The State of Mobile Game Advertising in 2021

The State of Mobile Game Advertising in 2021

by Andrea Knezovic

Wondering what the current state of mobile game advertising is?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this report, we uncover the latest ad network trends, game genre trends, as well as creative trends in the mobile gaming industry.

All data in this article comes from SensorTower’s The State of Mobile Game Advertising report. It’s an analysis of the US mobile game advertising trends in 2021.

If you’re struggling with getting more users for a mobile game and want to improve the effectiveness of your ad campaigns, this article is a must-read.

Let’s dive right in!

The State of Mobile Game Advertising: Ad Network Trends in the US

Let’s start with ad network trends. In this section, you’ll learn which ad networks had the highest mobile game share of voice on both Android and iOS.

ad networks by game share of voice

Ad Networks with the Highest Game Share of Voice

In the image above, you can see the US share of voice for mobile games vs. non-game apps by ad network (1Q18 to 1Q21).

If we look at iOS, five ad networks with the highest share of voice coming from games (more than 90%) were Chartboost, Unity, AdColony, ironSource, and Vungle.

Similarly, on Android, the top five ad networks by game share of voice were Chartboost, AppLovin, ironSource, Unity, and Vungle. However, it was lower than on iOS (from 74 to 88 percent).

This comes as no surprise, as these ad networks were primarily focused on mobile games.

There were another five ad networks that had more or less an even split between gaming and non-gaming. Those are AdMob, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube. Their game SOV was between 40 and 60 percent.

Even though it’s not as high as for other ad networks, these are some of the most popular ad networks with millions of users. That makes them important for advertising mobile games.

ad networks by ad format on ios

iOS SOV Among Ad Networks by Ad Type in the US

On every ad network except for AppLovin, more than 50 percent of the mobile game share of voice came from video ads in H1 2020.

AppLovin has been getting more focused on playable ads in recent years, as has Vungle.

According to SensorTower, that’s probably due to AppLovin’s popularity among hyper-casual and puzzle games. Both genres benefit from using playable ads, as their gameplay is simple.

The top five advertisers on AppLovin in Q2 2021 were casual games like Project Makeover and Wordscapes. Furthermore, this ad network has invested in casual publishers in the last couple of years.

In 2020, a smaller portion of game SOV came from fullscreen ads on Chartboost, Unity, AdMob, and AppLovin.

Banner ads were used the most on Facebook and YouTube.

ad networks on android by ad format

Android SOV Among Ad Networks by Ad Type in the US

Overall, video ads seem to be the most popular choice for most ad networks. On Unity, Chartboost, Facebook, and AdMob, more than 70 percent of the share of voice came from video ads in H1 2020.

This comes as no surprise, as video ads have proven to be the most effective ad format for advertising mobile games.

Fullscreen ads accounted for the majority of the game share of voice on MoPub (more than 80 percent in H1 2020).

Vungle is the ad network that had the highest share of voice from playable ads in H1 2020 (almost 50 percent).

When it comes to banner ads, they seem to be the least popular ad format. On Unity and Chartboost, no SOV came from banner ads.

Some SOV in 2020 came from this format on Facebook and YouTube. However, compared to 2018, it’s obvious that banner ads have been used less and less each year on these two ad networks.

The State of Mobile Game Advertising: Game Genre Trends

Let’s move on to game genre trends.

iOS Share of Voice Among Game Advertisers by Game Genre

In the following section, you’ll find out which ad networks are popular among different gaming genres.

The data is from 1Q18 to 1Q21.

gaming ad networks by genre

Ad Networks Focused on Gaming

If we look at six gaming-focused ad networks, puzzle games had the highest SOV on five of those (Chartboost, AdColony, Unity, Vungle, and ironSource). On AppLovin, puzzle games ranked second.

Hyper-casual games are also very prevalent on most gaming ad networks. This genre has the highest SOV on AppLovin. On AdColony and Vungle, hyper-casual games are ranked second, and on Chartboost and Unity, they’re in third place.

non gaming ad networks by genre

Other Ad Networks

Here’s which genres are popular on social media networks and ad networks with a more even gaming and non-gaming share of voice.

Puzzle games are on the top on three ad networks – MoPub, Facebook, and AdMob. Hyper-casual games are the most popular on TikTok and Instagram.

However, we also see a high SOV coming from mid-core games. For example, the strategy genre was among the top three genres on four ad networks from this list (MoPub, Facebook, AdMob, and YouTube).

How to Choose an Ad Network for Your Game?

Choosing the right ad network is essential for maximizing your user acquisition efforts. Defining your target demographic can help you with that.

