In-Game Advertising

Attribution Done Right: Choosing The Right Attribution Model For Game Advertising

March 7, 2023
5 Minutes

User acquisition has always been a tricky business. Many brands today make use of a multi-channel marketing approach as a way to scale. However, this makes measurement and attribution difficult. 

For example, understanding why someone downloads a game is complex. Is it because they saw an Instagram ad or because they searched for the game's website before?

It's important to give credit to the right touchpoint when running ads,as this helps you improve the performance of your ads. While the user's experience is important, so are conversions and understanding the user journey. This article will help you figure out which approach is best for you and explain why it matters.

Demystifying Attribution And Attribution Modeling

As we touched upon above, it’s critical to attribute the conversion to the right touchpoint. An attribution model is a set of rules marketers use to understand which marketing strategies are working and  visualize conversion funnels. This is vitally important for game marketers as they often use a variety of channels to advertise.

Interestingly, an attribution model is not limited to conversions. Attribution models can be used for any specific event. 

For example, game marketers can track users who install and actively play the game in the first 15 days. Marketers can also attribute channels that bring in users who spend the most on in-game purchases.

Attribution models help marketers improve the results of campaigns by better understanding past results. 

This helps them focus their efforts on the right channels, plan budgets better, drive effective conversions, and increase ROI.

Why marketers need an attribution model

  1. Better understand  the ROI of current marketing channels with respect to the specified event as a conversion/success.

  2. Optimize future marketing strategies and direct spending to the right channels.

  3. Understand the inner workings of the buyer journey and discover low-hanging fruit.

  4. Design tailored marketing strategies for the best-performing channels.

The Best Attribution Models For Your Game

Attribution models can be divided into two main types: single-touch and multi-touch.

Single-Touch Attribution Model

This attribution model assigns credit for a conversion to either the first or last interaction the customer had with the brand's campaign. 

This type of model is helpful for understanding the starting point of a customer's journey or the final step that led to their conversion.

Top Single-Touch Attribution Models

First-Touch Attribution Model

‍First-Touch Attribution Model

In the first-touch attribution model, marketers give credit for a sale to the first time a customer interacted with a company. 

For example, if someone clicked on a Google Ad to get to a website, that would be their first touchpoint. If they came back through Reddit and then bought something a week later after seeing a YouTube ad, Google would still get all the credit for the sale.

The first-touch model helps marketers figure out which channels are best for getting people interested in a company. By focusing on those channels, marketers can build stronger relationships with customers and make them more likely to buy in the future.

Last-Touch Attribution Model

Last-Touch Attribution Model

On the other hand, the last-touch attribution model is used to give credit to the final touchpoint that a user interacts with. 

For instance, if a user makes a purchase after interacting with YouTube, 100% of the credit goes to YouTube. 

This last-touch model is the most commonly used in the industry, and it works well for shorter customer journeys that only have one or two touchpoints. As a result, marketers can use this model to create effective campaigns.

Multi-Touch Attribution Model

This model is used to track multiple touchpoints that a customer encounters on their journey towards making a purchase. 

Different touchpoints are given varying levels of credit for the final conversion. This model is useful for brands that have complicated user journeys that lead to a purchase.

Top Multi-Touch Attribution Models

Linear Attribution Model

‍Linear Attribution Model

The linear attribution model awards equal credit to all touchpoints involved in the customer journey, right from the introduction to conversion. 

The linear attribution model may not be the ideal choice in finding out the marketing channel working best, but it enables marketers to execute balanced attribution and effectively map out the customer journey.

Time-Decay Attribution Model

Time-Decay Attribution Model

In the time-decay attribution model, the closer the touchpoint is to conversion, the higher the credit it receives. 

It’s one of the advanced attribution models that not only credits all touchpoints but also ensures the recent touchpoints are credited more.

The formula used to calculate the time decay attribution model:

Yn = 2(-x/7)


Y = the touchpoint

X = the number of days the touchpoint was interacted with prior to the conversion

The formula takes inspiration from half-life, which is used to find the half-life of a substance that is decaying or reducing in quantity.

Once values of Y have been deduced for all touchpoints, the individual attribution percentage can be calculated as

Zn = Yn (Y1 + Y2 + Y3 + …..) x 100

Where Z = the attribution % for the touchpoint

U-Shaped Attribution Model

U-Shaped Attribution Model

The U-shaped attribution model awards the highest credit of the conversion to the first and last touchpoints. 

Both these touchpoints receive 40% of the credit each, while the remaining 20% is divided among the rest of the touchpoints. 

This U-shaped model is ideal for marketers that want to attribute the initial awareness campaigns as much as their final conversion campaigns.

W-Shaped Attribution Model

W-Shaped Attribution Model

Here’s an example to differentiate between the various attribution models. 

let’s say a racing game is running ads on Instagram along with an around-the-game ad strategy with their ad partner. 

User X watches the ad on Instagram and likes the game and visits the website. They sign up for the email newsletter but don't install the game. A few days later, they search for the website on Google but still don't install the game.

Five days later, the newsletter arrives, prompting the user to interact with it. However, the user once again decides not to install the game. After a few more days pass, the user sees an ad on Reddit and decides to visit the app page, only to exit. Finally, they see an ad for the game inside another game and decide to install and play it.

During the user journey, the user came across 5 touchpoints:

  • Instagram (10 days before conversion)
  • Direct Visit (9 days before conversion)
  • Email (4 days before conversion)
  • Reddit (1 day before conversion)
  • Gaming Ads (conversion day)

Here’s how the attribution will look like for all major models

The Changing Landscape Of Gaming Attribution

Attribution models help marketers determine which channels are most effective, but there are limitations. 

The most common model is the last-touch model, which gives credit to the last touchpoint before a conversion. However, this can be biased.

For example, let's say a user clicks on an ad for a game displayed inside another game.The user is convinced that the game is good, and they want to play it. 

However, once they are directed to the game’s application page, they decide to look for reviews online. Once satisfied with the reviews, the user decides to install and play the game. 

In an ideal scenario, the ad inside the other game led to the conversion and should have been attributed. However, in the last touch model, the ads on the review website will be unfairly credited as the conversion driver.

This is why we are witnessing a shift towards multi-touch models to better understand all touchpoints. 

Multi-touch attribution models are also ideal for complex user journeys, which is the case when it comes to the current scenario.  While no model is perfect, multi-touch models are fairer and can account for factors like word-of-mouth.

Choosing The Best Attribution Model For Your Game

When choosing the best way to track your marketing efforts for your game, it's important to choose the right attribution model. 

This can be challenging, as there's no one-size-fits-all approach. The model you choose depends on the type of marketing campaign you're running and the final goal you want to achieve.

For example, if you're using ads inside your game to get people to install it, a last-touch attribution model might be the best option. But if you're running a multi-channel campaign to increase brand awareness and drive conversions, a linear or time-decay attribution model might be better.

iion can help you find the right attribution model! 

With a suite of next-gen tools, iion enables advertisers to efficiently attribute the right conversion channels and build scalable ad strategies. With iion, you can see the full picture of how the target audience reaches converts, helping advertisers scale their ROI and, in turn, revenue. 

Want to know how you can build a successful attribution model for your game? Connect With Us Today!


What is an attribution model?

An attribution model is a set of rules that are used by marketers to attribute the conversion to the right touchpoint. The attribution model helps marketers understand the key touchpoints that drive conversions, enabling them to double down on them.

What are the most common attribution models?

The two most common attribution models are single-touch and multi-touch attribution models. These models can then further be divided into first-touch and last-touch attribution models in single-touch; and linear, time-decay, u-shaped, and w-shaped attribution models in multi-touch.

What is single-touch attribution?

In single-touch attribution, only one touchpoint is attributed entirely for the conversion. There are two single-touch attribution models, which is the first-touch attribution model, which credits the first touchpoint for the conversion, and the last-touch attribution model, which credits the last touchpoint for the conversion.

What is multi-touch attribution?

In multi-touch attribution, all touchpoints are credited for the conversion. There are 4 major multi-touch attribution models, linear, time-decay, u-shaped, and w-shaped attribution models.

How to choose the best attribution model?

There is no one best attribution model for all games and however. However, the single-touch model is ideal for campaigns that have a short user journey with one or two touchpoints, while multi-touch attribution model should be used in complex user journeys with a large number of touchpoints.

Why do we need an attribution model?

Attribution models help marketers understand the ROI of their current campaigns, attribute the correct channels for conversion, and optimize and build their campaigns accordingly.

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