How to boost revenue and player retention with in-game collaborations

In-game collaborations have become increasingly popular, and according to new research they’re highly effective at monetization, retention and more

How to boost revenue and player retention with in-game collaborations

Retention, monetization and events might as well be the three golden words in any developer’s dictionary. Bringing in, keeping and monetizing your player base is key to success in a fiercely competitive mobile world. So is there a key way to do so? According to Gamerefinery’s latest research there may be a trick you're missing.

Their research indicates that collaboration and promotional events have a massive, positive impact on player retention and provide an equally impressive boost to monetization. So why is that? What’s bringing in players, and where is this effect being most felt?

According to the research of the top 20% highest-grossing mobile games in China and Japan, 55% and 64% of them utilised in-game collaborations. Although in the USA, this figure drops down to around 34% but it could be argued that they're simply not being utilised sufficiently rather than proving unpopular. So where can we see examples? And where is this boost originating from?

Is it just Asia?

Japan is well known for having a variety of, and often surprising, crossover promotions in all manner of products. Whether it’s popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion making an appearance in PUBG, or Nissin Noodles being flogged by the super-strong martial-artists of the Baki anime and manga series. So it’s no surprise that in-game collaborations are part and parcel of mobile games in Asia, not just Japan and China, as Netmarble’s King of Fighters: All Star relies heavily on bringing in a fighting-game fanbase with constant crossovers and additional characters drawn from an ‘all star’ lineup (pun intended).

But, it isn’t just Asia that has seen collaborations boost the games that utilise them. Gamerefinery noted a particular case-study in the form of mobile game Vikingard, which collaborated with TV-show Vikings. The collaboration catapulted Vikingard into a US top-200 grossing spot, and brought a 25% increase in downloads, according to Gamerefinery’s data. There are some apparent mis-steps of course, such as a Mobile Legends x Kung Fu Panda collab, although the fact that the boost this game received was nowhere near Hello Kitty or Transformers collaboration events can be partially attributed to a dormant franchise having two proven popular series being compared against it.

Naturally attention had to go to Cookie Run: Kingdom’s 100 days long collaboration with Korean idol band BTS, which boosted revenue from sub $20k, to around $150k at its peak during the event. The boy-band, possibly being at the height of their popularity now more than ever, proved that the right collaboration with the right game can boost that game far greater than an update or UA campaign ever could.

But why does this happen? Gamerefinery points to some key elements. A popular franchise is of course, a must (BTS) as that’s liable to bring in players who are already invested in said franchise. Limited-time cosmetics and rewards encourage players to check in regularly and play for fear of missing out . Meanwhile the significant changes to certain games can attract players not interested in the franchise or the event, but in the new challenges or gameplay elements (PUBG x Neon Genesis Evangelion).

The Japanese market for mobile games is an interesting place, as we pointed out previously, hypercasual especially has had a big problem with long-term retention in Japan. This could be attributed to the wealth of promotional and collaborative events that end up attracting and keeping players. This method of retention therefore capitalises a lot more on player’s time, ensuring that they continue to return to the game while drying up the potential player base of hypercasual games.

Staff Writer

Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the Pocketgamer.com editorial team in November of 2023.