Published: 12 October, 2020

Keeping it Casual

Yulia Jeshinko, consultant at Hybrid Interaction, explores the best ways to earn on casual gaming with affiliate marketing

Why is becoming a gaming affiliate so vital to your affiliate marketing business? Most likely it’s due to the fact that gamers and casual games companies are currently spending roughly $110 billion a year on gaming and its products. Online casual gaming is a new, rapidly developing niche moving away from clunky PCs and expensive consoles to the mobile devices we all have in our pockets.

More people are playing now than ever before. Whether it’s casual single-player games that can be played anywhere and anytime on a smartphone, or Battle Royale games such as Fortnite, where squads compete to be the last ones standing, gamers have many choices. Casual games made up 60% of revenue for the global video game market in 2019, generating $49 billion in revenue and a profit of $16.9 billion. The casual games market is forecast to grow 2.9% annually to hit $56.6 billion by 2024. There’s a lot of money at stake and a very large sum that has room for you to benefit.

Here, Hybrid Interaction, the iGaming CRM advisory service, breaks down the opportunities the casual games industry brings for affiliates.

Affiliates' main goal is to engage with the right segmented audience, as this can bring great opportunities for affiliates to monetise their traffic. Affiliates can achieve this through simple strategies, such as displaying unique affiliate promo codes during streams or posting affiliate links in videos and descriptions.

The casual games industry offers different ways to engage with specific audiences, and affiliate marketing allows advertisers to target niche segments of customers, especially when trying to promote game products and services. Therefore, if advertisers know who they want to target, depending on the content and channels, affiliate marketing can help draw players in a reliable and generally modest way.

So what’s the reason affiliate marketing pairs so well with the online gaming industry? It all comes down to a single word: engagement. When playing or viewing content, the end-users are entering an interactive mode, clicking, engaging and chatting. It’s a breeding-ground environment for engagement, especially with relevant content. While playing or watching a streamer on Twitch or YouTube, users find themselves in a “trust” mode, which makes them more likely to engage.

But affiliates also have an advantage in this relationship. With the different affiliate programs out there, they no longer need to depend on one partner. If they join an affiliate network, they don’t even need direct contact with each game advertiser. The network makes the management of both communications with advertisers and legal issues easier. Moreover, affiliates can also negotiate more beneficial terms for themselves by proving results, and can even shorten hold time, which is the time when advertisers assess the traffic quality to approve full-scaled collaboration.

Affiliate marketing can bring analysis and systematisation to game developers and other publishers, who work hard on user acquisition and analyse strictly new traffic sources. With automated features, affiliates can easily understand what’s working and what isn't in real time and optimise campaigns. Also, by using an affiliate network, advertisers are not paying for clicks or views but for actual target activities carried out by real users, giving them tangible results and a more straightforward way to reach their ROI goals. With this greater flexibility, advertisers can tailor their referral programs to reward content creators and partners, drive new traffic in specific demographics with particular interests, and choose the exact traffic types, geography and pay-outs.

The casual games niche has high potential, but it also requires careful planning and strategy. All niches do, but all the more for this one because there are plenty of gaming sites that will most likely have similar content to yours, so you need to be creative about the content you publish on your site. Also, you need to be smart with link building and how you drive traffic to your site. Don’t just bring people into the site, bring people who are interested in playing and subscribing to games.

Both affiliates and operators want to settle on the best pricing model before starting a campaign. We’ve compared the most-known business models in the casual gaming industry so you can pick the right model for you. In the CPM ad model (also called cost per mille), you receive a specific amount of money for every 1,000 ad impressions. The pro is the ad revenue generated by CPM is a more predictable gain as you have a good knowledge of the average page views per month. Additionally, the CPM model offers simplicity. The goal is to deliver the impressions both parties have agreed on. On the other side, the con is the amount of media ads that need to be offered to gain some value out of impressions.

CPC (cost per click) is one of the performance-based online advertisement models. In this model, you get paid for every click the advertisement receives. The pro is that the CPC model offers affiliates to collect more interactive data that can be used to sell ad inventories. The con in this model is the revenue generated by CPC is less predictable than CPM because the number of clicks received by the ads cannot be predicted.

CPA (also called cost per action) is a similar model, but it compensates the affiliate only if the ad viewer completes an action like making an in-game purchase. Cost per install (CPI) is an ad-model utilised by mobile app advertisers and the most common in the casual games industry. In this model, you get paid only if the viewer installs the app.

The pro of CPA and CPI is they give back to advertisers what they pay for, thus narrowing their risks. Hence, these models are more comfortable to sell to advertisers as compared to CPM or CPC. Effective creation of a CPA or CPI ad needs a good investment of time and resources by both sides. It leads to bonding for a much longer time and offers better revenue to affiliates (about $3-$10 per action). However, the con in this case is that revenue can't be predicted, and a significant amount of time and skill is needed for making this successful. Sometimes you may even need to manage the campaigns and optimise them for better results frequently.


So now you know the target audience and known business models, it’s time to make a plan and decide for yourself what, when and where you’ll advertise and how you’ll monetise. Try various advertising formats, creatives and audiences to check what works. If test traffic turns out to meet all requirements and conditions, continue working with the offer and check out other similar affiliate programs. If traffic quality is low, find the reason for that: it can be caused by the audience turning out to be the non-target audience, or dull creatives.

Any industry has a learning curve and casual gaming is no different. As the casual gaming industry develops, it becomes increasingly attractive for various traffic sources and affiliates. In any case, the number of top-notch traffic sources will likewise develop because new opportunities will enter the business, particularly the individuals who are well acquainted with the world of games.

These key players will have a superior outline of which audience to target and how to grab their attention, giving an open chance to offer their products or convert them into new players.

With the rapid growth seen so far, it’s difficult to envision what the business could resemble in the following five to ten years, so hurry up and don’t miss the opportunity casual gaming can bring to your affiliate business.

Yulia Jeshinko is a veteran social gaming expert with over a decade of experience in game monetisation & player retention. She has led and managed dozens of projects in many of the industry’s leading social gaming brands, taking business strategies and developing them from theoretical concepts into practical implementations.