By Oxana Fomina, founder of Gradient Universe Games Analytics Consultancy
Last year was a rough year for mobile, nowhere near fatal, but it still saw some serious changes for the industry. So how did some companies overcome these challenges to boost revenue in some of their biggest games?
In the first of a series we're going to take a closer look at games that have done just that? Beating trends and innovating with new audiences in order to succeed in the ever changing mobile landscape.
For example, ATT-related challenges around UA and monetization make the future of user acquisition for F2P mobile games challenging and the lack of organic traffic on the leading mobile platforms Apple Store and Google Play make the situation worse. In addition, rising inflation affects both consumers and companies alike with players less willing to pay and advertisers are lowering their budgets.
Here we explore how some companies were able to maintain their growth and actively boost the revenue in their flagship titles during 2022 despite the challenges of player engagement, retention, and monetization.
Our first game under the microscope is Solitaire Grand Harvest by Supertreat, a company recently acquired by Israeli-based Playtika.
Solitaire Grand Harvest was released on June 21, 2017 and according to data from AppMagic, has been downloaded almost 60M times and generated over $571m in revenue.
According to Playtika: “Solitaire Grand Harvest is the #1 highest grossing Solitaire-style game in the US, with around two million active players per-day from all across the globe. Solitaire Grand Harvest allows its community to experience the fun side of farming as they grow and harvest crops, build and design their personal farm, and progress through thousands of challenging Solitaire levels. The game provides high-value content, and players are constantly exposed to new features and allowed to connect with other Solitaire Grand Harvest community members online.
The core gameplay is balanced in such a way that while the player spends approximately 35% of the game currency more per level than they win*, they still maintain a positive sensation towards the gameplay. Despite this spending, as it contributes towards a win, it encourages the player to keep using the app.
Solitaire Grand Harvest creates more of what I call "near loss" situations. These "near loss" moments are when a player successfully completes a level with the help of the last card from the deck, causing a more pronounced emotional reaction. The average number of attempts required to pass one level is 1.7*. Gradually, the complexity of the levels in the game grows, and with it, the number of attempts.
* Source: Comparison Solitaire Grand Harvest vs Riddle Road report by Playliner
An additional meta mechanic also encourages the player to return regularly to the game. By passing each level, the player creates seed beds. From each bed, the player receives a crop every hour. To harvest the crop, the player must return to the game. This further involves the player with the game and encourages frequent replays.
Thus, the core gameplay that engages and monetises players also contributes to their frequent return to the game.
What makes it special?
In 2022, the game significantly improved its performance and increased its revenue. In Q1, 2022 by 41.7% year-over-year, in Q2 by 6.3% year-over-year, and in Q3, 2022 by 14.3% year-over-year. The company has yet to release official data for Q4, but you can see from the chart below that they have continued to increase the game's revenue.
The game’s team was able to achieve these results through the active implementation of new events, mini-games, and offers. On the graph, you can see the turning point, when the number of downloads began to decrease while income increased. Let's see what changes were made during this period in the game.
Currently, the game has more than 35 events and offers of various types.
*Events, mini-games, and offers that were introduced into the game in 2022 are actively used and updated.
Several key changes increased the game's income.
One of these was introducing a card collection feature, which rewards players for completing levels by giving them cards to collect. Another addition was linked events which formed a series and specific events that encouraged users to play at higher bets, so the most well-paying users took full advantage of these high stakes. Finally, the game introduced new purchase offers that offered a greater variety of monetization options to an equally diverse number of players.
Let's look at some examples of events and features that have been implemented.
Card collection feature
The player finds packs with cards while playing levels and receives them upon the levels' successful completion. The goal is to collect all the cards for the pages of the album and get a reward. The collection consists of 12 pages, and each page contains 12 cards. The player receives premium currency for each completed page and the final reward for the entire collection.
This feature involves players in the main gameplay and events and also affects the long-term retention of players.
Nine events that were introduced into the game were linked to other events. A linked event is based on playing another previously existing event or challenge. The game motivates players to participate in linked events to increase their involvement and motivate them to spend more on boosters.
Season's Final Challenge is an example of one such event. The goal is to build decorations in a parallel "My Farm" event to receive rewards. The event has three goals for constructing decorations, with the player also receiving a reward for each decoration goal completed.
Events that stimulate the activity of players
Four events of this type were introduced into the game in 2022. Three of these motivated players to play at higher bets. For example, the eXtreme Mode Event.
During this event, the player can complete levels with a bet multiplier of x8. In normal play, the player can complete levels with a bet multiplier of x1, x2, and x4. When playing with an increased multiplier, the player receives additional rewards, including items for ongoing events. The first attempt to pass the level with an x8 bet multiplier is free.
These events are designed for high-paying users. While non-paying players may lack the coins for these high bets, fans more willing so spend take full advantage of the high bets and play most of the levels with the highest multiplier. Additionally, these events are aimed at players who need to satisfy their desire for risk, they motivate players to spend more in-game currency, thereby increasing the game's income.
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.
Edited by Paige Cook