Pixonic aggressively attracted new media sources to expand the audience of its games, which inevitably led to an increase in the number of fraud. To solve this problem, Pixonic turned to AppsFlyer and started using Protect360.

War RobotsAlexander Bondarenko, Regional Director of AppsFlyer Russia / CIS

Pixonic and their games

The company was founded in 2009. Initially engaged in the development of games for social platforms. Then I took up mobile games. Among the most popular Pixonic projects is War Robots, an online PvP third—person shooter in which giant combat robots fight in real time. Thanks to its games in 2016, the company entered the top 10 mobile application developers by income level in the CIS. In the wake of the success of War Robots in 2020, Pixonic released and is actively promoting Dino Squad, the ideological heir to its most popular project.

Growth diseases

In 2017-2018, the Pixonic marketing team actively attracted new traffic to increase the game’s audience. A large number of traffic sources were constantly tested: from Facebook and AdWords (the old name of Google Ads) to various advertising and partner networks. The expansion of the audience and experiments with traffic inevitably led to the growth of fraud, which over time became increasingly difficult to detect. Simple methods, easily detected during manual “sifting” of traffic (due to atypical distribution of installations over time or a large number of installations from one IP address) gave way to bots, click-spamming, payment emulation and other types of fraud. It was simply unrealistic to detect them in real time, especially given the rapid pace of attracting new users.

According to AppsFlyer statistics, the gaming segment is among the least affected by fraud. However, this does not mean that the problem can be ignored: this is a direct path to losses (for reference: publishers of all types of mobile applications missed $1.6 billion in the first half of 2020 alone). So Pixonic marketers decided to find a partner who could help save the advertising budget. It became AppsFlyer, with which the gaming company has been cooperating for some time on mobile attribution issues. Then AppsFlyer has just released its new Protect360 solution to the market.

Collaboration experience

AppsFlyer specialists and their new solution quickly showed Pixonic the real scale of the problem. Among the large number of fraudulent traffic detected, they identified four main types.

  • Interception of installations or injection of clicks. A type of mobile fraud with the installation of malware that allows you to “steal” the attribution of real app installations. The most popular type of fraud is in the gaming segment.
  • Click-flooding. Sending a large number of clicks by the advertising network in the expectation that the signal from it will be counted as the last click before installing the application.
  • Farms of gadgets or clicks. Physical platforms with a large number of real gadgets, from which clicks on partner advertisements are constantly made.
  • Bots. A wide category of programs that simulate the actions of a real user (from clicks to complex operations in the applications themselves). Modern bots are able to simulate even the process of making purchases in applications (with subsequent cancellation).

Protect360 was specially created to combat such advanced types of fraud. Therefore, it was easy to identify them. In most cases, this was done in real time.

I want to emphasize that Protect360 is a multi—level anti-fraud solution that works before, during and after the installation of the application, protecting the client from the actions of fraudsters at all stages. The use of complex machine learning algorithms, such as Bayesian networks, allows Protect360 to immediately detect and block fraud, as well as identify complex cases of post-attribution fraud.

We asked our colleagues from Pixonic to name the things they liked when working with the service.

  • Work ahead of the curve. Data on installations recognized by the system as fraudulent are simply not sent to partner networks, therefore they are not taken into account in billing and are not paid. This eliminates the need for reconciliation and provision of data to networks for correction of payments.
  • Unified infrastructure. Protect360 works within the framework of the AppsFlyer general mobile attribution system, so users immediately receive real information about the achieved indicators without “unnecessary” fraudulent installations.
  • A convenient dashboard. AppsFlyer has a single intuitive interface for working with Protect360 and accessing various functions, including uploading reports, plotting, analyzing various indicators and (in new versions of the application) post-attribution analysis.
  • The fight against post-attribution fraud. Considering that about 16% of fraudulent installations slip past fraud detection systems in real time, it is extremely important to monitor suspicious activity after installing the application, but before paying remuneration to partners.

Partnership results

During the first years of using Protect360 (2017-2019), 1,252,387 fraudulent installations were detected and blocked. Translated into the advertising budget, this is $1 million in 2018 alone.

Another important result of the joint work was that the company was able to implement a strategy to attract new users with minimal losses from fraud. The ability to track up to 84% of fraud in real time and block installations before postbacks are sent allowed for more competent distribution of advertising budgets and provided Pixonic with an important tool for negotiations with partners. Automation of such an extensive part of the fight against fraudulent actions also gave the company more time to optimize advertising campaigns, analytics and study strategic decisions.

When launching its new game, Dino Squad, in April 2020, Pixonic took into account the lessons learned from working with War Robots. The use of Protect360 from the very first days of advertising campaigns to promote the novelty allowed to reduce the level of fraud and focus on quickly attracting new users from trusted sources, and the constant exchange of information with the developers of the AppsFlyer solution made it possible to quickly implement new functions in Protect360 and keep up with scammers who regularly invent new methods of fraud.