure, arcade, and simulation games.

7. MOLOCO

MOLOCO is a mobile advertising platform for user acquisition, monetization, and engagement. This ad network grew rapidly in 2020, and in H1 2021, its position remained stable.

This ad network allows programmatic bidding on ad exchanges, providing apps with billions of daily impressions.

Alongside programmatic UA, MOLOCO also provides AI-driven mobile app retargeting.

It also features a self-serve real-time bidding platform, MOLOCO Cloud. This platform has recently moved to Google Cloud to support its app bidding.

8. AdColony

One of the leading platforms for mobile video advertising and monetization, AdColony, has over 1.5 billion users across the globe.

This network provides app publishers with optimization tools and targeting options to find engaged mobile audiences. Some of its main features include:

  • Instant-Play video technology
  • Aurora HD interactive videos
  • Playable technology
  • Demographic targeting
  • Integration with Android and iOS

With video ads driving the mobile gaming industry, it comes as no surprise that AdColony remains among the leading ad networks.

9. Snapchat

Despite its solid position in user retention for gaming apps, this platform is even more effective for non-gaming apps.

When it comes to reaching a younger audience for your mobile game, Snapchat ads are a great choice. Today, about 60.5% of Snapchat users are aged 13 to 24 (Datareportal).

Snapchat offers different targeting options that include: interests and behavior, demographics, location, custom audiences, and lookalike audiences.

There are six different types of Snapchat ad formats, some of which are unique to this platform:

  • Snap Ads
  • Filters
  • Story Ads
  • Lens
  • Commercials
  • Collection Ads

10. Vungle

Vungle is a mobile ad network with several distinguishing features. It serves one type of ad only — video ads.

Moreover, Vungle is specialized in in-app advertising, and it is available on several platforms: iOS, Android, Windows, and Amazon.

Additionally, it provides custom targeting options. The bidding models it offers are CPA, CPM, CPC, and CPI.

This ad network managed to retain its position among the top ten from the last Performance Index.

11. Chartboost

Chartboost has been a common name on Appflyer’s Retention Index for years already.

It works as a direct marketplace with no intermediary costs. It provides publishers with ad space control, so you get to decide who can advertise within your app.

One of the key features of this platform is free cross-promotion for interstitial and video ads.

Moreover, on Chartboost, you can run CPI and CPC campaigns and place different ad formats. These include video ads, interstitial ads, and offerwalls.

In August 2021, it was acquired by Zynga, a leading mobile game studio. We have yet to see how this acquisition will affect Chartboost’s future rankings.

12. Digital Turbine

Digital Turbine has made not only the Retention Index for Android, but also the IAP index and the Growth Index. This tells us two things about this ad network:

  1. it delivers quality users
  2. it’s still growing

Digital Turbine helps game advertisers build relationships with mobile operators and device manufacturers. For example, they work with Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.

Thanks to these collaborations, this platform comes installed by default on certain devices. More precisely, on over half a billion devices.

13. Xiaomi

Xiaomi’s advertising platform grants app marketers access to Xiaomi users across the globe. With their smartphones accounting for about 9.2% of the smartphone market, this platform can reach over 500 million devices every day.

Game developers and advertisers can use this ad network to appear across Xiaomi’s main channels: firmware MIUI, app store, browser, news, and other Xiaomi-owned properties.

Since Xiaomi made this list and is also third in the Growth Index list, the future seems to be bright for this ad network.

14.SHAREit

SHAREit is a sharing app with over 500 million monthly active users globally.

This ad network’s main feature is a peer-to-peer file sharing across short distances. By using the app, users share photos, music, and other files with other devices without having to be online.

It’s interesting to note that this ad network has made it to the Retention Index and the IAP index. Both of these rankings suggest that this ad network can deliver high-quality, valuable app users.

15. Mistplay

In the previous Retention Index, this ad network appeared on the list for the first time ever.

Now, it has reappeared in the rankings, so obviously, it’s doing a successful job at maintaining its performance.

Mistplay is anything but a typical ad network. The app first started as a loyalty program for mobile gamers. Later on, it introduced chat, follow, and other social options within the app.

Working together with game studios, Mistplay creates content and analyzes user behavior data to recommend users new games they might like.

The longer users play the recommended game, they get more loyalty units. After that, they award people with real-life gift cards in exchange for the collected units. Basically, people get rewarded just for playing games.

Top Game Ad Networks: The Retention Index Power Ranking (iOS)

As we’ve mentioned, there were no mutual rankings for Android and iOS in this year’s Index.

This is because Apple’s privacy changes had a big impact on iOS rankings, so it’s best to observe them separately. Here is the list:

  1. Unity Ads
  2. Facebook
  3. Apple Search Ads
  4. AppLovin
  5. ironSource
  6. Google Ads
  7. Mintegral
  8. TikTok for Business
  9. Vungle
  10. MOLOCO
  11. Liftoff

Unity Ads is generally well known for delivering quality mobile game players.

When it comes to iOS gamers, the ad network had the most success in action, casual, puzzle, and hyper-casual games. Notably, most of these genres attract casual gamers.

Therefore, if you want to reach this group of players for your game, make sure to consider this ad network.

The SKAN Index

In the post-IDFA universe, acquiring iOS users became a bigger challenge than ever before.

New times call for new analyses, so in this edition, AppsFlyer also analyzed Apple’s SKAdNetwork (SKAN).

SKAN is Apple’s solution for attribution, and thanks to privacy restrictions, it’s pretty limited. As such, it makes it hard to measure retention, lifetime values and track user behavior.

