Jam City: A Case Study in Effective Mobile User Acquisition

Jul 12, 2017
By: Marissa Camilli

Jam City (formerly SGN Games) is a Los Angeles-based mobile studio behind six of the Top 100 highest grossing games across Google Play and the Apple App Store. Their games have been downloaded more than 800 million times and are regularly played each month by nearly 50 million people; half of whom live outside the United States. Jam City’s portfolio of hit gaming apps includes Cookie Jam, Panda Pop, Juice Jam, The Book of Life: Sugar Smash, and Genies & Gems. 

According to Jam City Co-founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe, revenues have grown by 100% every year for the last five years. Working toward an IPO, Jam City aims to generate more than $400 million in sales this year.

Jam City has fantastic game development skills, but its long-lived success is also due to its ability to reach and retain new users and to grow new geographies as part of their expansion strategy. More than 40% of their users are from outside the US.

Great game + user acquisition strategy

Most of the games Jam City produces are free-to-play and give users the option to make purchases with real money to obtain more lives or add special in-game skills that allow them to advance further in the game faster. In addition to these built-in stickiness features, Jam City’s user acquisition strategy is integral to their success. Native App Preloads, an oft overlooked and misunderstood ad unit, are a key driver of their acquisition strategy. “Our goal is to see our games in the hands of new customers, and Digital Turbine provides us an efficient way to do just that,” said Sumee Oh, Jam City’s Director of Marketing. “As an alpha-partner of Digital Turbine, we’ve witnessed impressive results leveraging their Native App Preloads.”

What are Native App Preloads?

Native App Preloads are a form of unique paid media where apps are seamlessly and dynamically delivered to new Android devices at the time of activation. Because brands are able to preload their app on targeted new devices, there is a stronger likelihood that the app will be discovered, clicked on, and used at a much higher rate than other forms of paid media.

The leading provider of Native App Preloads is Digital Turbine. Through its exclusive partnerships with top mobile operators such as —Verizon, AT&T, América Móvil, and US Cellular, Digital Turbine provides access to unique media inventory on Android devices around the world. Digital Turbine enables brands to directly reach millions of customers on their smartphone in a frictionless manner.

Frictionless app installs at scale

This success is rooted in Digital Turbine’s capability to dynamically reach users directly on their smartphone at the important stage of device activation as well as over the life of a device.  A Native App Preload strategy mitigates the risk of app abandonment as it allows customers to engage more quickly with the app when they are most actively looking for new content —at the time of device purchase and setup.

Jam City’s Director of Marketing, Sumee Oh, observes that the majority of users typically open their preloaded app within the first 30 days of new device ownership. But unlike other ad inventory, the app continues to be opened over a longer tail making the conversion rate even more compelling over time. “The presence of the app on the phone can be a plus over time. I price that into my model because I pay off a download and a click, and then an open,” Oh says. “It’s a no-brainer. One, I get the branding. Two, I have a higher likelihood that the user will choose to engage – that they will click, check out and play our game.”

But the real attraction of the preload model is the immediate scale it delivers. A virtuous cycle is created when apps are preloaded on smartphones that allows the gaming company to amass scale and enter new geographies almost overnight.  “The biggest advantage about Digital Turbine is how quickly they deliver scale.” She adds: “Its also a great way to target users with the newest smartphones,” since mobile operators offer the latest devices to keep their customers loyal.  Finally, the footprint of the mobile operator allows Oh to literally test the waters with minimum effort and maximum results. “Any time there’s a new geo, I’m ready to test it out, get some installs, and see how it works out.”


Digital Turbine and Jam City together pioneered new strategies for reaching, acquiring, and building new users.  With conversion rates over 25%, Native App Preloads provide the ability to directly reach and scale new and active mobile users.

Digital Turbine’s ability to match games with relevant users has enabled Jam City to land over 10 million installs across its portfolio of games – and it’s not just mobile game developers. Hundreds of app developers and advertisers are seeing similar results growing new active user counts and reaching new customers at scales not seen before thanks to Native App Preloads.

Marissa Camilli
By Marissa Camilli
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