2019 Facebook Gaming Trends

Martin Kilp Jan 16 2019 4 PM | 6 min read


Gaming advertisers have many things to look forward to in 2019: the industry is expected to continue its growth, mobile gaming (that today stands for approximately half) is increasing, and new features for gaming advertisers are developed and released. The industry has experienced some shifts in the past couple of years, which, in turn, will affect paid marketing strategies. Let’s take a look at what to expect for 2019!

Playable Ads

Playables are interactive ads that offer a light gaming experience to users as they scroll down on their Facebook feeds.

Since its introduction, the playable ad format has become more popular among advertisers and in 2019, we can expect to see playable ads expand to more and more placements on Facebook. Playable ads have inherently more built-in friction as users need to engage with the ad before they can exit. Do not fear the friction, on the contrary, expect lower click-through rates but higher quality leads.

Best-practices for successful playable ads:

  • Guide players at first and then let them discover on their own; use visual cues such as arrows and hands - guide the user on what actions to take and how.

  • Loading times should be short - that way the user has a chance to interact with the ad and they won’t become frustrated by the experience and continue browsing.

  • A playable ad is not a video: think about the number of interactions the user takes rather than the amount of time it takes to complete the mini-game.

  • A positive experience increases the chances of a download: a challenge is good but let the user win the game. Allow the user to have a sense of accomplishment, so do not make the game too easy or too hard - try to find the sweet spot.

  • Do not aim to re-create your game in HTML5 as this is not the goal. Communicate what type of game you are advertising, give them a taste of more advanced levels, and use high-quality graphics.

  • Allow the user to convert at any time by always showing the call-to-action from start to finish. (This does not prevent you from designing the final CTA to be more prominent!)

In-App Advertisers Are Moving into Facebook

Hyper-casual games enjoy rising popularity. The games differ from other genres in the sense that they are free to play, gaming sessions are short, yet addictive, and they have only a few in-app purchase options. Today, the hyper-casual game is an established genre with millions of gamers and an expected growth of 3.5 times in its share of total gaming. While in-app purchases is the most common revenue source for other genres, one could wonder how hyper-casual games monetize? The answer is in-game ads - and these advertisers are now moving to Facebook as Facebook has recently focused on activating the hyper-casual gaming space.

Hyper casual games monetize on in-game ad impressions; therefore they need to retain users for long periods of time to be profitable - users that stay longer monetize higher. In the second half of 2018, Facebook updated their mobile SDK to allow for in-app ad tracking. In other words, Facebook is now able to track ad impressions and clicks that get served within your mobile app or game. If you monetize by selling ad inventory in your app, you know what your average media rates are (the CPM that you charge your advertisers). To break even (and to be "ROI-neutral"), you need to make sure that your average advertising cost per new user on Facebook is less than the revenue you generate against serving impressions for that user. The new retention optimization enables these advertisers to optimize closer to their true KPIs, which opens up Facebook advertising for smaller studios and publishers that previously might have overlooked Facebook as part of their media mix.

Creative Testing

One of the mantras for 2019 will be test, test, and test some more. We have seen that advertisers are increasingly interested in running more scientifically sound A/B tests.

Being a social platform, Facebook sees quicker "ad turnover" than some of the more conventional media channels in advertisers' media mix. Ads on Facebook need to be just as fresh and current as the organic content that shows up on a user’s feed. That's a lot of pressure. This means that advertisers are constantly fighting against creative fatigue, and thus they launch fresh ads. However, these constant - and often times overlapping - changes make it difficult to determine causality (is better performance the result of my new creative? Or is the result of my new targeting?) and distinguish the effect of external factors (e.g. seasonality, cyclicality, competitive pressure, increased media rates, changes to attribution models) from execution-specific factors (e.g. any changes made to your campaign and ads). If you are more interested in attribution models, check out this ebook!

What to Test When Testing?

Often, advertisers are eager to improve performance and rush out to test many different things all at once. However, to get reliable results and insights, it is instrumental to be clear about what is being tested.

For creative testing specifically, remember to be careful about how you set up your test and against which audience you test your creative. A good rule of thumb is always to test just one attribute at a time. Keep an active backlog of everything you’d like to test and build a testing calendar. Agree with your team on a cadence that makes sense for you and stick to it (e.g. run one A/B test a month). Assess all the proposed tests on the list and rank them based on potential impact, ease of instrumentation and scalability. Then start from the top of the list and work your way down as you go along.

Additionally, we see that advertisers typically test new creatives against their best performing go-to audiences. This makes sense - if you’ve previously tested different audiences and had a clear winner emerge, it’s easy to stick with it. However, this approach runs the danger of getting a “false negative” when the new creative doesn’t seem to work against your go-to audience. More often than not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the new creative - you’ve just exhausted your audience and oversaturated it. The older creative worked better only because it was served to this audience earlier - when it was less saturated and more susceptible to your marketing messages.

Let the Creative Find Its Audience

So how should you go about creative testing? We’ve recently seen a rise to a new trend where the idea is to test new creatives against broad audiences to reduce the risk of a false negative. Essentially, you’re placing trust in Facebook’s CPM algorithm to find users on the platform that are most likely to engage with your new creative. Once you find the winning creative and see it starting to drive conversions, you can then simply create a campaign conversion lookalike of it. This will become your target audience for the new creative and exactly like with any other lookalike audience, you can make it as specific (or wide) as you see fit. Now you have an audience that is tailor-made for your creative so you can reasonably expect it to perform well!

We hope these tips can help set you up for success in 2019. Interested in learning more on any of the above? Contact us at any time at


   Creative Testing Playbook Finding the Winning Creative Concepts CHECK IT NOW
Martin Kilp

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