GameChangerSF Named to Inc. 500

Inc. magazine ranked GameChangerSF to its top 500 prestigious ranking of the nation's fastest-growing private companies. We rank #14 in the startup heavy San Francisco, Bay Area.

From the beginning, we have been focused on helping our clients grow. We figured if we do right by our clients the rest will take care of itself. Our growth is a byproduct of helping our clients succeed. We are grateful to all our clients, past and present, who have helped us get here.

We could not have done it without our amazing staff who continue to lead the mobile advertising industry in results and knowledge. They are the best in the industry.

While making a list is fun, we know it's only a snapshot in time. We continue to improve our knowledge and technology and improve the results we get for clients. Because mobile advertising moves fast, we move even faster.

Let's continue to grow and succeed together!

Phil Shpilberg
Advertising on Facebook - Sharing Facebook Pages and Apps

To be able to advertise your apps on Facebook we need access to your Facebook App and Facebook page. Here are instructions on how to grant us access to each.

These instructions assume you have already signed up for Facebook Business, have admin access, and manage your pages and apps from it. If you have not you can learn about Facebook Business here

Granting Access to a Facebook App

Navigate to Business Manager Settings

Navigate to Apps from the left side menu. Click the "Assign Partner" button. You will see a pop-up box that asks for the business ID of the partner. GameChangerSF's ID is 477118515758542

We are now able to assign your app to an advertising account. We are almost there!

Granting Partner Access to a Facebook Page:

Navigate to Business Settings > Pages

Locate the page you want to share and click "Assign Partner". Choose the "page advertiser" role, copy that URL and email it to us at

Sharing a Facebook Ads Account

If we are going to use your Facebook account, you should also generate a link to share it. It works the same way as pages. Navigate to accounts on the left hand menu, rinse and repeat the instructions from Granting Page Access. If we are only looking at the account for information, select Analyst. If we are going to use it for advertising select Advertiser.

That's it! We should be ready to get you great users!

The Mobile Blitz Campaign Sugar High Addiction

Blitz Campaigning

(otherwise known as "burst campaigning") is driving a lot of incentivized installs (installs by people who are incentivized with a reward to download and open an app) in a short period in order to drive the app up the app store charts, and get a lot of organic installs... or so the theory goes.

A blitz campaign in the US typically lasts two to four days over a weekend and costs between fifty to over one hundred thousand dollars. Once the budget is exhausted and the chart position is reached, masses of people are expected to discover the app and install it. Expected… but let me share a secret: it rarely happens.

In a more typical scenario, organic installs fail to show up sending the app in a tailspin down the chart. Users acquired cheaply as incentivized installs don’t come back leaving the buyer with nothing to show for the spent marketing budget.

In this respect, blitz campaigns can be compared to

Sugar High

that one gets after consuming a large amount of sugar. One briefly feels happy and energized, but very quickly mood and energy level drops, leaving one feeling drained and down.

Incentivized Installs

 are at the core of the blitz strategy, and they are much like 


Non Essential

Sugar is not essential for your nutrition (glucose is). Sugar calories are “empty” calories. Incentivized installs are not essential for your growth strategy. Incentivized installs are “empty” installs that deliver zero value. Incentivized users do not engage with the app, do not come back and certainly do not monetize. Moreover, most of them un-installs your app upon collecting their reward

False Claims


Food manufacturers will tell you that agave, honey and other sweet products are better sugars than pure sugar. Maybe a tiny bit better, but they are still essentially sugar and you will not get your nutrition there.

Incentivized installs Companies that sell incentivized installs will tell you how theirs are better than the other guy’s. Not true. Maybe some incentivized users have return rate have return rate of a couple percent versus zero percent from another source, but it makes no difference.


Sugar Sugar is addicting. Although the addictive nature of sugar is milder compared to drugs, eating sugar every day and multiple times each day can definitely turn into a real addiction.

Incentivized installs Driving volume with mostly incentivized installs is an oddly  habit-forming activity. Low CPIs and high download numbers are so seductive that many executive teams close their eyes on the fact that retention plummets and they contribute nothing to the actual growth (as growth requires good “stickiness”).

The Budget Dilemma


Many families in poor communities cannot afford fresh produce and instead rely on processed junk food and sugary sodas. Incentivized installs Many developers fond of blitz campaigns think that they simply cannot afford 

paying over $2 for high quality installs when their LTV is around or below $1. Growing your business by a series of burst campaigns when you can’t afford quality acquisition is like putting your kids on a diet of sugary drinks because you cannot afford fresh produce and vegetables. You have to stop and ask yourself: am I doing more harm than good? If your LTV is low, the last thing you should be doing is taking chances with your limited marketing budget.

