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Why gaming is going cross-platform and how to tackle the user acquisition proble | Pocket Gamer.biz

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Why gaming is going cross-platform and how to tackle the user acquisition problem

The mobile platform has a growing user base and can already boast of being bigger than both PC and console combined. With the wide accessibility to mobile devices, it makes sense that much of the world’s population is playing on mobile. However, despite the grand appeal, this also makes the mobile market incredibly competitive, and audiences’ attitudes are changing as they now want to see their favourite games playable on various platforms.

Enter cross-platform gaming. Playing a game across multiple devices may not be new, but it is becoming more popular and incredibly important to the player and, therefore, developers.

In this guest post, Adjust’s Director of CTV, Gijsbert Pols and Upptic’s Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer, Warren Woodward, share why the gaming industry is looking toward cross-platform gaming and how developers can tackle user acquisition in a cross-platform world.


In recent years, it’s become common wisdom that mobile is the king of gaming platforms. “There’s no way that you succeed as a gaming company without access to mobile players,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer once put it. Mobile was projected to generate more revenue than PCs and consoles combined in 2023, according to a report from data.ai and IDC.

But the winds are shifting. The mobile gaming market is reaching a point of saturation, and with mobile-specific privacy rules and regulations – such as Apple’s app tracking transparency (ATT), which gives users the right to opt out of cross-app tracking – user acquisition and monetisation have become much more difficult. In addition, investors are shifting their focus from mobile-first to cross-device, putting a premium on new games that can sell the promise of a higher total addressable market (TAM) across platforms.

Google is starting to secure its share of the pie by making the jump from mobile to PC games easy.

Gijsbert Pols and Warren Woodward

To enhance their TAM and user LTV (lifetime value), mobile game developers are moving into PC, and new games that might have focused exclusively on mobile a few years ago are taking a cross-platform approach. Among Us, Fortnite, and Diablo Immortal are just a few household names that have gone cross-platform.

The tech platforms that fuel game development and user acquisition also have a stake in the cross-platform future. With the Google Play Games emulator, gamers can play Android games on PC, meaning Windows computer users can now bring Android games to that platform. Recognising that the gaming market is moving beyond mobile, Google is starting to secure its share of the pie by making the jump from mobile to PC games easy.

That said, the cross-platform evolution of gaming is not without its challenges. Chief among them is acquiring users efficiently through performance marketing – which is commonplace in mobile but much more challenging to measure in a cross-platform environment.

cross-platform user acquisition

The technology for measuring marketing performance on PC as a standalone platform is already less developed and less commonly used than the equivalent on mobile. Mobile performance marketing is a mature market. Even with challenges such as app tracking transparency, the industry has been quick to offer solutions, and mobile marketers are accustomed to testing workarounds. With performance marketing not being as embedded in the PC marketing mindset, technology has been slower to develop, and some PC marketers are still grappling with determining their return on ad spend.

Now, those same marketers who’ve been struggling on PC need to do cross-platform user acquisition and marketing measurement. This introduces new challenges. For example, how do developers know if a mobile gamer is also playing on a PC? If they don’t have a cross-platform user ID, they risk treating the user as two different people, which could compromise the integrity of marketing measurement and future marketing efforts.

But even if marketers can identify users across platforms, attribution is still complex. If a user converts to a developer’s mobile app via Google search and then on PC via Facebook web, to which source should the user be attributed? Some might say the user was first installed on mobile, so Google is the source of the installation. But does that mean the marketer should remove Facebook entirely from the picture? It is, at best, human judgments, not the science of marketing measurement, that drives the most efficient user acquisition programs.

User journeys have also become more complex. If a developer is advertising on mobile and PC, users may see an ad on one platform and then convert on the other. This risks making the ad seem ineffective because, without cross-platform attribution, it will look like the installation is purely organic. Throw in ancillary channels like CTV, where many games are advertising programmatically, and the equation just gets tougher.

To solve this challenge, marketers need to see all their campaigns side by side, regardless of device, and get a clear picture of ROAS and attribution. They need to simplify the user journey to make decisions.

The shift to cross-platform user acquisition and measurement is just like when app tracking transparency upended mobile attribution.

Gijsbert Pols and Warren Woodward

But simplicity can’t come at the price of precision. To get a clear picture, marketers and their tech stacks must go beyond last-touch attribution and shoot for full-funnel, cross-platform, and cross-device visibility. They should be able to map the user journey across platforms and devices. This is the only way to ensure they understand which channels and campaigns drive performance accurately.

Attribution models should walk the fine line between being user-based and device-based. Marketers shouldn’t leave behind device-based measurement because knowing which device a user spends most of their gaming time on makes a difference. But the most important thing to understand is which channels are performing so that marketing can be adjusted accordingly.

When there are painful problems like this in performance marketing, many will throw up their hands and accept an incomplete view of marketing performance. But progress will come from wading through the mud and finding solutions. The shift to cross-platform user acquisition and measurement is just like when app tracking transparency upended mobile attribution: Proactive developers will find solutions; others will waste money on inefficient acquisition and fall behind.

Edited by Paige Cook

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