Monetizer: Game of War: Fire Age

Looking at F2P tricks and techniques

Monetizer: Game of War: Fire Age

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

You can see previous columns here, and we're also posting interesting screenshots highlighting different techniques over on our new Tumblr page.

As for Monetizer itself, it's an attempt to look at the opening to 5 to 10 minutes of free-to-play games to check out the early user experience, as well as any monetization techniques developers are using.

This week, we're checking out Machine Zone's hardcore mobile MMOG Game of War: Fire Age.

Hot, hot baby

Starting out as Addmired and renamed in 2012, Machine Zone has been very successfully operating mobile MMOGs since 2009.

Game of War is its much anticipated new iOS mMMOG, which combines all its experience running persistent Alliance-focused city-building PVP strategy titles.

Released at the end of July, the game is already racing up the top grossing charts.

On iPhone, it's gone top 100 top grossing in 63 countries and top 10 in 16. Its current peak in the US iPhone top grossing chart is 19.

Game of War's rise up the US iPhone top grossing charts - via apptrace

Calculating our Monetizer Success coefficient, for iPhone we get (16/83)/16 = 0.013

For iPad, it's (22/60)/21 = 0.017

Anything over 0.01, we consider a successful game, and obviously both numbers will increase as the game continues to rise up the charts.

(Read here to get the full details on why we chose this simple equation.)

Getting the cash

In terms of the monetization flow, Game of War provides an excellent example of multiple techniques.

Perhaps the most significant is the currency and resource system.

There's a typical hard currency - gold - which is backed by a five-element resource system (stone, wood, metal, corn and money), plus a XP system.

Game of War monetizes mainly with a sophisticated timed bundled resource system

As if that wasn't confusing enough, on top of this is layered a complex item system, which includes time speed ups, teleports, and casino chips (for winning items and resources).

And the crowning glory is that half of the in-game store options are bundles of gold plus multiple other resources.

And each bundle is only available for a limited time. 

This makes Game of War the best example we've seen to-date of a complex value exchange system between real money and in-game resources.

That's not to say it's overly manipulative though.

During the first 10 minutes (see video), we weren't overtly encouraged to spend real cash, as happens in some games.

Still, the layering of the soft and hard currencies, plus the resource bundling, makes it very hard for players to work out which are the best deals.

As it stands, though, if you do want to spend money, Machine Zone offers generous bundles, even at the lowest $4.99 level.

It's also generous if you want to spend a lot of money, with the cost of a single gold piece 67 percent cheaper if you spend $99.99 compared to $4.99.

Key numbers

One of the main points of the Monetizer column is to come up with hard numbers so we can compare games.

In terms of the Monetizer coefficient, Game of War's calculation is (($4.99 x $99.99)/10)*6 = 299.

We regard any value above 100 as signifying a highly monetized game.

The game's currency discount (how much more you get spending the max IAP compared to min IAP) is 1.67; also higher than most games, and we've already discussed the Success coefficient.

Success coefficient (iPhone) = 0.013

Success coefficient (iPad) = 0.017

Monetizer coefficient = 299

Currency discount = 1.67

In this regard, Game of War sits firmly in the 3 quadrant of our Monetizer graph.


Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.


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jon jordan
Thanks for the comment, Richard.

What I was trying to say is that bundles are harder for consumers to work out the pricing on, which makes them a good monetization method.

I agree that Machine Zone has had as much experience and success as any company in using these techniques.
Richard Davis
This article and corresponding video do a good job of recognizing Machine Zone's monetization expertise. However, the multiple mentions of confusing bundles and standard merchandising techniques, seem to indicate that there is room for improvement. Quite to the contrary, Machine Zone understands mobile economics and merchandising as well as anyone in the business, and their tactics are deliberate and proven. Dig a little deeper and you will see that the complexity creates an interesting problem for core players to solve. Which thus engages them in the purchasing process and allows the sophisticated player to feel like they have "won" when they identify the optimal bundle to purchase ... which is often an expensive bundle. One must go deep to truly understand this strategy.