Best Practices for Merge Games and Owning the Genre
Merge games are successful because of their core puzzles and engaging meta-layer elements that may include building, storytelling, treasure hunting, and resource management. These elements provide a way for publishers to reach a wider audience and differentiate themselves in a competitive puzzle game category.
What is a merge game?
Merge games, such as Merge Villa, require players to combine objects together in order to create and unlock new ones. Merging can result in acquiring coins, treasures, or special characters within the game. These games also provide a sense of advancing quickly after completing these tasks that involve strategic thinking. But how do these motivations influence the types of ads to consider?
To better understand what makes ads for merge games compelling, our experts from SparkLabs, AppLovin’s in-house creative team, gave their insights for best practices. Shellie Schenck, Senior Designer and Imtiaz Razzak, Senior Game Developer, helped build and optimize the creatives for Merge Life (iOS | Android) and Merge Villa (iOS | Android). Here they share what it takes to create compelling ads for merge games.
The benefits of playables
For starters, playables tend to provide a fast way for the player to reach a reward. “This, combined with making the player feel like they solved a puzzle, are great ways to get immersed in the game,” she said.
Shellie added that the best approach to take involves testing different ad concepts based on simple merge game mechanics or even other types of games, such as match-three.
“When a player accomplishes even the simplest of tasks, such as making a successful merge of objects or showing a game board, it makes a big difference in engagement,” Imtiaz said. “Also, consider creating a sense of urgency for the player to solve the challenge in the ad.”
Winning concepts for playables and video ads
Story-based playables can be gratifying if the ending has a “win” for the player. Video ads are effective, demonstrative tools for the player to potentially get a glimpse of the game and see what they might experience.
“Videos have more flexibility in terms of what can be shown off—think crazy-sized boards and over-the-top effects,” Imtiaz said. “It gives us opportunities to show off our creative animation muscles fully and effectively.”
He added that playables have the unique advantage of making the player a part of the experience. “While it’s fine to progressively challenge the player, keeping things simple tends to work best,” he said. In addition, if you’re including merging elements, make sure it’s well balanced in difficulty, otherwise, it may be too challenging or easy and discourage players from engaging further.
Messaging and tips for engaging your audience
As with any kind of game or app, knowing the demographic and behavioral details of your target audience can help with creating ads that resonate and engage. For merge games, for example, if the audience happens to be men and women in their 40s and 50s, the messaging should be tailored to that specific age group.
“Consider how the text is written on the screen,” Shellie said. “Avoid slang or meme words that are targeted to a younger audience.”
Also, keep the messaging short and to the point—the ad should be attention-grabbing. For example, “Merge to decorate,” would prompt the player to engage quickly.
Trends in the merge genre
Staying on top of ad trends in merge games means paying attention to which ads perform best and understanding what your competitors are doing.
“See what performs well on Sensor Tower or Facebook Ad Library,” Shellie said. “Then incorporate those learnings into your creatives or change up existing ones.”
Imtiaz added that trends for ads are moving in a strong narrative direction. “If there’s a little story you can tell in the ad that involves the game’s characters, it may have a better chance of engaging the viewer and player,” he said.
Whether you choose to use rewarded video, playables, or static ads, incorporate hooks that tie back to the gameplay mechanics to keep your ads relevant to the user. This will ensure a fluid user experience and also help you optimize your ad strategy.
Learn more about SparkLabs and the engaging creatives they build.