What is the Best User Acquisition Strategy for Mobile Games?
In this article, we will break down the main differences between the two most commonly used user acquisition strategies, paid and organic.
Jovan Ristic

Picture this: a vast digital universe where millions of mobile games compete for a moment of a player's attention. In our last article, we journeyed through this universe, emphasizing the profound role of user acquisition in the mobile gaming ecosystem.

Now that you know why user acquisition plays a pivotal role in any game or app’s success, the logical question that may come to your mind is “what is the best user acquisition strategy.” To answer this, we first need to cover all the most commonly used user acquisition strategies and learn the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Therefore, in this article, we will break down the main differences between the two most commonly used user acquisition strategies, paid and organic, and learn what each of them entails before we can find out which one is best suited for your game or app.

Organic vs. Paid User Acquisition for Mobile Games

When it comes to acquiring users for mobile games, there are two primary methods: organic and paid user acquisition. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and understanding the differences and synergies between them can help game developers make informed decisions about their user acquisition strategy.

Organic User Acquisition

Organic user acquisition refers to users who discover and download your mobile game without any direct advertising efforts from you. These users typically find your game through word-of-mouth, app store search, recommendations, or by browsing the app store's featured or top charts.


  • Affordability: Since you're not paying for these users directly, organic acquisition is basically free.
  • High Long-Term Retention: Users acquired organically tend to have higher long-term retention rates because they discovered the game on their own and are more likely to be genuinely interested in it. App retention rates may initially be higher for paid downloads (25.3%) versus organic downloads (24.1%). However, by week 8, organic download retention rates outperform paid installs with a 4.5% vs. 3.5% retention rate, according to Statista.


  • Unpredictable: It's challenging to predict or control the number of organic users you'll acquire.
  • Requires Strong Word-of-mouth: Without a strong word-of-mouth or viral component, it can be tough to achieve significant organic growth. Furthermore, viral growth is harder to achieve than ever, given the vast competition in the gaming sphere.

Some of the most common organic user acquisition channels include:

  • App Store Optimization (ASO): ASO involves refining a game's app store listing to boost its visibility. By optimizing keywords, enhancing visuals, and garnering positive ratings, developers can ensure their game ranks higher in search results, leading to increased organic downloads. In fact, by February 2022, mobile apps with target keywords in their titles seemed to rank better on the Apple App Store's search results. Although the exact ranking factors remain unclear, app store optimization can certainly enhance app visibility and user engagement.
  • Word-of-mouth: This is the most authentic form of promotion, where satisfied players naturally recommend the game to others. Such personal endorsements, whether personal or online, build trust and credibility, often resulting in higher conversion rates than other channels.
  • Social Media Presence: Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Discord allow developers to connect directly with their audience. By sharing updates, engaging in conversations, and building a community around the game, developers can foster loyalty and drive organic growth.
  • Content Marketing: This involves producing relevant content, such as blog posts, videos, or podcasts, centered around the game. Such content not only educates and entertains potential players but also establishes the game's presence in the broader gaming community, leading to organic interest and downloads.
  • In-game Referrals: By incentivizing existing players to invite others, developers can tap into their player base's networks. Offering in-game rewards or bonuses for referrals motivates players to share, leading to organic growth and a more engaged community.

Paid User Acquisition

Diving into the realm of paid user acquisition means actively investing in advertising to attract users to your mobile game. While it encompasses familiar methods such as social media ads, search, and video ads, the landscape is far more intricate than it initially appears. 

The beauty of paid UA lies in its potential for precision targeting and scalability. With the right strategy, you can reach specific demographics, ensuring that your game resonates with the most relevant audience. However, the complexity of paid UA also means that there's a fine balance between expenditure and returns. 

To truly harness its potential and optimize the return on investment, it's not just about spending money; it's about spending it wisely. This often makes the difference between a successful campaign and a costly misstep. 


  • Scalable: With the right budget, you can scale up your advertising efforts to acquire more users quickly.
  • Targeted: Paid ads allow you to target specific demographics, media channels, and placements, ensuring that your game reaches the right audience.
  • Immediate Results: Unlike organic methods, which can take time to build momentum, paid ads can deliver immediate results.


  • Costly: Acquiring users through paid methods can be expensive, especially in competitive markets. According to Statista, the average cost per install (CPI) for casual mobile games in the US was $0.98 between 2022 and 2023.

For those unfamiliar with the nuances of paid UA, the journey can be overwhelming. Hence, there's an innate advantage in seeking guidance from a seasoned UA veteran to navigate the intricacies, ensuring that every dollar spent translates into meaningful user engagement and growth for your mobile game.