This index doesn’t separate gaming from-non gaming apps, but it’s useful for everyone.

Let’s take a look at the rankings:

  1. TikTok for Business
  2. Facebook
  3. AppLovin
  4. Google Ads
  5. Unity Ads
  6. ironSource
  7. Twitter
  8. Liftoff
  9. Snapchat
  10. Jampp

According to the Index, the ad network that adapted the post-IDFA era best was TikTok for Business.

Facebook, traditionally the leader on the iOS platform, has come second in the SKAN Index power ranking. According to the company, in H1 2021, the ad network was still struggling to get through the transition phase.

Top Game Ad Networks: The IAA Index (Android)

The IAA Index tells us which game ad networks are best for acquiring users who engage with in-app ads.

If we take all mobile game categories into consideration, the top ten ad networks for acquiring users who engage with ads on Android are:

  1. Unity Ads
  2. Facebook
  3. Google Ads
  4. AppLovin
  5. ironSource
  6. TikTok for Business
  7. Snapchat
  8. Mintegral
  9. Mopub Acquire
  10. Tapjoy

As you can see, Unity Ads is the #1 media source for acquiring users who monetize well with in-app ads. The ad network is driven by the first position in the hyper-casual category, the second spot in casual, and the third in the mid-core category.

Top Game Ad Networks: The IAA Index (iOS)

When it comes to iOS users who engage with in-app ads, the top ten list is quite different from Android. Let’s take a look at the rankings:

  1. AppLovin
  2. Unity Ads
  3. ironSource
  4. Facebook
  5. Snapchat
  6. Mintegral
  7. TikTok for Business
  8. Google Ads
  9. Apple Search Ads
  10. Vungle

Here, another ad network from the Gaming Triopoly leads the way — AppLovin. It is followed by two other gaming giants, Unity Ads and ironSource. Facebook is right behind them, but Google is far behind in the 8th position.

Top Game Ad Networks: The IAP Index (Android)

The IAP Index tells us about the ad networks that bring in players who are most likely to make in-app purchases. Here are the ad networks that made it to the top on Android:

  1. Google Ads
  2. Facebook
  3. Snapchat
  4. MOLOCO
  5. Blind Ferret
  6. Unity Ads
  7. Chartboost
  8. Mopub
  9. Aarki
  10. AppLovin

As you can see, Google Ads has once again proven its ability to drive top-quality, paying users for mobile games.

Top Game Ad Networks: The IAP Index (iOS)

Reaching paying iOS users wasn’t an easy task, especially with everything going on with the privacy updates. Here are the ad networks that were best for finding paying players on iOS:

  1. Facebook
  2. Apple Search Ads
  3. Unity Ads
  4. Google Ads
  5. Snapchat
  6. AppLovin
  7. ironSource
  8. Ocean Engine
  9. Mintegral
  10. TikTok for Business

Despite the privacy changes, Facebook has remained the best platform at finding high-value users for gaming apps on iOS. This was mainly thanks to its results in the puzzle, RPG, simulation, and strategy genres.

Meanwhile, Apple’s own ad network came as a close second. Due to Apple’s privacy changes, this comes as no surprise. The thing is, unlike others, this ad network still has proper user attribution data. Therefore, it has had a significant advantage in reaching high-value users.

Best Game Ad Networks for Remarketing

In this Performance Index, remarketing data is available for Android apps only. If you’re looking to retarget users for your game, these are the ad networks to consider:

  1. Facebook
  2. Remerge
  3. Google Ads
  4. Liftoff
  5. Aarki
  6. Adikteev
  7. Twitter

Facebook has always been known as THE ad network for retargeting, and this list keeps this claim alive.

However, it is followed by Remerge that specializes in remarketing. Will its specialization help this ad network reach the top in the next Index? We’ll keep you posted.

Fastest-Growing Ad Networks

The ranking of the fastest-growing mobile game ad networks is only available for Android users. This is because it would be pretty inaccurate to compare iOS rankings to the previous Index.

The list applies to both gaming and non-gaming apps. Here’s the list of the most prospective ad networks:

  1. Adjoe
  2. Bigo
  3. Xiaomi
  4. Vivo
  5. Digital Turbine
  6. MobWonder
  7. MOLOCO
  8. Simeji
  9. Voluum
  10. Chartboost
  11. Jampp

Adjoe was the fastest-growing ad network in H1 2021. In this period, Adjoe experienced a 60% client growth and a 2.5x increase in attributed non-organic installs.

The ad network’s success was driven by a couple of markets: the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

A Final Note on Game Ad Networks

In 2021, the world of mobile game advertising drastically changed. The ad networks needed to adapt to the situation, and some did this better than others.

Overall, one of the keys to successful user acquisition is choosing the right ad network for your game. Hopefully, this list helped you with this.

As can be seen from the rankings, different game ad networks work differently depending on the KPI you’re looking at. Generally, giants like Facebook and Google remain on the throne in most rankings.

The networks from the gaming triopoly (Unity Ads, ironSource, AppLovin) also found themselves in the leading positions across categories.

What can we expect from the next Index? On Android, the rankings will probably remain stable, with breakthroughs of the growing ad networks. On iOs, we have yet to see how different ad networks adapted to the privacy updates.

About Udonis

Since 2018 until today, Udonis Inc. has acquired over 150 million users for mobile apps & games. We’re recognized as a leading mobile marketing agency by 5 major marketing review firms. We helped over 20 mobile apps & games reach the top charts. Want to know how we make it look so effortless? Meet us to find out!

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