Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Facebook advertising

I found it to be fairly effective. it’s another weapon in the armory of getting noticed. I know some people hate facebook and twitter ads, but those people forget that facebook and twitter are FREE. And nothing in life is free. Gmail isn’t free either, they both show you ads, and data-mine your email to build up a profile on you they can sell to people. This is why I like paying for stuff. ‘Free to play’ is anything BUT free. It means you are paying in time (artificial grind) or in personal data, or you are providing a service (cannon fodder to the whales). Absolutely nothing out there is free.

It does surprise me that you can’t buy a paid subscription to twitter or facebook to remove the ads. I’d pay $20 a year for each happily. Would you? Maybe the income from ads is way higher than that. I suspect so.

In an interesting development, I have found that facebook will let you target ads purely at desktop users, and ignore mobile but only *if* you edit this setting through the ‘power editor’ that seems to require you using google chrome to do so. This seems a bit strange, but at least they provide it as an option which is a relief, given that googles adwords service insists that limiting an ad to only being shown on desktop PC’s is somehow a technical impossibility, which is pure bullshit, and another reason that adwords ROI for me is lower than facebook. Do these hipster smartphone obsessed google-glass wearing kids not realize that there are still companies out there that make and sell (quite profitably) products that are aimed at the PC? like PC software maybe? Not everyone agrees that mobile apps are the way to make money…

Anyway, I’ve found facebook to be quite effective. Yes, you are helping to build up a presence on a service that you don’t control, and which is right now free (but how long until it costs you $100 a year to have a non-personal facebook account? a year? 5 years?), but I consider it a trade-off worth making. You have to draw a balance between contacting your customers in the place where they are (facebook, twitter etc) and ensuring you don’t hand over your entire community and social strategy to third parties. Also, you never know when you have it right. Commence much stroking of chin…

9 thoughts on Facebook advertising

  1. “Absolutely nothing out there is free.”

    I guess you don’t use gcc or Clang to compile your linux games?

  2. You can opt out of targeting smart phones on AdWords. Just set your mobile bid modifier to -100%. You’ll still be showing to tablet users though.

  3. How do you define a successful ad campaign? It sounds like you can manage a fairly reasonable return? Why not just ‘cash in’ throw money into it and get even more out?

  4. the problem is its very hard to be 100% sure that the boost in sales is directly linked to ads. Plus the ROI will change with scale. Eventually you run out of 13-45 year old men in America who use a desktop pc and like strategy and simulation games, and have to market to people less likely to buy the game :D Ultimately, I’m still making a pretty niche product

  5. Well to be fair, Facebook can target mobile users because they’ve pushed their mobile app so they can easily segment them.

    Google, on the other hand, has to rely on the “referer” data that the browser sends which is notoriously unreliable.
    But.. as can you set mobile bid modifier and Tablets with full browsers modifier to -100%?
    It’s been a while since I used adwords properly.

    I definitely agree that mobile apps are hip at the moment, that’s precisely the reason I’m looking at moving back out of them after being a fair early iphone dev adopter.
    When everyone says that’s the way to go, it’s time to start looking at other options in my experience ;-)

    What do you think of Steam giving developers full pricing power?
    Do you think it will descend into a free to play scrum like @nicholaslovell suggests?

  6. Devs have always had that power. The only change is that steam no longer get too involved. Really poor quality games desperate for sales will all drop to $0.99, but people will still pay for quality. Just look at banished…

    1. I really hope you’re right :-)

      I’ve been a big fan of free to play since way before it was “cool”.
      For all it’s faults it can be a perfectly valid business model, it’s just proven to be easily abused which sickens me to watch but that’s another discussion ;-)

      A lot of games just don’t fit that model though and it’s awful when perfectly good games are forced into unnatural shapes just to fit it.

      So I’m hoping that Steam bucks the trend and shows that it’s perfectly possible to keep premium prices for games :-/

  7. You mention it’s very hard to be 100% sure that the boost in sales is directly linked to ads.
    So did you basically do facebook ads as an extra marketing effort and then got a spike in revenue?

    There’s an interesting video about how facebook ads actually devalue the effectiveness of a facebook page, I got the link from another developer a while back. It’s a bit drawn out but the video does get to the point eventually. Might be interesting.

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