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Game Analysis: Decoding the Live Ops strategy of Monopoly GO

We go under the hood with one of the year's biggest hits to reveal what makes it tick and what lessons can be learnt from its success
Game Analysis: Decoding the Live Ops strategy of Monopoly GO
  • Monopoly GO brings a fresh twist to the classic formula, combining familiar gameplay with innovative new features
  • Monopoly GO generated $1 billion in revenue in just seven months

By Oxana Fomina, founder of Gradient Universe Games Analytics Consultancy

In April 2023, the mobile gaming landscape saw a major shift with the debut of Monopoly GO. This free-to-play game quickly soared to the top of the US download charts, marking a new era in digital entertainment. This game has been a massive hit, becoming the number one most downloaded game of the year.

Impressively, Monopoly GO generated $1 billion in revenue in just seven months, a record-breaking achievement for a casual game title.

Monopoly GO brings a fresh twist to the classic Monopoly formula, combining familiar gameplay, such as rolling dice, acquiring properties, and dealing with jail, with innovative new features. These include empire-building, community collaboration, and competitive challenges, creating an engaging mix of old and new.

The game's social aspect unites Monopoly fans worldwide and sparks a sense of competition. Notably, the developers have skillfully integrated successful mechanics from Coin Master, enriching the gameplay and enhancing the game’s monetization strategy.

To keep players engaged, Monopoly GO offers a mix of early events, extensive tournaments, balanced challenges, and team activities with friends, ensuring a rewarding and satisfying experience.

Initially, players had access to eight offers and nine events, including time-limited collections and a Weekly Activity Mechanic for quick wins. Over time, seven additional events and three more offers were introduced.

Currently, the event breakdown in the game is as follows:

Event types

  • Tournament - 1
  • Tasks - 1
  • Activity Stimulation - 11
  • Uncategorized - 4
  • Separate gameplay - 1
  • Offer - 7

The events in Monopoly GO vary in duration, typically lasting around two days, but they can range from one to seven days. Most events (57%) last between one and two days.

The game features two main event types that recur with varying themes: Activity Stimulation and Tournaments, which provide players with a majority of the free dice/spins.

Adopting a mechanic from Coin Master, the developers have focused on short-term events that offer temporary bonuses. The most common are Activity Stimulation events, usually lasting one day. At the start of each gaming session, one or two such events are automatically triggered. Players receive these events as rewards from different game mechanics and are motivated to keep playing to make the most of the event's bonus while it's active.

The central strategy behind Monopoly GO's Live Ops is the development of a "Reward Flow." Rewards in the game are structured sequentially: a player receives a reward, uses it, and then gains another reward from a different event. This cycle continues, creating a Reward Flow.

This process hooks players by leading them through a series of rewards. Each reward acts as a catalyst for the next, maintaining player engagement and motivation.

Source: How Event Rewards create engaging reward flow, a free report by Playliner

The game is designed to stimulate a desire to keep playing through a variety of events and a constant stream of quickly attainable rewards, which provide a dopamine boost. This strategy is not just about rewarding players; it's a deliberate tactic to release dopamine in a structured manner. The aim is to forge a psychological link between the thrill of playing and the rewards received, creating diversity and maintaining interest.

When players use their dice, they have the potential to earn up to 15 times more dice from event rewards. This creates excitement about the return on investment and enhances monetization.

Starting players off with more items, like dice, extends the Reward Flow. Even non-payers, who typically experience shorter reward flows, can achieve significant rewards, fully experiencing the system's impact. This can encourage them to make real-money purchases.

According to the Playliner research, the player receives more than 50% of free resources for participating in events. Thus, events become the main source of resources for both non-paying and paying players.

Source: Playliner report The Secret of Monopoly GO’s Success.

Moreover, when players are engaged in a continuous Reward Flow, especially when it includes substantial rewards, their engagement levels increase. This heightened engagement can motivate them to invest more real money in the game, increasing the average transaction value.

For long-term retention in the game, albums and cooperation events are used.

Calendar of Monopoly GO events September 2023. Source: Playliner

The most successful event in the game is the Backing Partners event. According to Sensor Tower data, the introduction of this event led to an increase in the game revenue by 34%, ARPDAU by 26%, and daily time spent and daily session duration by more than 60% during the event.

Each repetition of the event leads to an increase in the game’s income. You can see the peaks in income from this event in the picture above.

The Baking Partners event is six days long. A player must invite a friend to the event to make a cake. He has to Roll to collect pastries from the board and events. Then he spins the Wheel with his partner to bake the cake.
Only a game friend can become the event partner. This is a psychological move that allows to motivate a player to be more responsible, committed and experience a sense of belonging. He is motivated to invest more time and money for the main prize.

The player needs to complete five objectives to bake a cake. To get the main prize, the player must bake four cakes.

The player can increase his winnings in the Wheel of Fortune if he uses a multiplier. Raising the bet leads to an increase in the number of Pastries a player needs to collect. And for this, he will need to buy more rolls. A player can also receive event currency in a free bonus, available in the store once every eight hours. Every time a player enters the store for a bonus, he sees different offers. In addition, it helps to form a habit of returning to the store daily.

Based on the insights gathered from the live operations strategy of Monopoly GO, here are some key recommendations to enhance player engagement and retention:

  1. Prioritize early access to events
    Providing early access to events for new players. This strategy has been effective in preventing early player churn and encourages full engagement from the outset.

  2. Balance event cycles
    Alternating between easy and challenging events. This balanced approach keeps the game accessible while still providing a sense of challenge and achievement.

  3. Introduce more bonus events
    Implement more short-term bonus events that offer time-limited advantages. These events are effective in keeping players engaged and motivated to maximize their benefits.

  4. Foster cooperative play
    Develop and promote cooperative events where players can collaborate to achieve common goals. The sense of responsibility towards friends and teammates can significantly enhance player engagement.

  5. Adapt and improve upon successful strategies from other games
    Keep an eye on successful strategies and features from other games like Coin Master, adapting and improving upon them where appropriate to fit the unique environment and community of your game.

  6. Focus on player experience over monetization in event design
    Ensure that the design of events and challenges prioritizes player experience and enjoyment over aggressive monetization strategies. This approach will likely lead to better long-term player retention and satisfaction.

About Oxana Fomina

Oxana Fomina is the founder of Gradient Universe, a games analytics consultancy. Since 2017, the company has helped game developers improve game profitability through live ops strategy optimization. Oxana is a mobile gaming industry speaker and writer. She is a creator of a unique strategic game analytics focused on improving engagement, retention, and monetization. The system considers psycho-social behavior patterns and games economics for ROI and LTV optimization. Over a decade experience in the industry allows her to support top developers and foresee trends and new strategies to achieve high results.