The Importance of BTMs in Social Games

Mark Stephens

Just completed a big level on your favourite game? Got your new high score? Defeated your deadly enemy? Or maybe you are stuck and need help on completing a game task or need rescuing from a sticky situation? These are the ‘breakthrough moments’ (BTMs) that are important to players, game developers and increasingly to game marketers. Why? Read on…


Moments of Emotion

BTMs are those moments when a player is emotionally charged – for example with a sense of achievement, elation, defeat or frustration. This is when a player is most engaged with a game.

For developers, BTMs are seen as a way to increase engagement in their game – which is the key to getting players to keep playing, telling their friends about it, and boosting download numbers.

But it is also a possible source of revenue in two ways: increasing in-game purchases and generating advertising revenue – something that marketing companies latched onto a while back, but which is only starting to be realised now.

BTMs as a Marketing Tool

When players are most engaged – during BTMs – they are more likely to make purchases in-game. The timing is critical: offering ‘power ups’ or ‘virtual coins’ at precisely the right moments in gameplay can make the difference between a game being a commercial success or flopping.

In the case of advertising, it relies on getting in front of the right people when they are most receptive to the brand message. For TV commercials, for instance, this is when an audience is watching its favourite program. In game-play, however, it has nothing to do with the time of day or the day of the week; it is almost always during the BTMs.

BTM Research

Research from social and mobile game ad
platform, Mediabrix, recently found that the results of ads were significantly better when they targeted players as they were experiencing emotions related to rescue or reward. By “significantly” we mean up to 180 times the industry standard.


The three main types of BTMs are described as:

  • Rescue Breakthrough Moments – when gamers “are feeling defeated, frustrated or in need of help”.
  • Reward BTMs – when gamers are “feeling ecstatic about their high achievement or personal best”.
  • Encourage BTMs – which “present players with words of encouragement as they are motivated to do better”.

One developer, PuzzleSocial, produces an iOS and Facebook game called Daily Celebrity Crossword – a crossword puzzle based on the day’s news headlines. Ads are served when a user is stuck on a clue and can’t guess the word, enabling the developer to monetize its user base more easily.

BTMs and the Future of Game Developing

Advertising in gaming is going through a period of transition where all the signs are that there is great potential, but that potential is not being realised; largely because advertising is still considered an annoyance by most gamers.

The skill of the marketing company is in pitching non-invasive ads right at the times when the audience’s state of mind is right –and this explains the attention on breakthrough moments aligned to rescue, reward and encouragement.

The stakes are high for the advertising companies, brands, and game developers that get it right. Perhaps, soon, game developers may finally be able to reach the “Promised Land” of making revenue from in-game ads, in addition to boosting in-app purchases.