Ditch It

Sugar If you want to lose extra weight, be healthier and have good teeth, eliminate sugar from your diet. Incentivized installs

If you are looking to improve lifetime value of your users, if you want to generate positive return on your marketing, you need a clear picture of what your users are worth. Go on marketing cleanse: start with eliminating incentivized traffic from your acquisition mix to get a true picture of your KPIs. Fix your retention by eliminating the user drop off points – you’ll need good analytics for this. Find lower cost sources of quality installs like direct deals. Get creative and feel free to talk to us about it.

Is a Blitz Campaign Ever Worth It?

So, when is a blitz campaign justified? Surely some of them must succeed or otherwise why would anyone do it?

Many factors need to align in order to create favorable conditions for a blitz. First, it must be an iOS app. Next, the app has to have mass appeal; a niche app will generate low to no organic installs no matter how high it is up the charts. Second, the retention has to be good in order for the new installs to translate to a lasting increase in DAU. The monetization has to be good enough to generate a positive return on the campaign. If your customer lifetime value is below $2, it would be very difficult to achieve even with a good organic rate during the burst.  Finally, you much have an attribution solution (like MobileAppTracking, Ad-X or Kochava) in order to be able to work with multiple ad partners without integrating many SDKs, track paid and organic installs and avoid paying for duplicates. And even then there is no guarantee that your blitz campaign will succeed.

Oh, and did I mention that blitz campaign is a totally losing strategy for Android apps? Google algorithm punishes for low engagement and un-installs which is what you get with incentivized traffic. 

Try it and you will get the Googleplex-suplex (like a regular suplex it will hurt, but much nerdier).

To simplify the matter, here is a decision diagram on bursting:



Anya ShapinaComment
How to Use Facebook Targeting for Mobile Marketing

Facebook is one of the most powerful platforms for mobile games as it offers a plethora of ways to target mobile users. Compared to other social networks, Facebook is miles ahead with one of the most sophisticated advertising platforms available. Knowing how to use their ad features is essential for getting the most out of your mobile marketing campaigns. Here are some key targeting options that can make your mobile marketing plan kick ass.


- This feature gives advertisers the power to target users by actions they have taken on Facebook. Some examples of behaviors that can be targeted include (but not limited to):

  • Frequent travelers 
  • Small business owners 
  • Photo uploaders 
  • Event creators 
  • mobile users per device 
  • Online spenders 
  • New mobile and tablet users 
  • Car owners per brand 
  • People who’ve played a game recently (this is made up of games that have installed Facebook SDK) 

Broad categories

- This feature allows advertisers to target based on different categories that users fall into based on their actions on Facebook. Some of these categories include engaged adventure, strategy, puzzle, casino, and other types of gamers.

Custom audiences

- This is one of Facebook’s most impressive targeting options. With custom audiences, advertisers can target users who are already familiar with the brand. This includes people who’ve visited your site or people who’ve used your mobile app. This feature is perfect for retargeting and retention campaigns.

Lookalike audiences

- Taking custom audiences a step further, lookalike audiences allows advertisers to reach new users who are likely interested in your app or business because they're similar to customers in your custom audience. Essentially you’re creating a clone of your custom audience with new users who are similar. This type of targeting delivers one of the highest click through rates overall for mobile ads.


- This targeting feature allows advertisers to target specific products including mobile games. This is a great way to target competitor games that people have played or mentioned in their Facebook accounts. Interests can help build the right audience for new mobile game IPs.

Do you have any questions on mobile marketing? Drop us a note at

or on Twittter @Gamechangersf

- Nelly

Mobile Ad Targeting Gone Crazy Bad

Awkward conversations about mobile ads 

My 7 year old daughter is not likely to respond to the survey on gun control ads that were placed in her game. The advertiser wasted their money.

How to avoid throwing away your mobile dollars

It's actually pretty simple. Before placing ads with any network, in addition to the typical questions about pricing, ask about how they target and optimize their ads. Some networks, like Facebook, let you target based on demographics, interest, geography, while networks like Chartboost will let you know exactly what apps your ad will run in and will let you exclude make-up games from your gun control campaign.

