It turns heads when any game unseats the usual suspects Clash Royale and Mobile Strike to grab the number one top grossing spot on the US App Store.
All the more so when that game is nearly two years old and has only a modest Western user base, as was the case with Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle when it topped the charts for the first time on April 14th and 15th 2017.
This tremendous achievement was largely driven by a perfect storm of smart in-game event design, compelling offers atop a solid gacha system and exclusive, coveted characters.
But after seeing such an unexpected rise, how should other mobile game developers be taking note? To find out, we asked our Mobile Mavens:
- What can mobile developers learn about in-game event design from the success of Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle?
I spent over a hundred quid on Fire Emblem Heroes because they pitted waifus and husbandos against each other in a gauntlet in an exclusive event. People should do more of this.
Adam has been in the mobile game industry since 2007, creating games independently. He's since grown into a full 50+ person studio manager.
Recently he's taken a position at Wooga in Berlin to sharpen his design skills and work with the world's best to create amazing, well-crafted products onto the mobile marketplace.
Already wrote about this in great detail!
What mobile developers can take from the success of Dokkan Battle is how great events can be constructed.
This summoning event was years in the making - Bandai Namco are experts at gacha-based monetisation and events, with many games in their portfolio leveraging an IP/License and monetising with gacha-based metagames (Naruto, One Piece, Sailor Moon, etc.).
In my opinion, there were six key building blocks which drove the success:
Scalable Core Loop
You can't build desirable content for events unless your core systems are scalable. Dokkan Battle's economy can withstand a flood of free premium currency given out to users without affecting their monetisation.
- Their gacha is balanced so that it takes incredible amounts of summons to collect a majority of the content.
- The upgrade system is built so that getting the best characters is just the beginning of the journey.
- The meta shifts often enough that players always have a desire to summon more from the gacha.
- Duplicates have a strong purpose in their economy, and even during this event, they had a "Hidden Potential" event running, which gave higher value to duplicates.
This system scales.
Messaging and Anticipation
Players felt smart about making purchases in preparation for the big event.Adam Telfer
Utilising all the communication channels they could to message their audience and build up anticipation for the event. In-game messaging, social networks and fan communities are important for building up anticipation.
Balancing for Desirable Content
Holding back on key desirable content from an IP and designing Goku Rose and SS God Vegito so they were important to the meta, without trivialising it.
Variety and Pacing of Event
Dokkan Battle only drops new content and characters every once in a while to shake up the meta (I think the last content drop was four to five weeks before), and do summoning sales intermittently.
They always have mini-sales and small events running in the game, but major events are paced and varied to avoid fatigue.
Timing of Sales
Premium currency sales were timed before and during the event so they drove high conversion.
Players felt smart about making purchases in preparation for the big event.
Sales also were limited in quantity so they could offer crazy discounts without allowing players to abuse the offers.
Pricing Strategy (Anchoring)
Dokkan Battle prices their summoning stones (premium currency) at a high enough anchor to begin with that the sales and live ops are the norm.
They've given themselves plenty of space to offer crazy percentage discounts on their premium currencies without killing their economies.
All games in all genres within free to play must know the value that events, sales and live ops bring. It's not just gacha-based RPG games that can capitalise.
Great live ops will extend the lifetime of your game and have a massive impact on engagement and monetisation of your top players.
It's hard to add anything to Adam's fantastic article!
It's interesting to note that the spike in revenue for Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle was led by only two new characters.
That's not a huge lot of new content so maybe there's a lesson for indie developers with smaller DAU bases that do not warrant large and costly updates.
By cleverly designing the event around chain discounts, Bandai Namco were able to drive engagement and monetisation to incredible levels without a lot of new content.
In Japan, compu gacha mechanics were so efficient at this that they had to be regulated in 2012.