Looking for Alternatives: How Developers Grow Games Beyond Walled Gardens

Jul 31, 2023
By: Maria Ershova

Panel discussion with Playtika, Plarium, and Digital Turbine at Israel Mobile Summit, June 29, 2023

In June, Israel Mobile Summit gathered about 2,000 industry experts in sunny Tel Aviv. For us at Digital Turbine it’s an opportunity to hear the market, meet with publishers, discuss challenges, and shape the industry’s future together with the leading mobile game developers.

This time we had a lively discussion about alternative growth solutions that developers turn to when looking for opportunities to grow beyond walled gardens. Read the summary below to see why Guy Ulmer (Plarium) believes that cross-platform players are the best users you can reach, what Amitay Amir (Playtika) would love to see from alternative platforms in the future, and what challenges Ron Alini (Digital Turbine) see developers face and why DT continues to invest into innovations and alternative growth solutions.

What makes it an “alternative” platform? 

Anything that challenges the dominance of industry giants like Google and Apple is an alternative to app developers. In the global context, where regulations are evolving (a prime example is discussions around Apple possibly opening opportunities for side apps loading to iOS), the industry – app developers, ad services, OEMs, and carriers – is actively seeking ways to disrupt the duopoly. Furthermore, regulations against Chinese corporations in the United States have added to the demand for alternative options. However, these alternatives are no longer confined to what we knew in 2018, which were the local app stores primarily based in APAC region.

Being an alternative growth solution entails exploring other billing options, game distribution methods, app stores, and opportunities outside the duopoly that are scalable and offer flexibility beyond the constraints of the dominant app stores, providing developers and users with more choices and a diversified ecosystem.

Why would game developers try an alternative game distribution platform? 

Game developers may opt for an alternative distribution for various compelling reasons — the main one being that it presents unique growth opportunities. In times like now developers are actively seeking opportunities to grow and scale. Growth entails three pillars – organic audience growth, revenue growth, and new UA sources.

An alternative growth platform is also usually characterized by companies that are willing to innovate and make strong statements in the industry. 

Guy Ulmer highlights another significant factor that drives game developers like Plarium towards alternative platforms – regional audience coverage, especially if you see your game performs in a specific way in a specific region. Focusing on specific markets or regions, an alternative store-like solution provides developers with an opportunity to tailor their games to the preferences and cultural nuances of those areas, form communities, and increase engagement and user retention in the region. 

Additionally, developers recognize that launching games in alternative stores allows them to retain a higher percentage of revenue from in-app purchases. Catch one whale in the ocean of the alternative platform, and all your efforts will be justified by the revenue you see from it.

What are the challenges before and after you launch a game on the alternative distribution platform?

Operations Workload

It will be a development cost and an integration effort. In order to decide how and if approach the new platform, it is crucial for developers to ensure that the platform they choose is transparent about the integration process. Each platform is different, and requirements for apps and tech specs might need some additional work on the developer side.

After you launch, you will need to maintain the game. Make sure the platform you go live with provides clear guidelines for what to look out for after you launch. The earlier you understand the requirements, compliance checks, uploads and updates process, the easier the LiveOps management will be.

Data and Analytics 

All speakers highlighted the limitations alternative platforms have in terms of data and analytics compared to Apple and Google’s ecosystems. For some alternative growth solutions, mass-used MMPs and Analytic platforms may not gather and process data about your app and users and your competitors accurately. 

When deciding on the alternative platform to grow your game with, make sure that it has established relationships with leading attribution and analytic companies. This will assert your data-driven approach, as well as allow you to access your alternative build analytics through your regular measurement partner and in the platform’s own reporting.

What’s the future for alternative stores? What are game developers like yourself missing from the alternative stores? 

Improved Analytics 

As alternative app platforms continue to grow and compete with major players like Google Play and Apple’s App Store, we can expect a significant focus on enhancing their analytics capabilities. Alternatives will likely invest in developing robust analytics tools and establishing better connections and attribution with existing market leaders in measurement and analytics. 

Cross-Platform Expansion

Cross-platform players are the best, so these users will be the main focus for more and more app developers. Embracing cross-platform compatibility is a global industry trend that alternative app stores will also need to adapt to. These alternative stores will likely expand their focus to encompass the entire market, including not just mobile platforms but also desktop, console, CTV, VR, and AR.

Watch the panel recording for more insights.

Want to explore your alternatives? Check out DT’s alternative mobile growth suite.

By Maria Ershova
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