Like most people, I spent a lot of time with family over the holidays. In between all the festivities, there was plenty of downtime—and these days, downtime means mobile devices. Cousins and nieces and nephews lounged on couches and floors, playing games on their iPods and iPads and Androids. Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Poker, Sudoko, Words with Friends … It got me wondering, when did mobile gaming get so big?

As it turns out, mobile gaming is the fastest-growing segment of the overall video game industry. According to Gartner, revenue from gaming apps is poised to double between 2013 and 2015, from $13.2 billion to $22 billion. And Newzoo’s latest trend report indicates that more than 100 million Americans now play games on their handheld devices. That’s a huge market.

If you’re considering building and marketing a mobile game, or if you already have one in the app store that’s not getting much playing time, how can you ensure that your game works as hard as it plays?

Rule Book for Profitable Gaming Apps

  • Know your players. With millions of gaming apps that can be downloaded for free, or for very little, you need a compelling hook that will engage and intrigue your target audience. Before starting development, identify your ideal users and design the game with their needs and interests in mind.
  • Keep it fresh. Gamers get bored easily if there’s no element of surprise or challenge. The most popular apps offer a stream of novelties and incentives, whereas games that simply repeat the same sequences over and over are quickly outplayed by the competition.
  • Get social. Online community is a major component of mobile gaming. Players expect to be able to compete, interact, and share with others, whether it’s a friend or an anonymous user across the world. Creating a rich, multiplayer experience is essential to engaging people for many games to come.
  • Offer in-app purchases. Although there are exceptions, today’s users are less likely to pay for app downloads, opting instead for free games. But once they’re engaged, they can be persuaded to make purchases while playing. According to a March 2013 report from Distimo, in-app purchases now generate more revenue than downloads. In fact, they generated 76 percent of the iPhone app revenue in January 2013. Mobile ads provide another potential revenue stream—especially when you’ve accurately pinpointed your audience with a tool like Adobe mobile targeting. Be sure to use an ad format that complements your app’s design.
  • Cater to the platform. One monetization strategy does not fit all. Each mobile operating system has its own unique user behaviors and technological limitations. Start by identifying your target platform and then customize your monetization strategy accordingly.

The first step to monetizing a mobile game is to look at the data. Analytics are key to understanding how users interact with your game and what they want to get out of it. Solutions like Adobe app optimization let you define specific user segments, test game versions, and set up targeting campaigns with just a click. Then, tailor your app development to improve the gaming experience.

Fun for players, profits for you. That’s what we call a win/win.