The most common paid user acquisition channels are:

  • Social Media Ads: Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer targeted advertising options, allowing developers to reach specific demographics of potential players. These ads can be tailored based on interests, behaviors, and more, ensuring the game is presented to the most relevant audience.
  • Search Ads: By placing ads in app store search results, developers can boost their game's visibility precisely when users are actively looking for new games. This strategy capitalizes on user intent, often leading to higher conversion rates.
  • Influencer Marketing: Collaborating with gaming influencers can provide a game with authentic endorsements, reaching a vast audience in a genuine and engaging manner. This is especially important considering an estimated 9% YoY increase in usage of ad blocking tools and growing privacy restrictions and policies adopted by mobile app stores. At 11%, gaming influencers are the fourth most popular influencer vertical, with most mentioned and viewed YouTube channels being related to gaming, according to the Influencer Marketing Hub.
  • Display and Video Ads: Banner, video, or interstitial ads placed on websites and mobile apps can capture users' attention as they browse or use other apps. With compelling visuals and calls to action, these ads can drive traffic and downloads for the game.
  • Affiliate Marketing: This involves partnerships where other companies or websites promote the game. In return, they receive a commission for each conversion they drive. It's a performance-based strategy, ensuring developers only pay for actual results.
  • Retargeting Ads: Not all users who interact with a game or its ads will download it immediately. Retargeting ads focus on re-engaging these users, reminding them of the game, and nudging them toward a download.

Which Mobile User Acquisition Strategy is Best for My Game?

Navigating the maze of user acquisition strategies can be daunting. Many developers often wonder which approach will yield the best results for their unique game. However, it's essential to understand that there's no one-size-fits-all solution in the realm of UA. The most effective strategy is often tailored to the individual needs of the game, its target audience, what stage it is in, and its market positioning.

While creating a winning user acquisition strategy is a multifaceted process, there are numerous universal practices that can prove to be a valuable starting point in creating your own UA strategy. Some of these include:

Combining Organic and Paid Strategies

Organic and paid user acquisition strategies are often viewed as two sides of the same coin. Organic strategies, such as word-of-mouth and social media engagement, build a genuine player community and foster long-term loyalty.

For instance, a game that encourages players to invite friends in exchange for in-game rewards can see a steady influx of organic users. On the other hand, paid strategies, like targeted ads on Facebook or Instagram, can provide an immediate boost in visibility and downloads.

A game launching a new feature might utilize paid ads to quickly draw attention to this update, complementing its organic growth. Together, these strategies can create a harmonious blend of sustained growth and immediate results.

Finding Your Target Audience

Every game has a core demographic, and understanding this is pivotal. By pinpointing and targeting this group, marketing efforts can be tailored more effectively. For instance, a strategy game might appeal more to older audiences who enjoy tactical challenges, while a fast-paced arcade game might resonate with younger players looking for quick entertainment. 

By conducting market research and player surveys, developers can identify their game's primary audience, decide which channels may bring the best results, and optimize their marketing strategies accordingly.

Prioritizing Good Creatives

The essence of any advertisement lies in its creative content. High-quality visuals, engaging trailers, and compelling ad copy can make the difference between a user scrolling past or clicking to download. Similarly, optimizing the screenshots in an app store listing has, on average, led to 10% more app installs and 10% less spending on UA to reach the target DAU/MAU, according to research by Data.ai.

For example, a puzzle game might showcase a challenging level in its ad or offer a playable preview, intriguing viewers and prompting them to try the game themselves. Similarly, an RPG could highlight its rich storyline and character depth in its screenshots, drawing in fans of the genre.

Choosing the Right Channels

The choice of advertising platform can significantly impact a game's UA success. A game targeting teenagers might find platforms like TikTok or Snapchat more effective than Facebook. 

Conversely, a productivity app aimed at working professionals might prioritize LinkedIn ads or even targeted Google ads. By understanding where your potential players spend their time, you can ensure your game is advertised on the most impactful platforms.

Staying Updated with Trends

The gaming and advertising landscapes are in constant flux. New gaming trends emerge advertising techniques evolve, and popular social media platforms rise and fall. For example, with the rise of augmented reality games like Pokémon Go, there was a surge in outdoor, location-based advertising. 

Similarly, as platforms like TikTok gained popularity, they became invaluable for game promotions. Regularly updating one's knowledge and adapting to these shifts ensures that UA strategies remain at the forefront of effectiveness.

Collaborate and Learn

The gaming community is vast and diverse, filled with developers, players, and marketers. Engaging with this community, whether through online forums, gaming conventions, or industry seminars, can provide a wealth of insights. 

A developer might learn about a new advertising platform from a peer or gain feedback on their game's appeal from potential players. By staying connected and open to learning, developers can continually refine their UA strategies, ensuring they remain effective and relevant.

In conclusion, while there are numerous strategies and best practices to consider, the key lies in adaptability. By continually evaluating and adjusting your approach based on performance data and industry trends, you can navigate the UA landscape effectively and set your game up for success.

Unlock Your Game's Potential with Expert UA

At GameBiz Consulting, we specialize in crafting winning UA strategies that align with the latest industry insights and trends. Our User Acquisition team offers a comprehensive approach, ensuring you get the most out of your investment. Don't leave your game's success to chance. Schedule a call with our experts today and discover how we can help you find the most effective and cost-efficient UA strategy tailored just for you.

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