How can I develop free games and make money with advertising?

How to make advertising money from the free games and apps you develop can be really easy and a fun part of a great game play experience for your players

June 24, 2017

The question we hear most often from game makers and app designers is "How can I develop free games and make money with advertising?"

Make Money From Free Games and Apps with Advertising

To make money from your free games and apps using advertising is much more complicated than just views and clicks.  Of course, the standard considerations include CPM (Cost Per Mille - an impression based metric which is based on 1,000 impressions), CPA (Cost Per Action - an action or engagement based metric), CPC (Cost Per Click - a click based metric in which clicks are measured), and CPI (Cost Per Install - a metric important to game designers who develop free games and want to buy downloads).  But the brief answer is that all of these metrics are important when you develop free games or apps.


When you develop free games, you want to keep as many players in your apps as possible.  As such, CPM or view based advertising might be the way to go.  CPM's are impression based and you get paid for the number of views you are able to deliver to advertisers.  However, your earnings will be much lower.

If your apps or free games are strong and popular, and your player retention is high (meaning players will return to your apps and free games if they're taken away after clicking an advertising message), you may want to consider a CPA or CPC based advertising model to make money.  Again, CPA and CPC models are based on clicks and actions.  With the majority of advertising networks, this means your players will click an ad and be whisked away to a website.

While the opportunity to make money from CPA or CPC methods of advertising within free games is much greater and the amount of money is much higher, the chances of your players returning to your games is less than 30%.

You work really hard to develop your free games and apps, and you work really hard to get game players to download those free games and apps.  When you send a player away for clicking an ad, that's a problem.  Especially given the low retention rates associated with mobile games.  Because of this, is very important to choose your advertising strategy very carefully.

If developers want to keep as many users in the app or game as possible, views (impressions) might be the way to go, but the earnings will be much lower. If the apps or games are strong enough to bring users back after a click, clicks may offer higher revenues.

A number of methods can be used to make money from free games and apps you develop. Being paid to display ads or ad clicks is just one. Free apps and games represent over 90% of the 1.4 million (and growing) apps available on each of the iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon stores.

The Advertiser's Experience

Advertisers pay to place ads on an app or game. They pay for impressions (views regardless of number of clicks), or clicks (regardless of number of views), or combinations.

When you develop your free games and apps, you can choose to display interstitials, pre-rolls, post-rolls, overlays, banners, rich content, incentives, and videos as advertising opportunities.

Each time a player clicks an ad, they’re whisked away to a website, and you, the developer, receive a small payment. The amount of the payment depends on the network(s) being used and the value of the ad. The range starts at a fraction of a USD penny.

The Problem with In-Game Advertising

It costs real money and great effort to get users to download an app or game, and according to a recent study by Fisku, it costs an average of $3 USD to acquire a single user.

Each click of an ad whisks your player out of the app or game and off to a website. And research has shown that the chances of them returning to the app is less than 30%.

There is money to be made from advertising and our survey (you can download a complimentary PDF copy when you sign up for a free account on ctalyst) shows the average earnings range between $0 to $100, with the majority of developers earning less than $5.

ctalyst make money from free apps and games average monthly earnings

Here are some of the common advertising networks used by game designers who develop free games and apps:

ctalyst make money from free apps and games advertising networks used

There are other ways developers of free games and apps can make money. They include but are not limited to:

  • In-App purchases
  • Cross Promotion of their other titles
  • Incentivized clicks (such as TapJoy)
  • Freemium - where the app is free, but upgrades, level ups, unlocks and more cost money

The ctalyst® Difference

ctalyst is the only network that allows you to make money from the free games and apps you develop, without sending your players away to an external website.  We keep your players in your games, where they belong.  ctalyst is also the only network that makes advertising a playable, interactive, and fun part of your game.  With ctalyst, advertising is yet another part of the overall game play experience and your players will love it!  At the same time, you get to make money - risk free!

Feel free to reach out to us for more on our support forum or email us at

Tom Raycove

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