What Can Gaming Apps Teach Us About Monetization?


Poker apps make a great deal of money. Casino gaming companies like Konami and Zynga have reported earnings of tens of millions of dollars in individual months and a 2020 look at the leading poker and casino card gaming apps revealed that the poker-centric titles accounted for far and away the greatest revenue shares. World Series of Poker alone made up 33.99% of revenue in the category, and Zynga Poker followed at 14.47%.

This likely comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with the popularity of casino and poker gaming. But it’s also worth considering as a lesson on app growth and monetization. So, what is there to be learned from poker apps?

Advertising works

This is by no means a shocking statement, but advertising works. Indeed, social media mobile marketing channels for apps are significantly Facebook alone attracts some 80% of all internet users, and thus the platforms are an obvious outlet for advertising. Developers and companies behind poker apps have realized as much, and in fact, are back on Facebook following certain restrictions over the years. So long as gambling apps comply with local laws and get explicit approval from Facebook, for instance, they are now able to advertise on Facebook and Instagram. Undoubtedly this is helping to drive numerous customers to popular apps like WSOP, Governor of Poker 3, Pokerist, and even Zynga which incidentally is playable on Facebook in the first place.

Multiple pay channels appeal

The average app taking payments today typically relies on its operating system and the payment option fundamentally tied to it. That is to say, iOS apps accept Apple Pay (and the attached cards), Google Play apps accept Google Pay, and so on. Poker apps, however, tend to offer users a variety of ways to make their deposits. When users make deposits for real money online poker, they typically get to choose between using debit and credit cards, ACH (automated clearing house) bank transfers, or even bitcoin. In supporting this variety of payment methods, poker apps expand monetization efforts to people with specific pay preferences.

Investing funds pays off

Beyond direct cuts taken from deposits and in-game pots, it’s said that one of the primary ways in which online poker rooms profit is by investing the pools of money players leave in their accounts. Basically, when someone uses a poker app and deposits funds into it (or potentially even spends money on play-money chips), the company can invest those funds on the side. Money is supplied as needed for players to game with, but funds that aren’t actively being used are growing on the side. Naturally, this works more effectively for poker apps than it would for many others. But it’s an interesting concept that apps taking direct payments from users would be wise to consider as a means of compounding monetization.

Merchandising is always an option

Another way in which online and mobile poker platforms profit is via merchandising; even if that’s as simple as selling hats or shirts with poker company logos on them. Indeed, one even sees this kind of merchandise quite often in live poker rooms or televised poker events. Not every app will have the same audience or the same potential to drive merchandise appeal, of course; but any app popular enough to be monetized in the first place at least has some potential for market-related products. Even if it’s a small additional revenue stream, it can add meaningfully to earnings over time.

Poker apps are inherently better positioned to generate profits than most of their counterparts in the app world. Even so, the concepts and strategies above can be applied in various ways to other types of apps as well.

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