Playing with Privacy

Playing with privacy: why in-game consent is key to ad compliance

Emphasizing the value of player consent in mobile game advertising. New findings indicate that addressing consent boosts both ad compliance and player engagement. The downfall of disregarding consent, the impact on ARPU, and the way forward for developers—it's all about transparency.
by Usercentrics
Jun 28, 2023
Playing with Privacy
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New research shows mobile games developers are ducking the consent challenge. Big mistake. Building a large opted-in player base is not just the right thing to do. It boosts ARPU, ad engagement and ad compliance.


Three years ago the mobile marketing community readied itself for disaster. An end-of-days event was coming. Insiders described it as “book of Revelation stuff… rebuilding the entire tech stack that you have been operating with. It’s an earthquake…a massive shakeup.”


This apocalyptic moment was, of course, Apple’s decision to re-think its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). For years, developers and advertisers had been happily using this tool to gather targeting data on app users – with all necessary consents buried in the app permissions folder. No more. Instead they would require explicit opt-in consent from their users.


App developers and advertisers were spooked. A big scary consent box? Surely that would vapourise user numbers?


Three years later, the results are in. And guess what? They were half-right.


According to a report by AppsFlyer, total in-app advertising spend on Android has gone up by 55 percent. On iOS? It’s down by two percent. Meanwhile Android installs are up 22 percent, while iOS installs have slipped by six percent.


The numbers suggest that advertisers are abandoning non-targetable iOS apps and games in favour of more open Google Play alternatives (though it should be stated that Google is also now working on tighter rules around targeting data too).


So can we assume that these regrettable numbers are all due to the deadening effect of consent boxes?


Actually, no. More likely it’s because most developers are ducking the consent challenge altogether. Instead of finding a way to turn consent into a positive, they are simply avoiding the issue.


This is one of the main conclusions of our new report Data Privacy in Mobile Games: Why Consenting Users Monetize Better. We surveyed hundreds of mobile games and found that 87 percent of titles in North America and 94 percent of mobile games in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) failed compliance by not providing any consent choices for players.


This is a mistake on two counts. One, it risks huge fines from regulators. Two, it means developers cannot target/attribute their iOS players effectively. This is unacceptable to most advertisers. Indeed, many Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs) are starting to insist on consented data from their publisher partners.


But it’s also a missed opportunity. Because here’s the kicker: granting the power of permission is not just the right thing to do by players and law-makers. It’s also good business.


How do we know? Again, it’s in the report. The research confirmed that players’ attitudes to data privacy have changed. For many years, they had a laissez faire attitude. No longer. A series of disastrous hacks has changed that mindset.


Indeed, we found 40 percent said they would uninstall a game if they had trust concerns. But on the flipside, we spoke to a small number of forward-looking developers who confirmed the positive impact of embracing consent. They told us ‘good’ consent can lift average ad revenue per daily active user by 1.5 percent.


In the current climate of user privacy, it stands to reason that consumers would respond well to developers/marketers that request consent in a fair and transparent manner. But it raises the question: what does a ‘smart’ consent experience look like? Here are some of the simple ‘rules’ that developers recommend:

  • Make the request clear, unambiguous and explicit
  • Tell users exactly what data is being requested
  • Tell them why the data is needed
  • Tell users who the data will be shared with, and how it will be stored
  • Ask for consent at the point where the value of the game is most compelling
  • Explain to users that their consent applies only within the game


The good news is that specialist SDKs make the above consent process easy for developers to execute. Consent SDKs are ‘out of the box’, and allow for customization and regional compliance needs too. Once installed, they present the privacy banner at the best possible moment in the user flow, and then track all subsequent opt-in rates.


Multiple case studies show how well such SDKs work. Take Homa Games. After integrating a consent SDK in its hit game Kaiju Run, it was able to unlock ad networks inventory in regulated regions like Europe and California. This delivered a 1.5 percent uplift in ad revenue.


Results like this should give cheer to all stakeholders in the mobile games space. After all, in the attention economy, there’s little to match mobile. According to analyst, people downloaded nearly 90 billion games in 2022 while users in the top 10 markets now spend an average five hours and two minutes a day in apps. As a result of all this interest, advertisers spent $336 billion on in-app ads in 2022.


Why risk this vibrant market with a sloppy approach to consent? The community must embrace compliant data (personal data + consent) as the way forward. It’s a huge opportunity. Time for developers and advertisers to give themselves permission to take it.

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