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The Fall Of The IDFA and The Future of iOS Advertising

At the annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple released a bunch of changes to its devices and operating systems as it always does.

But hidden among these were a series of privacy updates to iOS that nearly eliminated an important element of in-app mobile advertising and measurement — the Apple IDFA.

So what is the IDFA? And how does this affect the mobile marketing world?

The History of the IDFA

Apple introduced the Apple IDFA in 2012 as a replacement for the Unique Device Identifier (UDID).

The UDID is a feature of iOS devices that is fetched when a user tries to activate the Apple device using iCloud or the Setup app. Similar to the IDFA, advertisers, and publishers rely on the UDID to track user data and behavior. Ad services track the data and other apps a user has installed on their iOS device based on their UDID and use that data to target users, as well as track app usage, setup game networks, and store some simple settings.

Although the UDID was helpful to advertisers, it did have a major downside in terms of privacy. 

It was possible to link these tracking codes to a specific user which was a hindrance to user privacy. Also, the UDID was permanent which meant that if it was ever released, it could be directly traced to that user. As the conversation on data privacy took a more prominent role and concerns started to flow in, Apple eventually phased out the UDID and introduced the IDFA.

What is the IDFA?

The Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA) is a semi-permanent string of numbers and letters assigned to Apple devices like iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. 

It is used by advertisers and app publishers to recognize Apple users across multiple different apps to deliver personalized and targeted advertising, run frequency capping, measure campaign performance, and attribute impressions and clicks to app installs. Fingerprinting for Apple IDFA also allowed the advertiser to identify whether specific users click an ad for payment and attribution purposes.

The main reason to introduce the Apple IDFA was to give power to the consumer. They could now decide if they wanted to share their tracking information with the app or service. Unlike the UDID, users now had the ability to opt-out of targeted marketing campaigns by enabling “Limit Ad Tracking” which restricts the advertiser’s use of the IDFA. Consumers could also reset their IDFA code if they wished to no longer receive personalized advertisements and experiences from advertisers and publishers.

Fingerprinting for Apple IDFA quickly became a core component for the entire mobile marketing ecosystem on iOS, and played a role in countless systems and scenarios, from ad targeting, remarketing, analytics, rate limiting, personalized content, user personas, and more.

But even the IDFA came with its flaws. 

The Problems with the IDFA

Although Apple introduced changes and updates to the IDFA system, the opt-in rate remained low and Apple is the one to blame for this. 

The option to opt-in to the Apple IDFA program was hidden deep in the recesses of Apple’s settings, making it so that only someone who is actually looking for it can find it.

Pretty convenient, huh?

We thought so and so did other Apple users. And so, as of September 16th, 2020, with the launch of iOS 14, Apple introduced an update to the system. Users are now shown a pop-up when they open the app asking them if they wished to share their information with third-party sites. 

By allowing users to choose, it will reduce the amount of data that’s collected and advertisers will no longer be able to accurately target and track those users within apps on iOS devices.

Although a great tool to ensure user privacy, advertisers and publishers will now have to learn to survive without fingerprinting for Apple IDFA and the information that enabled personalized ad targeting. With the adoption rate estimated to be around 10-20%, advertisers are going to have to look for alternatives to maintain their relevance.

Alternatives To The IDFA

The world without the IDFA is not as terrible as one would foresee. Although the Apple IDFA is heading out soon (or at least appears to be), advertisers can still get the information they want.

Here’s our list of the alternate tracking methods advertisers can use to improve ad targeting.

#1: Fingerprinting

Companies already use fingerprinting to attribute web to app conversion paths. 

It collects mobile device attributes like IP addresses, device types, software versions, and more, to identify a device. In a world without IDFA at all, the app-to-app conversion flows could simply mimic the web-to-app flows, using fingerprinting in much the same way.

But even fingerprinting comes with its own set of problems. Apart from the obvious GDPR complications, fingerprinting may not be a viable option as it can be seen as an invasive and non-permissioned type of tracking; the very thing that Apple is trying to avoid. 

#2: SKAdNetwork

The SKAdNetwork aims to provide conversion data to advertisers without revealing any user-level or device-level information. 

It uses the mobile OS as a privacy-oriented mediator between the publisher, the advertiser, and the ad network that places the ad. The information that is shared does not contain any device identifiers that would allow advertisers to track user behaviors. 

There are some downsides, however. Although accuracy increases, the quality of attribution data available to advertisers will be highly compromised as multi-touch attribution is completely out of scope for the SKAdNetwork. Also, campaign optimization and retargeting will also be much harder to do. 

The future of the mobile ad industry looks uncertain as advertisers look for new ways to stay relevant. 

At Gameopedia, we look to provide accurate metadata that will allow advertisers and networks to achieve true hyper-personalization with effective contextual ad campaigns. Reach out to us to join the future of advertising.

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Game Content and Feature Comparison: The Secret to Identifying Untapped Potential

What Are Gamers Looking For?

