Playing to Win: 5 Ways to Make Money From Mobile Games

The popularity of mobile games has given rise to innovative companies, some of which have little or nothing to do with game development.

One may think that the only way to break into the mobile gaming industry would be to create an addictive game that will capture the attention and thumbs of mobile users everywhere. But the gaming surge has offered new opportunities to companies with innovative solutions within the industry--and some have little or nothing to do with game development.--John McDermott

Since the advent of video games parents have been trying to monitor their children’s playing. And as mobile gaming becomes more popular, there are opportunities for companies that help concerned parents ensure their children's gaming behavior is appropriate. Media Chaperone offers parents a way to reward their children for playing the right games. Through the company’s mobile monitoring platform, parents can implement spending controls on their kids' in-app purchases and specify where money can be spent. The program can also notify parents of excessive gaming or age-inappropriate content.

Nearly all mobile games operate on a "freemium" model: The initial gaming experience is free, but users can pay for in-game enhancements. Chicago-based start-up Tap.Me has developed a platform that lets companies turn these premium features into branding opportunities for advertisers. By using Tap.Me’s solution, a brand can sponsor or augment an enhanced experience. A player wanting to boost his endurance in a sports game, for instance, might choose an enhancement sponsored by a brand like Gatorade.

Amid mobile gaming's explosive growth--with industry revenue increasing from $2 million in 2007 to $4.5 billion in 2012--the number of mobile game companies has risen from two to 1,577. At the heart of this industry are the game developers that have been creating addictive games for mobile device owners. Some, like Draw Something creator OMGPOP, have turned their games into big business; the company was recently acquired by Zynga for $180 million.

Having your mobile game become an overnight success can be a dual-edged sword. While all game developers hope one of their products will catch on, few have enough storage to handle Draw Something-like traffic. Zipline Games has offered a solution: Moai, an open-source, cloud-based platform that allows developers to scale a growing game. Experienced developers can also use Moai to find code that will help them get past game development challenges. And if a developer's game goes viral, Moai's cloud solution will prevent the game from crashing.

One factor keeping mobile games addictive is "push notifications"--the features that let a player know, for instance, when it's her turn in an ongoing game, or when a new upgrade is available. Brent Hieggelke, chief marketing officer for push notification provider Urban Airship, says that push notifications are vital to keeping players engaged and coming back. By providing game developers with notification solutions, Urban Airship offers game makers a way to alert players about new in-game content without having to spend the time and money developing the technology themselves. Read more about the mobile and social gaming industry.

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