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The User Acquisition for Mobile Games: Cost Strategies Unveiled

The mobile gaming industry has witnessed remarkable growth, with users increasingly gravitating towards immersive and engaging gaming experiences on their smartphones and tablets. However, amidst this burgeoning landscape, one critical aspect that often determines the success or failure of a mobile game is the cost associated with acquiring new users. Navigating the intricate world of user acquisition costs (UAC) is a complex endeavor, requiring a strategic approach and a deep understanding of the various factors that influence these expenditures.

Unpacking the Concept of User Acquisition Cost

User acquisition cost, also known as customer acquisition cost (CAC), refers to the total expenditure incurred by a mobile game developer or publisher in attracting and onboarding a new user to their game. This metric is calculated by dividing the total amount spent on user acquisition campaigns by the number of users acquired during that period. Essentially, it represents the average cost of acquiring a single new user for the game.

The significance of comprehending and optimizing user acquisition costs cannot be overstated. A well-executed user acquisition strategy can not only drive increased profit margins but also contribute to the long-term sustainability and growth of a mobile game. Conversely, a poorly managed approach can quickly deplete resources and hinder the game's potential for success.

Factors Influencing User Acquisition Costs

Numerous variables can influence the cost of acquiring new users for a mobile game. Understanding these factors is crucial for developers and publishers to make informed decisions and allocate their resources effectively.

1. Operating System: iOS vs. Android

One of the most prominent factors impacting user acquisition costs is the operating system on which the game is developed. Historically, the cost of acquiring users for iOS games has been higher than for Android games. This disparity can be attributed to the larger global user base of Android devices, particularly in regions such as Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

However, recent data suggests that the gap between iOS and Android user acquisition costs is narrowing. According to industry reports, the average cost per install (CPI) for iOS games in 2022 was $5.11, while for Android games, it was $4.61. This convergence can be attributed to various factors, including changes in privacy regulations, the deprecation of third-party cookies, and the introduction of Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework.

2. Geographical Regions and Markets

User acquisition costs can vary significantly across different geographical regions and markets. Factors such as affluence, affordability, and market maturity can influence these variations. For instance, North America has traditionally been associated with higher CPI rates, while regions like EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) and Latin America have offered comparatively lower acquisition costs.

In 2022, the average CPI in the United States remained stable at $5.11 per user, while the EMEA region experienced a substantial increase, reaching an average CPI of $4.96, comparable to the U.S. levels. Brazil, on the other hand, emerged as a leader in the LATAM region, accounting for more than half of app install ad spend, with an average CPI of $0.75.

3. Game Genre and Vertical

The genre and vertical of a mobile game can significantly impact user acquisition costs. Popular verticals such as casual gaming, shopping (eCommerce and retail), and finance (fintech) have distinct cost structures and audience profiles, influencing the strategies and budgets required for effective user acquisition.

According to industry reports, the average CPI for casual gaming apps in 2022/23 was approximately $1. Simulation games had the lowest average CPI at $0.59 per install, while the acquisition cost on iOS ($2.23) was notably higher than on Android ($0.63).

In the shopping app category, which has witnessed increased demand following the pandemic, the U.S. attracts a third of global spending on user acquisition campaigns. North America's average CPI for shopping apps stands at $4.74, while Latin America offers the lowest at $1.42.

The fintech vertical, encompassing banking, payment, and investment apps, has experienced a decline in average CPI, now standing at $2.33 in 2022, down from $2.45 in 2021. LATAM users are the most cost-effective for fintech apps, with an average CPI of $1.60, although they tend to register at lower rates (18.3%).

4. Social Media and Advertising Channels

The choice of social media and advertising channels for user acquisition campaigns can significantly impact the associated costs. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram, once dominant in the mobile app user acquisition landscape, have undergone substantial changes in recent years, affecting their cost structures.

Facebook Ads, once a highly effective platform for mobile app user acquisition, experienced a drastic shift in customer acquisition rates after Apple's deprecation of the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) in 2020. The average CPI on Facebook Ads, which had reached a high of nearly $4 in 2019, dropped to around $1.62 by the end of 2022.

Instagram Ads, on the other hand, has maintained a more consistent trajectory. After an initial drop in CPI to $1.66 in 2020, likely due to the impact of IDFA deprecation, the average CPI for Instagram Ads rose to $2.33 in 2022, reflecting the platform's continued growth and ability to mitigate the effects of iOS changes.

Strategies for Optimizing User Acquisition Costs

Given the complexity and ever-changing landscape of user acquisition costs, mobile game developers and publishers must adopt a proactive and adaptive approach to optimize their expenditures. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

1. Leveraging User Acquisition Companies and Agencies

Partnering with specialized user acquisition companies and agencies can provide valuable insights, expertise, and support in navigating the intricate world of user acquisition costs. By leveraging their dynamic awareness of the shifting mobile marketing landscape, user acquisition companies can help developers and publishers create targeted campaigns, analyze results, and test new approaches, ultimately reducing overall user acquisition costs.

2. Optimizing Conversion Rates and Personalization

Optimizing conversion rates is a crucial strategy for mitigating user acquisition costs. By analyzing campaign performance at each stage of the funnel, developers and publishers can identify areas for improvement and implement targeted optimization techniques.

Tactics such as A/B testing, simplifying transactional processes, increasing personalization, and retargeting can significantly enhance conversion rates, thereby reducing the overall cost of acquiring new users.

3. Embracing Innovative Marketing Approaches

As the mobile gaming industry evolves, developers and publishers must remain open to embracing innovative marketing approaches to stay ahead of the curve. One such approach is "Purchase Behavior Targeting" (PBT), introduced by AdTech company Bango. This strategy shifts the focus from targeting users based on "who they are" to "what they buy," enabling more effective and cost-efficient user acquisition campaigns in the face of privacy changes and the removal of third-party cookies.

4. Leveraging Data and Analytics

Effective user acquisition cost optimization relies heavily on data-driven decision-making. By leveraging robust data analytics tools and platforms, developers and publishers can gain valuable insights into user behavior, campaign performance, and market trends.

These insights can inform strategic decisions, such as allocating resources to the most cost-effective acquisition channels, optimizing user retention strategies, and identifying opportunities for growth and expansion.

5. Fostering Long-Term User Engagement and Retention

While acquiring new users is crucial, fostering long-term user engagement and retention is equally important for maximizing the return on investment (ROI) from user acquisition campaigns. By implementing strategies that enhance user experience, gamification, and community building, developers and publishers can increase user lifetime value (LTV), offsetting the initial acquisition costs and driving sustainable growth.


Navigating the intricate landscape of user acquisition costs in the mobile gaming industry is a complex endeavor, but one that is essential for success. By understanding the various factors influencing these costs, embracing innovative strategies, leveraging data and analytics, and fostering long-term user engagement, developers and publishers can optimize their user acquisition expenditures and pave the way for sustained growth and profitability.

As the industry continues to evolve, staying agile and adaptable will be paramount. Continuous monitoring of market trends, emerging technologies, and user behavior will be crucial for making informed decisions and capitalizing on new opportunities. With a strategic approach and a commitment to innovation, the mobile gaming industry can unlock new avenues for cost-effective user acquisition and unlock its full potential.

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