Different people play games for different reasons. From wanting to feel a sense of competence to seeking an escape from real life, there are numerous motivations, desires, likes, and dislikes that need to be considered when making a game. A gamer’s needs are satisfied by a game’s various components; its genres, themes, art styles, and gameplay mechanics.

Game creators have to take all these factors amongst many others into account while building a game. Also, let’s not forget that each genre has a different set of features that are unique to it.

The Video Game Developer’s Challenge

Gamers know what they want and have always made their feelings clear. 

We all remember Anthem. The game TechRadar described as “a fun game wrapped up in a dull story and a repetitive end-game.” Anthem’s failure to capture the market was a very good indicator of why we should always put the gamer first and not the consumer. 

With repetitive gameplay, a weak storyline, boring NPCs, and messy combat mechanics, the game had everything and nothing. What was missing was a clear understanding of what needs to be included and what doesn’t. It did not understand what the gamer wants in their game content.

Enter Video Game Comparison.

The concept is defined in the name; comparing two or more games on a few specific categories like genre, price, platforms, ratings, and developer, just as you would compare products in any e-commerce store.

The limitation with video game comparison tools, free or paid, is they are mainly consumer-focused. The tools available today are merely skimming across an ocean of potential. And hiding in the depths are actionable insights and information that is useful to not just the consumer, but game creators as well.

All comparisons today are for the consumer and not the gamer. They compare generic criteria like the price, user reviews, platforms, and so on, which provide the consumer with important information but what about the gamer? Herein lies the need for a more robust video game comparison tool in the market.

Advantages Of A Video Game Comparison Tool

1. Understand Exactly What The Gamer Wants

The driving force behind any successful game is not the video game developer, publisher, or game designer, but the gamers who play them. The gamer who will advocate the brilliance of a game to their peers. We can all attest to the power of word of mouth.

No number of positive reviews, gameplay videos, or free merchandise, can ever take the place or provide the value that a “Hey. Have you tried this game? It’s awesome!” can. To leverage the power of word of mouth marketing, you need to understand your audience. You need to understand what the gamer wants from their video game content.

Here is where the power of video game comparisons comes into play. Putting two or more games next to each other, we can dive deep into what exactly led to a game’s success. We can identify the lynchpin (or pins) that made the difference; was it the narrative? The theme? The game content? The graphics? The gameplay? Or a combination of them all? As games get bigger and the market more competitive, an in-depth feature comparison analysis is not just a growing need but a necessity!

2. Identify Game Features & Mechanics That Work

While building a game, game developers have a plethora of features and mechanics to choose from. Granted, some video game mechanics and features are exclusive to a genre. For example, an MMO is defined by its massive online community and persistent game universe, without which the very essence of the genre would be lost. However, some game content and features are commonplace in most game genres like a leaderboard, a health system, enemies, and so on.

With a 360-degree view of the game’s feature-set in relation to others, game developers can identify the important and popular data-points that get the job done. They don’t have to rely on biased market analyses and unimaginative feedback from paid sources to understand what their game needs. They can look at the success of other studios and how they built their games.

3. Get A Holistic View Of The Competitor’s Offerings

You could build the best product in the world and become an overnight success but to continue doing what you love, you need to generate a constant revenue stream. This narrative is true in the gaming industry as well.

A truly successful game does not stop engaging its audience after the first playthrough. It continues to bring the player back again and again with new levels, characters, challenges, upgrades, and more- the list just keeps getting longer. Maybe it’s not the game content but the gameplay that is driving the player back to the game. 

Let’s take the example of Candy Crush. Why is this Match 3 puzzle game so popular with audiences of all ages? They have created an experience designed to keep the player engaged. Everything from the bright colors and peppy background score to the life system is designed to keep the player matching cupcakes. 

Throw in competitive triggers like the leaderboard and Beat the Clock mechanics and BOOM! You have a successful game in your hands.


4. Learn How To Stand Out In A Crowded Genre

A report published by Ars Technica in 2014 presented some interesting numbers. 

“…out of the roughly 781 million games registered to Steam accounts,…only 493 million, or 63 percent, have been played even once.”

Ars technica

These numbers were true six years ago and they stand true today. The gaming industry is booming and every month hundreds of games are released into the market hoping to capture an already over-engaged audience. And truth be told, studios are struggling to carve a niche out for themselves in the crowd.

To truly succeed, you don’t just need a brilliant idea and big money, you need to know where to invest that money and how to execute that idea in a sustainable manner. Even large studios, with a large library of successful games and abundant resources at their disposal, get video game content wrong more often than they would like to admit. 

Honestly, there is no right way to go about this. We can only choose the most effective way and if you have read this far, you probably know the answer; game content and feature comparison. 

Looking into thousands of games individually is simply impractical. To truly leverage the power of video game comparisons you need to look at them in small samples with multiple factors coming into play regarding game content like the narrative, game design, game length, character development, and so on. It’s not just about the numbers but the feeling that each element in the game invokes in the player.

To create impactful games that sell, it is imperative to understand your audience, the competition, and the market. 

Looking to create the next best-selling game? Reach out to us to learn more about how Gameopedia can help you do just that.

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