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Monetizer: Asphalt 8: Airborne

Gameloft fails as second-hand auto salesmen
Monetizer: Asphalt 8: Airborne

Following on from my speech at the Develop in Brighton 2013 conference, we're running a weekly column called Monetizer.

You can see previous columns here, and we're posting screens showing the different techniques we come across on our Tumblr page.

As for the concept behind Monetizer, it's an attempt to quantify the opening 10 minutes or so of significant free-to-play games to check out the early user experience and monetization techniques.

It's still a work-in-progress, mind, and this week, we're playing Gameloft's Asphalt 8.

Start your engines

The first thing to point out is that Asphalt 8 isn't technically a F2P game as it costs $0.99.

I think this is mainly because Gameloft wants to generate a bit more revenue on a per user basis, while limiting its initial bandwidth costs when it comes to the multiplayer mode. After all, the game has been simultaneously released on iOS and Android.

In design terms, though, there's no reason the game shouldn't be treated as F2P game, and given Gameloft's recent success with Despicable Me: Minion Rush, I'd be surprised if it doesn't switch all its big brands to pure F2P.

Firing up the game, it loads quickly, without any updates required (but the original download is a sizeable 842 MB). Of course, we get the usual impolite Push Notification prompt.


The main menu UI is pretty confusing, offering lots of different options, without highlighting a Play option, but the tutorial is fairly self-explanatory.

Speeding, spending

Digging into the game's business model, there's a single hard currency, called Credits.

You earn these slowly by playing the game, and you can buy them. As is now standard, there are 6 transaction bands, ranging from $1.99 to $99.99.

Looking at the Discount Ratio (effectively the additional per dollar currency you're given for spending $99.99 compared to $1.99), it's a generous 2, or in percentage terms 100 percent.

Gameloft's Despicable Me: Minion Rush had a ratio of 1.5 and most other games I've checked range from 1.3 to 1.7.

You've got Credit

In terms of what you can do with your Credits, the most common task is to upgrade your car's components, of which there are four elements. 

Unusually, though, Gameloft doesn't start you off with a bunch of currency and a choice of cars to buy as do Kabam's Fast & Furious 6: The Game and NaturalMotion's CSR Racing.

Instead, you start the game with a default car and 1,500 credits so you can upgrade some parts. This is a missed trick to get players into the store environment and spending virtual currency.

Something else to note is at this stage of the game, Gameloft doesn't make you wait for your car's upgrades, as is standard in other games, but this may occur later on.

Mixed values

There are two other things you can spend your credits on.

The minor one is unlocking the next set of tracks, or Seasons as they are called. Unlocking Season 2 costs $0.99 (or earned stars), and you can't unlock Season 3 until you're unlocked Season 2.

More significant are the six packs of cars.

Asphalt 8 contains five classes of cars; D, C, B, A and S so five of the packs give you 10 cars of that class.

Their price ranges from $1.99 for 10 class D cars to $99.99 for 10 class S cars. (You still have to upgrade the cars indvidually, of course).

There's also a mixed pack, which provides one of each class. Called the Standard Pack, it costs $9.99.

We can see Gameloft values this car pack at 122,000 Credits, which would cost us a minimum of $20.53 if we bought that amount of Credit with cash. However, by buying it directly, it 'only' costs $9.99.

Although you purchase the packs directly with real cash, Gameloft also breaks out the value of each of the packs in terms of Credits.

In this way, we can see that the pack of S class cars and the mixed Standard Pack are the worst deal if you compared the cost of buying those Credits with cash (which you can't do) to the actual cash spent.

The D and C class packs are the most generous, although in all cases you're getting at least a 100 percent discount on the 'Credits value' of a pack. (Clearly, this is somewhat artificial given that Gameloft can price the cars however it likes.)

Even so, I've spent $1.99 buying the D class pack of cars to speed my way through the game's opening stages.

The math

So much for my anecdotal views. It's time to break out the equations.

Looking at Asphalt 8's success (albeit very early in its career), the iPhone version has already been a top 100 top grossing app in 122 countries, top 10 in 61 countries, with a US top grossing position of 15.

For iPad, the numbers are 130, 67 and 30 respectively, and for Android, they are 46, 14 and 59.

So, using our basic equation, we get Success coefficients of...

iPhone = (61/122)/15 = 0.033

iPad = (67/130)/30 = 0.017

Android = (14/46)/59 = 0.005

It's early days yet, so the game hasn't crossed our success benchmark of 0.1, but it's a surprise that the iPhone version is doing much better than the iPad version.

Options to buy

Looking at our Monetization coefficient, this is constructed using the pricing of IAP, the confusion in terms of the number of ways real money can be spent in-game, and how actively a game attempts to monetize a player in the first 10 minutes.

Asphalt 8 doesn't do the latter, while its average IAP mechanics and the $1.99 minimum IAP transaction gives it an Monetization ranking of 80.

(Although this would increase to 120 if you added the $0.99 price to the minimum IAP, effectively making it $2.99.)

We take 100 as our benchmark for high monetization.

Recent other examples include The Drowning with a rank of 49, Plants vs. Zombies 2 with 209, and Machine Zone's Game of War with 299.

In this regard, I'd define Asphalt 8 as a game demonstrating an average level of inherent monetization.

To that degree, Gameloft needs to learn more tricks from second-hand car salesmen. 

Conclusion: Asphalt 8

Success coefficient (iPhone) = 0.033

Success coefficient (iPad) = 0.017

Success coefficient (Android) = 0.005

Monetizer coefficient = 80 (120 if you include initial price)

Currency discount ratio = 2

NB: I've not included any graphs with this Monetizer as I'm considering some revisions.