Halfbrick increases revenue by 16% with Remote Config personalization
With a team of 70 fully-remote developers, Halfbrick strives to make games that people remember for a lifetime. While they began by developing licensed games back in 2001, they quickly made a name for themselves by developing original titles with a retro, nostalgic feel. Halfbrick is responsible for popular titles like Jetpack Joyride, 80s-style action platformer Dan the Man, and the instant-classic Fruit Ninja, which has now been downloaded over a billion times.
As most of Halfbrick's revenue comes from running ads with AdMob, maximizing ad placement without damaging user retention is a constant concern. Previously, the team ran a lot of manual experiments and A/B tests to find the ideal number of ads, but it took up a lot of engineering time and resources. They wanted a way to run more granular experiments with less manual input, allowing them to quickly and easily optimize their ad placement.
They also wanted to maximize user engagement by showing a rating prompt at the moment when a player is most enjoying the game, like at the end of a tutorial or checkpoint. This was another manual process that the team hoped to automate and optimize.
Many of Halfbrick's games were already powered by Firebase products such as Cloud Functions, Cloud Storage, and Realtime Database on the backend. And they were also using Remote Config to dynamically control and change the behavior and appearance of their games, so they were quick to adopt Firebase's latest feature, Remote Config personalization. This new feature allows developers to specify objectives and then uses machine learning to find the best parameters for each user to maximize those objectives, essentially performing individualized, continuously-improving A/B tests.
Halfbrick used Remote Config personalization to optimize three key metrics: ad frequency, time to unlock a new level, and the timing of a ratings prompt.
By using personalization to decide when and how often to show interstitial ads, Halfbrick's games now automatically show players the optimal number of ads based on their behavior and preferences, delivering a better user experience, and increasing retention and return on ad spend. They were able to increase the average number of ads per user from 3.4 to 4.2 — which led to a 16% increase in average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) — without affecting engagement, retention, or ratings. Personalization also helped Halfbrick determine the right amount of time to make each player wait to unlock a new level, increasing the overall amount of time they spent watching ads.
In addition, Halfbrick is using personalization to determine the best time (i.e. when users are most enjoying the game) to ask users to rate their app, without any manual setup or guesswork from the team. Personalization helped them increase engagement with the rating prompt by 4% and increase the number of positive ratings by 15%.
When they ran these experiments manually, it would take a dedicated teammate one week to configure, test, analyze, and roll out the results. Now, they can set up Remote Config personalization in a day or two, then allow it to keep learning and optimizing without regular human intervention. This has allowed Halfbrick to save money and time, using that engineering time to build new features for their games.
16% - increase in average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU)
15% - increase in positive app store ratings
"The granularity achieved with Remote Config's personalization feature is impossible for a human to instrument. Personalization has given us new insight into how we can optimize our ad strategy and even helped us challenge our own assumptions that players don't like too many ads. Incredibly, we've been able to increase the frequency of ads and grow ad revenue without seeing an uptick in negative reviews or customer complaints."
- Miguel Pastor, Product Manager, Halfbrick