Here’s what’s in this guide:

SectionWhat you’ll learnKey points
Why reward players with real money?The KPI boosts and business logic behind rewarded play- By sharing some of your revenue with your players, you end up monetizing them more for a nice net gain
- Rewards are first and foremost a retention tool
The game must come firstWhere rewards can help, and where they can’t- Why rewards aren’t a replacement for good gameplay
- Scenarios where we’ve seen rewards be a large difference maker
Rewarded economy basicsBest practices for structuring your rewarded play economy- Creating a sustainable and impactful rewarded economy
- The three tenets of rewarding users: reward early and often, determine rewards based on LTV, impose a daily withdrawal limit
Reward mechanicsHow to give out rewards- One-size-fits-all vs custom reward mechanics adapted to each game
- Link to implementation guide with more details and all things technical

Why reward players with real money?

Give a little, gain a lot!

In a world of slim profit margins, it may seem counterintuitive to reward players with real money just for playing your game. But, as it turns out, spending a little lets you earn a lot more!

So if you can earn between 80% and 200% more per user by spending 10-20% of your ad revenue on player rewards, why wouldn’t you?

Square Enix Ludo Zenith ARPDAU increased 82%

Square Enix's Ludo Zenith

Retention is the name of the game

Real-money player rewards are a retention driver. And a very good one at that. There might be other reasons you’d want to integrate rewards, but really it all comes down to retention.

Long term retention is especially strongly impacted by rewards, but all ZBD partners see an increase from D1!

Results range from +100% up to ridiculous four-digit increases in long term retention, like what Fumb Games saw with Bitcoin Miner.

How much and in which part of their journey rewards impact player behavior will largely depend on your integration, messaging and first time user experience

Fumb Games' Bitcion Miner wordlwide D30 Retention increased 1,215%

Fumb Games' Bitcoin Miner

An instant revenue share model

On the business-model level, player rewards are essentially a smart and fun way to implement a revenue share model.

We recommend giving 10-20% of your game’s ad revenue back to players through rewards. But more on that below!

The game must come first! Rewards can help a lot though

Let’s be realistic: adding rewards won’t make a bad game great. But it can be the difference between a profitable product and a failed one.

Rewarded play isn’t about anyone getting rich. If your players are just playing the game to get rewards, it won’t work out. The game has to be fun on its own, then the rewards are a cherry on top.

We tested this extensively, and, unfortunately, relying on giving out rewards as a selling point to get people to play your game isn’t the best idea. Because the amount players can earn in a sustainable way that makes YOU money isn’t large enough. It’s more about the dopamine hit and thrill of getting something tangible out of playing.

Scenarios where rewards work well

If you have a descend game, rewards do work wonders. Here’s a few scenarios we’ve seen where rewarded play made all the difference:

  1. A game you’re struggling to scale, because the economics don’t quite work out
    • In our experience, this happens a lot. You have a great soft launch, but struggle to scale beyond those first cohorts. Rewarded play done in a sustainable way solves this!
  2. Legacy titles that need a little refresher
    • Thinking of sunsetting a game that used to work well? Try rewards before you pull the plug. It’s a simple way to breathe new life into older titles!
  3. Mid-core games with a learning curve
    • Rewards are a great way to keep players motivated as they learn to play a game and figure out the mechanics! A little carrot placed in the right spot will push them through those barriers.
  4. Casual games that struggle to retain past D7
    • Sometimes, a game just won’t get better if you add more depth to keep players interested. Or maybe the investment isn’t worth it for that specific title. Rewards can help.

Rewarded economy basics: best practices for structuring rewards

Every game is different, but we’ve figured out a few basic tenets that make rewarded play efficient as well as sustainable.

Tenet #1: reward early, reward often, but not a lot

Remember: it’s not the actual amount of money, it’s the psychology of getting real-money rewards that makes the magic happen.

Players should receive a constant trickle of rewards rather than larger sums at a time. Earning something should be easy. Earning more should be a function of consistency from the player.

This is where using Bitcoin comes in super handy. Every Bitcoin breaks down into 100 million units called sats. It’s like cents to a dollar, but super tiny - one sat is around 40x less than one cent.

Most mobile games on ZBD reward players between 1 and 5 sats at a time, but do so every few minutes, especially at the start of a session. A fraction of a cent is enough to keep the player engaged!

And because we use sats as the unit of account, the numbers still feel significant. Cashing out 100 sats is a completely different feeling from cashing out $0.05

Tenet #2: determine rewards based on LTV

The answer to “how much should I reward players” is actually quite simple… as much as you can afford. We generally recommend giving out 10-20% of your ad-generated revenue to players. The sweet spot is different for every game and there’s nothing to do but test it out.

To make this work on a global scale, it’s important to be able to change reward amounts based on geography. Certain partners that go deeper with ZBD build systems that set reward amounts for each player based on how much that exact user is earning you. But, as a starting point, it’s good enough to simply take the LTV for each country you’re live in and give out a percentage of that, based on the player’s location.

Tenet #3: impose a daily withdrawal limit

This is important for two reasons:

  1. Security: having a hard limit to how much each player can withdraw per day will protect you against bots and fraud.
  2. Retention: having rewards in your game is a great way to get a player to come back every day. A common scenario is that a player accumulates a relatively large sum before they want to cash out. Having a (clearly stated) daily limit is a great way to retain them for a few more days.

Pro tip: implement a “reset your daily withdrawal limit” rewarded video placement! It’s non-intrusive and works well with power users.

Reward mechanics and how to implement them

Go simple and implement in less than a week. Or think about it a bit more and design something custom to your game!

Generally speaking, there’s 2 ways to implement player rewards:

  1. One-size-fits app - based on time spent playing
    • Give out rewards based on time spent playing a game. Easy to implement and requires no additional game design or changes to the game.
    • Essentially a layer on top of your game, doesn’t touch anything else.
  2. Custom - based on your game mechanics
    • Add earning mechanics to your game. Example: in an endless runner, players could pick up coins with a Bitcoin icon on them. Each coin is worth one sat.
    • Requires some game design thinking and becomes part of the gameplay. You won’t be able to reuse the exact setup in a different game.
    • Harder to implement, but also feels native to the game and becomes a part of the fun! Tends to engage players more.

We’ve gone into more detail on both ways to add rewards to your games in the next guide! To learn more about the pros and cons, as well as detailed info on exactly how to implement this (including templates and code snippets), read Rewarded Play guide #2: Integrating player rewards in a game.