Data & Research

What the hell is happening at Game of War and Mobile Strike developer MZ?

What the hell is happening at Game of War and Mobile Strike developer MZ?

Despite being a longstanding admirer of MZ’s business operations, the question that has to be asked is what the hell is going on at the US mobile game developer?

Since 2013 and 2015 respectively its 4X strategy games Game of War and Mobile Strike have sat atop the world’s app stores, each generating an estimated billion dollars annually.

Of course, that sort of success hasn’t come easy or cheaply.

Not even committed players of the games would dispute they are hardcore experiences, heavy on metagame, and aggressive in their alliance-focused monetisation.

For that reason, MZ has been in the vanguard of mobile game marketing, both in terms of absolute spending as well as creative innovation in terms of how and where it spends.

But as a cursory look at the app store charts shows, it looks like those two games have effectively been sunsetted.

Dropping like stones

The download chart is the most revealing; we’re using Google Play as it’s clearer, but the same is true for the Apple App Store.

Thanks to MZ’s continued marketing, both Game of War and Mobile Strike were top 50 games in terms of downloads until the end of June when they dropped like a stone out of the top 100. Indeed, by mid-July both games were outside the top 500.

Given their committed player base, cutting off the supply of new players hasn’t had such a dramatic impact in terms of their top grossing position, but it has had an impact.

From the start of July, the games dropped out of their usual top five position in the US, dropping out of the top 10 during October. If the current trajectory is maintained they could be outside the top 50 by the start of 2018.

Changing of the guards

On one level, the reason for this sudden reversal is obvious. At the end of June, MZ released Final Fantasy XV, its co-production with Square Enix.

The game is very similar to MZ’s previous 4X games, but the appeal of the licence should make a bigger game in terms of player numbers and more efficient on a dollar-to-download level to market.

Not that MZ isn’t spending big to push the game both in terms of in-game UA and wider campaigns, using model and influencer Alexis Ren.

For that reason it’s one of the top 50 most downloaded games on Google Play, but significantly not at the same high level that Mobile Strike experienced prior to the July switch-off.

Every game company on the planet would happily sign a Square Enix-type licensing deal with MZ.

Yet, on that basis, we can see the marketing spend has been more efficient as Final Fantasy XV is now within the top 10 top grossing games on Google Play in the US and continuing to rise towards the top five.

What’s next?

And this is the real reason MZ has taken what appears to be such a radical decision.

Both Game of War and Mobile Strike were very successful, but as they aged, the amount of marketing spend required to keep them at the top of the grossing charts was likely increasing.

No doubt, MZ is a highly profitable company but the difference of spending 30% of turnover on marketing compared to spending say 50% of turnover on marketing is stark in terms of overall profitability.

In that context, it’s a fairly simple calculation to work out how much more profitable it will be to spend less marketing Final Fantasy XV into a top five grossing position, even given the royalty fee paid to Square Enix and a decline in overall revenues.

So, perhaps, what will be more significant to see is what MZ does next.

Given its previous and current success, every traditional game company on the planet would happily sign a Square Enix-type licensing deal with MZ.

It likely has its own homegrown ideas about new games too, although given a chronological release sequence that reads 2013, 2015 and 2017, it may be some time before its intentions are clear.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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I. C. FOOLS Tech
NOTE TO EDITOR: It might be more productive when trying to help bail out a rapidly sinking ship, to use a bucket that doesn't have gaping holes in it's bottom.

Speaking of holes; in your article you seem to omit reference to how the MZ Final Fallacy xv a new empire title is doing on the iOS charts. Whats the story with that - is there no data available to measure that vanguard of success for the iOS platform??

Speaking of success, I couldn't help but notice the top bean counter for MZ recently jumped from that sinking ship... accountants are smart like that... they kind of instinctively know when it's time to either sink or swim.

Speaking of executives, and despite your admiration for the MZ business model, I would surely hope executives from any other game company on the planet would use Square Enix as an example of what not to do to their valuable brands.
Daniel Mutchell
Its because MZ are greedy and ruined the game with a new features everyday and each feature costs £80 and have the worst customer service i have experienced EVER! They made their bed :)
Gabe Paidman
Hi yall, ol' Gabe here, The plan is to keep collecting my yearly salary until the 300 million I got from Goldman Sachs is spent.

In the meantime, I heard a talk with Peter Theil where he said that marketing your business as a tech company (instead of a "gaming company") is like magic fairy dust that makes it more valuable, so we've shifted gears here at MZ to conform to current trends. Hopefully all those Buses in New Zealand don't crash the same way our games do. Maybe we can even get the taxpayers to subsidize it and then we can have a real business!

Welp , gotta go.....I got a social engineering scheme to attend to!
Don The Con
Make America great again ....support this giant human coal mine named Machine Zone !
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