But the current problem in mobile advertising is that networks mask the name of the apps in which you are running ads. So the above app was probably not targeted by name but appeared as something like "app id 33244" and the advertiser had no idea this was going to happen. The unfortunate thing about this incident is that likely some combination of these things happened:
  1. Ad network  didn't provide transparency into placements (or advertiser didn't bother to look)
  2. Ad network didn't screen the ads and match it with appropriate apps
  3. Ad network lacked tools for app owner to block inappropriate and non-relevant ads (or app owner didn't bother to look)
Before placing ads you want to spot ad networks and situations where this can happen. Whenever possible, keep your buys to networks that have targeting. It's worth the higher cost to actually target ... your target audience.

Our industry is still young, and this is expected to happen, but with diligence and knowledge we can make things better.
Crunching Chartboost's CPI Data
As a mobile game marketer I am often asked about the trend in the cost of user acquisition for games and how it's possible to stay profitable. There are many articles and even data out there about the rising cost of installs (CPI). However, savvy mobile performance marketers know that the picture is more nuanced and with rigorous optimization, using relevant data, profitable user acquisition is possible.   In order to do it, you have have a strong knowledge of your app's key performance indicators (KPIs) by territory and by device.

Knowing the lifetime of value (LTV) of your players and CPI trends by territory and platform can open new possibilities for marketers. At GameChangerSF we closely monitor our clients's KPIs and are always expanding geographic reach with an eye towards increasing ROI.

Chartboost's Treasure Trove of Data

One of the public sources of data I frequently look at is Chartboost's excellent monthly CPI by device and country report.  I asked to get their historical data and they agreed. Thanks Chartboost! 

Before I present the data, I want to explain why I will take Chartboost's data over many other sources:

Chartboost shares our belief in transparency. They are one of the few networks that show you exactly where you are advertising and lets you white and black apps in which your ads appear. This leads better targeting and more efficient optimization.

Scale and Scope:
Charboost is one of the top networks and has scale in many territories. They also are one of the few networks  that covers iOS, Android and Amazon's Kindle devices. However, I do not know the number of data points in each territory/device dataset but I am sure there are places where its thin (i.e. Zimbabwe, Amazon in September 2013) so please keep that in mind. The dataset is very solid in major territories.

Focus in Gaming:
Gaming apps have different CPIs than other apps, Chartboost's focus in gaming makes this data more relevant to gaming apps.

Quality Ad Inventory: 
Finally and, most importantly, Chartboost's inventory is non-incentivised and only includes interstitial and video ads. In our experience these are the creatives that convert best. Most reports I have seen mix incent and non-incent inventory as well as lower quality creative. 

Without further ado,  I hope you enjoy these visualizations. And as always, please post any questions or comments or contact me at

Phil ShpilbergComment
Successfully Launching an Android App in Google Play

The following is the video and presentation from the event. Enjoy and send us any questions at

The Free Apps That Rule the App Stores Are Evil
Editorial Note: Our last post How Free Became The Right Price For Games has generated a lot of conversation. While we are strong supporters of the F2P business model, and most of our clients run F2P games, we also love a good spirited discussion. Our industry is diverse and there is room for many opinions and business models. While this post doesn't necessarily reflect our views, we are happy to host this dialogue and learn from each other. If you are interested in guest blogging for us please email

Before I get into this issue in detail, let’s be clear: free apps are good things. I make most of my living with apps that are free to download. A trail version of a paid product, premium subscriptions, and users accepting advertising are honest deals for your target audience. 

This blog post is about those free apps that currently manipulate users, even young children, into spending as much money on in-app purchases as possible. According to AppAnnie, in 2013, more then 93% of game app revenue was made this way.

The question is: are free apps with reoccurring in-app purchases really evil? 

Yes, unfortunately they are. If you walk down this road as a developer, you have chosen to be on the dark side. 

Not too long ago, people with gambling industry backgrounds found out that even when there are no payouts, they could trick consumers into spending fortunes while playing colorful, happy looking games. Often, these hold a strong attraction for those in our society that usually already struggle to pay their monthly bills. 

Have a look at the top grossing charts in any App Store. How do you think a developer can pay $3 per free install that is generated? If only 10% of the users pay, you need an average spending of almost $45 per user (as 30% goes to the App Store) just to break even. 

Then, you need to understand that fact that less than 5% of people who spend money are responsible for more then 50% of the income. And yes, we are talking about "innocent" colorful games like "Hay Day" and "Candy Crush Saga," filled with relatively simple gameplay, uplifting music, and rewarding sounds and animation. 

So, of every group of 100 users spending $4,500 total, there are 5 users paying at least $450 each to play a simple game. That can’t be true, right? Unfortunately, it is. Take a look at "Farm Heroes Saga" or "Clash of Clans" in your App Store – the reoccurring purchases of virtual currency worth $50 or even $100 are among the most popular in-app purchases. That’s a shocking daily number of users, and many of these may be failing to pay their essential bills or mortgages. Some of the people who are unable to resist this manipulation are the same ones you see when you walk through a casino – those who spend hours gambling with blank stares in front of slot machines for hours every day. 

