How Top 100 Grossing Games Show ATT Prompt?

How Top 100 Grossing Games Show ATT Prompt?

 

At WWDC in June last year, Apple announced its App Tracking Transparency framework which the majority of the industry read as IDFA depreciation. Fast forward to 26th April 2021. and these changes are finally here with iOS 14.5 (originally, the framework was supposed to be enforced with iOS 14 which came out in September last year).

 

Less than 48 hours into the change, it is still too early to tell how the industry has been affected, from the ad monetization side of things, at least. According to this article published by Flurry, it may take a few weeks until a significant portion of iOS users updates to 14.5 And while we wait for the eCPMs to drop, I decided to look into the implementation of ATT prompts, try to see how creative developers were when designing and framing these and if there are any particular examples that stand out.

 

Covering the basics first.

 

#1 The scope of work – First, to specify in more detail what was the scope of this research. Together with my team, I looked into different solutions from the top 100 grossing games in the United States (based on the AppAnnie report for 26th April 2021). *Note: the list takes into account only in-app purchase revenue and not revenue coming from in-game ads.

 

#2 Types of games – As can be imagined, the list contains everything from casual games to hard-core games. From match-three, across first-person shooter, battle royale, slots, sports, racing, etc. So basically, from Candy Crush Saga to Call of Duty Mobile and everything in between. I also checked out some other titles, around twenty of them – without particular criteria, games I had on my phone, that I played for work or for fun (note: they have not been included in the statistics below but will be included with examples).

 

  • I thought it would be interesting to understand how many of these games are using ads to monetize their users. To check this out, I used Google Play Store’s “Contains ads” tag, and based on that, we can see that out of 100, as expected, the majority or 58% of them are using in-game ads. The remaining 42% of games rely solely on in-app purchases.
  • Also tried to split the games based on whether they are “more core” or “more casual” (very imprecise classification on my part) – we get 64 more core and 36 games that are more on the casual side.


#3 Expectations
– Prior to the roll-out, there has been an overwhelming amount of conversation (and speculation) in the industry regarding how ATT impacts UA, ad monetization, particular game genres, etc. However, knowledge exchange on the best practices for ATT prompt implementation hasn’t been that intensive. Nevertheless, some expectations were set in terms of what could be seen in different solutions (or at least, some ideas/questions surfaced in the process):

 

  • Timing – When to show the prompt? Two approaches here: Show the prompt immediately after showing Terms of Service and Privacy Policy pop-ups. The argument is – the users are already used to saying yes to these, so why not use the momentum and get that “Allow Tracking” from the users. The other approach that was discussed was to show the prompt sometime later in the gameplay, when the user is more committed to the game and hence more likely to allow tracking (example: ahead of showing the user their first ad).
  • Pre-prompt messages – Should the pre-prompt message be shown before Apple’s pop-up? Again, two logics were pointed out. Use the pre-prompt message to explain to users the benefits of allowing tracking and convince them to do so on the next window. The argument against this practice was that it is an additional, unnecessary window and users won’t read it anyway. Some even reported better results, as in higher opt-in rates when showing Apple prompt only (based on AB tests).
  • Incentivized choices – Should the developer offer a reward for users that allow tracking or not. This quickly came up as an idea but it was just as quickly clear that Apple will almost certainly prohibit this type of incentives (especially, thinking historically about Apple’s stance towards rewarded video ads, offer wall, incentives for push notifications, etc.). Later, it was officially confirmed that incentivized pre-prompts are not allowed.
  • Other – How to frame the message? What benefits to highlight to users? Go in detail or simple, short and clear? What exact words should be used?


No more stalling, findings ahead!

