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How DeNA turned Transformers Legends into a monetisation machine for the west

#GDCEurope Money maker in disguise
How DeNA turned Transformers Legends into a monetisation machine for the west
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When it comes to making a success of card batters in the west, there's one key ingredient need to achieve monetisation success - a rigorously constructed 'game as a service'.

Oh, and transforming robots.

At least, that was the gist of DeNA producer Tom Hess' talk at GDC Europe in Cologne.

Focusing on the way Transformers Legends bridged the culture gap between western and eastern approaches to card battlers, Hess served up a broad assessment of how the game hit the top 20 top grossing in the US just four months, despite apparent cultural differences.

Indeed, it's Hess' belief that the west "really wanted a card battling game of their own."

Go west

But how did DeNA deliver it? Firstly, those working on the game looked to fine tune the already well honed gameplay process by adding some western specific touches.

Carefully constructed gameplay processes and upgrade cycles were repackaged in a western style. For example, DeNA cut down its previously wordy menus more typically tolerated by Japanese players in favour of a stripped-down, western friendly approach.

"Japanese users are more used to a text based approach, but we wanted a more native approach for Western gamers," said Hess.

But it was the decision to secure the Transformers licence that made the most difference, providing gamers with a brand that they were familiar with - "I wanted first generation bots and, after discussing with Hasbro, we got them," added Hess.

The combination of a big western IP with DeNA's experience with delivering a platform that allowed gamers to happily engage with freemium mechanics proved potent.

No topping Transformers

Indeed, Hess suggested that the addition of the Transformers license enabled many gamers to break through the F2P barrier subconsciously.

According to DeNA's statistics, average session length in Transformers Legends stands at 22 minutes, with total daily play time coming in at above 40 minutes, while the average revenue pre daily active user (ARPDAU) averages at 66c, peaking at $2.10 during a highly popular recent multiplayer episode.

What's the moral of the story then?

Well, some may say that curating the right content to fit your audience will lead to strong market performance. But you could argue that adding fighting robots able to transform into buses will do the job as well.