This becomes a really depressing when you realize that even Disney now actively manipulates small children into making in-app purchases of up to $100. Need an example? Have a look at the 4+ rated "Disney Hidden Worlds" app in Apple’s App Store ( This is certainly not the legacy Walt Disney ever imagined and Steve Jobs would have surely known better than to let this kind of trash rule the App Store. 

That being said, most users manage to pay very little or no money, but those responsible for most of the revenue generated are sadly the ones who got addicted.
I personally worked for some of the leading skill gaming companies (including writing their business plans). When I slowly became aware of the truth, I had trouble looking at myself in the mirror each morning and swore to myself not to take part in that kind of activity anymore. I believe it is wrong to exploit vulnerable members of our society, who often experience terrible financial suffering.

The ethical standards of our industry have fallen to such a pathetic level that I, as an opponent to any government regulation, now believe there is immediate cause for action. An effective solution could be to simply limit the amount of money spent on a given game type to a reasonable monthly sum.

As game designers, we should bring joy to people's lives, not tragedy. 

Further reading - do the math yourself:Freemium business models took 93% of games app revenue in 2013:

Only 1.5% of freemium players pay and 0.15% percent of mobile gamers account for 50 percent of all in-game revenue - that’s one in 650 players!:

Example of “Clash of the Dragons” - 2 percent of users spending a total of $1,000+ make up 40% of revenue:

Up to $7 per install of a free app and less then 5% pay:

The UK government's first attempt to cope with the situation (focusing on children, not gambling addicts):


I was invited to make a contribution to this blog about paid apps, which I do believe are an essential part of the App Store offering. In addition, I consider free trails to be part of the paid business model. It’s important to understand that many apps can’t be pressed into the freemium model. 

Our portfolio includes serious IQ tests and we haven’t been able to find an alternative to offering paid products when it comes to getting great ratings. To use another example, do you want the author of an amazing interactive children’s book to mainly think about how to lure kids into purchasing extras, while having to keep all freeloaders happy enough to rate it 5 stars? It’s impossible to focus on a great app experience here. 

Paid apps are as important to the App Store as books or movies are to other related economies in terms of providing quality experiences. 


I am looking forward to your comments and opinions here. Should you disagree, may I suggest you have a look at the links provided, which contain background information on many of the statements I make in my article. 

Thank you,


Thorsten RauserComment
How Free Became the Right Price for Games

Revenge of the Econ Nerds!

It seems counterintuitive that developers would be hard at work creating games just to give them away for free! But free is the right price and here is why.

Why is free the right price?

Economics, dammit! I hated economics in business school. It seemed the most useless drivel, with its impossibly idealistic, perfectly rational man nonsense. I don't know anyone even remotely rational when it comes to spending money, but here I am spending my professional life working at the left edge of some 

price elasticity of demand

 curve from business school. So here is your economics lesson from a Wharton economics flunky.

Something is considered price elastic if the demand changes with price. Video games fit nicely into this definition. Love Halo?  How much do you love it? Do you love it enough to buy a $79.99 special edition? Maybe. What about $59.99 at launch? Probably. What about  6 months after launch, once its a bit cheaper? Sure. What if Halo's price was $1,000 and never went down? I don't think many people would buy it.

Now let's take brain surgery. How much do you love brain surgery? Not much. But if you have brain cancer and surgery will save your life, you will probably pay, almost regardless of price. And if the price of brain surgery all of a sudden went down dramatically, you would still not elect to have unnecessary brain surgery. That is what my nerdy, economically-minded friends would call price inelasticity. Demand isn't sensitive to price. 

Games in Boxes: How to Make Money

During the prehistoric days of gaming, if you wanted to buy a game you went to store and bought it... like a can of soup. Remember? Gaming companies hype their games for months, maybe years, gearing for a big launch. They spend millions on marketing and release games at full price ($49.99 to $59.99) also offering special editions for the fans that want to pay more. In other words, console game companies start at the top of the price elasticity curve, and over time, work their way down to discounted price points like $39.99, $29.99, $19.99 capturing price sensitive fans, gift givers and people who care less about the game then the "day one" faithful. The curve looks like this:


Would you buy Call of Duty at $500?


Would you buy Call of Duty at $500?