 

  • Out of 100 games, only 42 of them showed ATT prompt. The remaining 58 did not show it at all. It seems that nine months since the original announcement, at least some of the big games still felt safer to wait and see what others in the industry will do and then follow the best practice.
  • All of the games that showed prompt have triggered it right at the app start. No delays, 100%.
  • None of the games wanted to take the risk and try to bribe the users for their consent. Or at least none of them got approved in the review process and made it to the stores. No rewards, 100%.
  • Going back to our expectations and pre-prompt messages, we saw that out of 42 games that did show ATT pop-up, only 8 of them (so less than 20%) showed a custom message beforehand.
  • If split based on whether or not the games monetize with ads, it is clear that those monetizing with ads implemented ATT far more often and pre-prompt messages slightly more often. Specifically:
  • Here’s how games classified as per “more core” or “more casual” compare on the ATT front – it seems that more casual games have implemented ATT prompt itself more often, however, interestingly, the majority of the pre-prompts were implemented by more core games (but the difference in implementation rate is not that big).

 

  • Here’s how games classified as per “more core” or “more casual” compare on the ATT front – it seems that more casual games have implemented ATT prompt itself more often, however, interestingly, the majority of the pre-prompts were implemented by more core games (but the difference in implementation rate is not that big).

 

 

  • Customizing the message on ATT prompt – More than 80% of games showed a custom text on ATT prompt (different from the one in official screens shared publicly by Apple). A number of them had very small variations (replacing the word “data” with “identifier” or adding “and improve our services”, etc.) while others were more creative in their messaging. There were a few implementations that I would at least question how effective/better they were compared to the default text. For example, saying #1 for promotion targeting and tracking analysis or #2 to
    access IDFA for tracking purposes doesn’t communicate any benefit for the user and it might be argued that it sounds less understandable or even scarier than Apple’s original message

 

  • What follows is the list of reasons/benefits/explanations that developers offered to their users when prompted with the ATT window:
      • Some functional benefits: Saving game progress, Optimize content, Create a better gaming experience, Playing across multiple devices, Third-party logins
      • Social benefits: Connect with your friends, Find more players for you, Sharing in-game achievements on social networks
      • Ads-related: Personalized ads, Seeing our ads in other apps, Tracking ad preferences
      • Flirting with an additional value proposition: Offers, discounts, keep the game free, customized content, used for free rewards from video ads (edgy)
      • Negative framing (fear of missing out): #1 If disabled third-party logins will not work and ads you see will be less relevant, #2 if you do not allow tracking, you will continue to see ads but they will not be personalized
      • Offering only half-information on what it is being used for – mentioning only one out of many purposes IDFA is used for. Examples: #1 only to know how you found out about our game, #2 only to connect with your account in order to prevent you from losing access to your account
      • A number of them pointed out that the user can change her/his mind at any point in the future

 

  • Finally, examples of pre-prompts (and the prompts that followed). Since there weren’t that many examples, all of them are included (8 from top 100 grossing and 3 from other games).

 

RAID: Shadow Legends by Plarium

Cashman Casino Las Vegas Slots and Lightning Link Casino Slots by Product Madness (only one set of screenshots included because the implementation is the same)

Merge Dragons! by Gram Games

Best Fiends by Seriously Entertainment

EverMerge – Merge and Match! by Big Fish Games

DRAGON BALL Z DOKKAN BATTLE by Bandai Namco Entertainment

Top Eleven by Nordeus (not top 100 grossing)

My Story by Nanobit (not top 100 grossing)

 

In the end, it’s worth sharing a few disclaimers/limitations of this work:

 

  • Some games did not show any prompt after installation / going through the tutorial. We cannot be sure that the prompt wouldn’t be triggered after spending some more time playing the game. Also, it is reasonable to expect that majority of any remaining games that haven’t implemented the prompt yet will do so soon.
  • It is possible that some games are still testing different variants/implementations of the prompt messages so the ones shared here may not be their definitive or the only solution.
  • Some games did not show prompt to existing users but have done so when the game was freshly installed on another device.

 

From looking into these top 100 grossing games an argument can be made that even among the most successful titles there is still room for improvement. Testing different messaging solutions, being more clear about the purpose (especially removal of technical jargon), or testing pre-prompt VS. no pre-prompt (or even different variations of pre-prompts) is something that could increase the opt-in rates for the users.