Here’s how.

If we look at the top ad networks for different game genres, their user base seems to align with demographics of that genre.

For example, casino games have the highest share of voice on AdColony. This ad network is most commonly used by games that have an older female user base.

On the other hand, if you have a younger male audience, it’s a good idea to advertise on YouTube. Because of their audience demographic, RPG and strategy games have a high share of voice on this network.

The State of Mobile Game Advertising: Creative Trends

According to SensorTower, these are the current creative trends for mobile games.

fake playable ads trend

Fake Playables

A big creative trend for hyper-casual and puzzle games is videos that look like playable ads. In other words, these are ads that show an example player progressing through the game.

That creates a strong incentive for viewers to download the game.

For instance, in this creative for Parking Jam, we see an example player, represented by the pointer hand moving the cars. It’s a straightforward demonstration of the core gameplay experience and how it progresses. This is what makes it enticing to viewers.

Some developers took the fake playable trend even further, like Zynga, for example. Some ads for High Heels! have an introduction just like a real playable ad.

According to SensorTower, “This quick introduction tempts viewers to download the game in order to see what the gameplay is actually like.”

relaxing music creative trend

Relaxing Music

Adding relaxing background music to ads is a big trend among puzzle, word, board, and even trivia games.

If you think about it, it makes sense.

Games in those genres are often advertised as being relaxing. Thus, it makes sense to run creatives with a calming atmosphere. Furthermore, this type of game targets players whose main motivation for playing is to wind down and get their minds off other things. This is another reason why adding relaxing music might be beneficial.

However, we have seen this in many hyper-casual creatives recently as well.

Thus, even though your first instinct might be to try to stand out with loud and upbeat music, you should reconsider it if you have a puzzle or hyper-casual game. Especially if you want to attract gamers who play mobile games to relax.

Here’s an example of a Happy Color: Color by Number creative. This is how it looks in practice.

The ad is quite simple – we’re shown how to paint a unicorn on a canvas using spray paint and stencils.

As this is a very calming activity, there’s relaxing music playing in the background. It’s obvious how this type of music works well with the gameplay experience of this board game.

playable ads for mid core games

Playable Ads for Mid-Core Games

Traditionally, playable ads were mostly used for casual games.


Well, playable ads need to be very basic. In other words, the gameplay needs to be simplified for this interactive ad format.

The main thing casual games are known for is their simple game mechanics. For that reason, playables work like a charm for casual games.

However, some mid-core titles have started to use this ad format as well. Most notably, Call of Duty: Mobile and State of Survival.

These games used to rely solely on video ads that demonstrate the full gameplay experience or have a narrative element. However, now they’re also using playables.

You might be wondering how to make a playable ad for complex mid-core games?

The two aforementioned games went with mini-games. In other words, playable ads for these games feature a very simplified version of the gameplay.

This suggests that mid-core titles could also benefit from playable ads, and it might be an interesting new avenue to explore.

real world conversations trend

Real-World Conversations

Some developers opt-out for creatives that include little to no gameplay. Instead, the video ads feature people having real-life conversations and discussing the game.

This approach is particularly popular for casino games that offer real money rewards.

The creatives or these types of games highlight a person discovering they can earn money by playing the game. This is a strong incentive for viewers to download the game, as they see other people making money and want in on the action.

Games like AFK Arena and Magic: The Gathering Arena also jumped on this trend.

For example, AFK Arena has several video ads that feature people discussing different strategies for mastering the game and progressing more quickly. This creates interest by making people think they’re missing out on an exciting gameplay experience.

Additionally, this type of ad can serve as a great introduction or a tutorial for the game. That, in turn, makes people more likely to be more engaged after downloading the game since they’ve learned some great strategies by viewing the ad. It can also increase the chance of players making an in-app purchase.

Magic: The Gathering Arena took it one step further and enlisted celebrity influencers for some of their video creatives. Having celebrities play a game and talk about how great it is, is one of the most powerful incentives to install a game.

You probably remember the outstanding Coin Master influencer campaign. It featured celebrities like the Kardashians, Jennifer Lopez, and Cardi B talking about this casual game. This is another great example of this creative trend.

Final Thoughts on the State of Mobile Game Advertising in 2021

Hopefully, this data from SensorTower’s report gave you a better idea of the current state of mobile game advertising.

This information can help you improve the effectiveness of your user acquisition campaigns. So make sure to consider it when working on a new strategy or tweaking your current approach.


About Udonis

Udonis is an independent full-service mobile marketing agency that acquired more than 200,000,000 users for mobile games since 2018.

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