Those points on the curve are typical price points. The area under the curve is the revenue. With physical products there are distinct price points where a company can make money. Even the biggest fans, the one that might buy the $14,999 

Bioshock 2 Uber Edition

, are still limited in what they could pay you. Downloadable content (DLC) has given created a little hybrid model for paid games, but you still need the expensive game first. Likewise, those who want to pay less than the price of the game at any given point, either have to wait or will likely never buy it. This limits profit potential.

Console publishers work from the top of the curve down. They have big infrastructure costs in development, distribution and marketing. A high end game can easily cost $50 million to develop and another $50 million to market. But  with connected platforms like Web and mobile, there is another way to bring games to market. Small teams could make high quality, small content and distribute it at very low fixed cost. This changed the entry point on the price elasticity curve.

Mobile Games: Free is the Right Price

To reach a huge audience, free is the right price. Look at the left side curve above. See the "unit" line go ballistic as price approaches zero? That happens because free is a very special price point.

Nobody will not buy your product because of price when it's free.

Equally important, with in-game purchase and consumable items, the biggest fans of a game can continue to spend an unlimited amount of money. You might only been able to spend $100 on a special edition of your favorite console game but you can easily spend thousands of dollars on Clash of Clans. Interestingly this also changes the role of the marketer and game developer. In paid games, marketers "sell" the game and make the company money. In F2P marketers drive trails, the download, while the game must "monetize" - delight the player enough to stay and spend money.

There you have it, free to play, explained by a marketer with remedial economics knowledge.

If you want to make money in this free2play world, contact us at 

Phil ShpilbergComment
Understanding Acquisition Cost Key to Success in the 2014 Mobile Games Market

This is a guest post by Joost van Dreunen, CEO,

SuperData Research

As the mobile games market matures, the costs involved in publishing a successful game increase, publishers compete on marketing efforts.

The mobile game market has exploded. In 2013, mobile games brought in $3.1 billion, a 29% increase from the year before. Today, mobile games are the biggest digital games category in the United States. Not bad, for a segment that barely existed a few years ago.

As the market is starting to mature, the challenges for game companies are shifting

. Where earlier demand vastly outstripped supply, it was much easier to organically grow a user base, optimize your game’s mechanics, and iterate. Different in 2014 is the presence of a small group of dominant game publishers. Companies like King, Gungho Entertainment and Supercell have all experience tremendous success in a short period of time. Now that they’re on top, however, they will be looking to keep what they have. Outspending competitors on marketing is a tried-and-true defensive strategy, and we’re starting to see it on mobile now, too.

Marketing is the new arena in which mobile game companies compete.

The effort and expense that goes into building a customer base is increasing as the mobile games market has started to mature. In the past year we’ve seen an increase in the cost-per-install from $1.30 (January 2012) to $4.36 (December 2013), an increase of 288%! At the same time, the average revenue per mobile gamer has failed to keep pace: in that same period monthly spending grew 38%.

Marketing spend is a cyclical beast

. The holiday season represents a particularly onerous time for developers hoping to gain users. Most of the proud, new smartphone owners spend their Christmas morning gobbling games. The price for developers who want to capitalize on that frenzy balloons, and the trajectory of user acquisition costs seen earlier in the year becomes exponential.

Here’s how that works: let’s say that you’ve just acquired a cohort of 100 brand new users at an average CPI of $2.25. The average conversion rate (from a non-spending to a spending user) in October was 4.68%. Each of these players spends $21.45 (average revenue per paying user for mobile in the US). That gives you (0.0468x$21.45 =) $100.39 in monthly earnings. With $225 in cost, you’ll need to make sure you keep those users engaged for at least two months before you start making a profit. And two months is an eon in mobile game time.

The cost-per-install on mobile has grown well above the average revenue per user.

In response, we’ve started collecting the user acquisition data from our network of publishers and developers. This provides us the average CPI across iOS and Android on a monthly basis, which we combine with the average spending per user. This allows developers to optimize their marketing spend, avoid the pitfalls of peak times, and predict their ROI. If you’d like to learn more, check us out.

About Joost

Joost is co-founder and CEO of SuperData Research, a research firm specialized in the digital, mobile and online games market.

Phil ShpilbergComment
Getting ready for mobile app launch

Launching a mobile game or app

is an exciting and stressful endeavor. You have worked on it for months or even years, and your baby is about to go into the world. But having a great app isn't enough to succeed. You must be prepared to track, collect data, iterate, A/B test, acquire users, watch the competition and do many other things well.

We have launched hundreds of apps, and have developed a checklist for making sure our clients are ready. Here is a short summary of what you typically need to get going: