AppOnboard offers fast, playable mobile ads

AppOnboard is betting that the best ad for a mobile game is the game itself.

Co-founder and CEO Jonathan Zweig (who was previously CEO at AdColony, which was acquired by Opera) said that this addresses a big need for game developers, namely the fact that they spend lots of money promoting their apps, only to find that users give up during the initial tutorial. AppOnboard’s solution is to “take the tutorial out of the app, to the other side of the fence … before the app is ever downloaded.”

That means users try out a game before they download it, and developers can test out different versions of the tutorial to see which ones work best. And for the publishers who include AppOnboard ads in their games, it’s a way to make premium ad dollars while keeping users engaged.

AppOnboard isn’t the only company working on playable ads. We’ve written about startups like mNectar, and Google is now offering these capabilities to Android game developers.

However, Zweig said existing approaches tend to fall into two camps — they either require you to create an HTML5 version of the demo from scratch, or they stream a virtualized version of the app, which can create significant lag times.

In contrast, AppOnboard offers what Zweig called “a unique kind of hybrid approach.”


“We just create a bite-sized version of the game or app and make it native, so it downloads in the background” while you’re using another app. For example, I tried out an iOS game called Spin Runner — as soon as I died (and I died pretty quickly), I was given the option of playing a demo in order to keep going in Spin Runner. Naturally, I agreed, and after a few seconds of loading, I was in the demo, which played totally smoothly.

Zweig said there’s also a smooth handoff between the demo and the game itself. So if you play through one level or earn coins or whatever in the ad, that’s all transferred when you download the game.

And advertisers get chronological heatmaps of gameplay, allowing them to see how users are interacting with their demo — and perhaps to understand where players are getting tripped up when things go wrong.

The company has already signed up some major game publishers, including Glu Mobile and Zynga.