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