The Charticle

The Charticle: Can Bloons TD remain buoyant with a $2.99 price tag?

The Charticle: Can Bloons TD remain buoyant with a $2.99 price tag?
Speaking to recently, Ninja Kiwi revealed that the various Bloons games have been downloaded a total of more than 8 million times.

That's undoubtedly impressive. But what stands out is the fact that its 2010 tower-defence game Bloons TD 4 has had over 1.5 million downloads.

While some of these downloads will undoubtedly have been generated by the Lite version of the game, the $2.99 version of Bloons TD 4 has been available for longer and consistently ranked higher in the App Store's download charts.

In other words, plenty of those 1.5 million downloads were paid for.

Graph showing Bloons TD 4's performance in the iPhone's top grossing games chart for the US. Analytics data courtesy of App Annie.

Against the grain

Now, Bloons TD is back, appearing on the App Store once again in the form of Bloons TD 5.

Rather than adopting the freemium model that's prevalent, Ninja Kiwi is sticking with a premium pricing strategy backed by in-app purchases. The early signs are that the $2.99 price point hasn't hurt Bloons TD 5's performance one bit.

A day after launch, the game shot into the #3 position on the US iPhone top grossing charts, where it was second only to Angry Birds Star Wars and Clash of Clans.

Since then, it's dropped into fifth place and seems to be holding steady. At the time of writing, Bloons 5 TD was also at #2 on the App Store's US top paid games chart. That's a promising start for a game that's undeniably expensive by App Store standards.

The paid and grossing charts for iPhone in the US. Analytics data courtesy of App Annie.

And, remarkably, Bloons TD 5 has already peaked higher in the grossing charts than its predecessor, the aforementioned 1.5 million-download-generating Bloons TD 4

This is interesting because it's exactly the opposite of what you'd expect to see. In 2010, premium success stories were commonplace, but today, freemium titles utterly dominate the top grossing chart.

The only exceptions tend to be titles with huge name-recognition – the likes of Minecraft and FIFA. It would seem that Ninja Kiwi has access to the same secret sauce that allows Disney to still top the charts with original-IP games priced at 99c.

The Android question

More than a year after its launch on iOS, Bloons TD 4 launched on Google Play, and unlike many other multi-platform developers, Digital Goldfish (now a part of Ninja Kiwi following their merger) chose not to significantly adapt its monetisation mechanics for Android.

As such, the $3.15 game failed to generated near the same level of success as it had seen on iOS. In fact, the iPhone version was typically ranked higher in the grossing charts than its newer released Android equivalent, even 13 months after its launch peak.

But considering the general problems with paid games on Android, 100,000 sales on Google Play are certainly nothing to be sniffed it.

It's something also reflected in the game's success on the rather more easy to monetise Amazon's Appstore for Android and Barnes & Noble's Android devices. 

Staff Writer's news editor 2012-2013


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Carter Dotson
Part of what makes the series so popular may be the fact that it is a Flash game series as well, so the mobile iterations are hyped when they finally release months later. As well, the game gives a ton of content for $2.99 (over 20 maps, and over a dozen units), AND this version has IAP monetization with two currencies (though each can be earned in-game as well).

That the game does traditional tower defense very well and scales the intensity way up is part of the continued appeal. I imagine their initial burst is thanks to their base, and once they get up there, the jetstream that allows titles to swirl around in the ranks keeps it up for a while.
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