Deconstructing the $120,000 IAP economy of Game of War

Dimitar Draganov looks under the skin

Deconstructing the $120,000 IAP economy of Game of War

Games like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Sagaget a lot of media attention because most journalists have played them.

Less covered as it's much more difficult (and expensive) to play in is Machine Zone's Game of War.

However, it's equally, if not more successful, being the first western-developed F2P game to hit Asian levels of per player monetisation.

According to Dimitar Draganov, Monetization Manager at German Flaregames - as revealed in his GDC Europe 2015 talk - Mid-Core Monetization on Mobile: Deconstructing Game of War - its estimated average revenue per paying user is over $350.

Get them in

There are many interlinked reasons for this situation; a flow that Draganov broke down into Hook, Habit and Hobby phases.

"The Hook phase [or day 1] is polished to perfection," he said, explaining that during this phase players are gifted status and resources to make them feel very powerful in terms of how they interact with the game.

For example, you're gifted VIP 2 status for a day, which speeds up all construction, among other advantages.

Once this initial phase is over, players get stuck into the Habit phase in which the game's true system - its extremely deep metagame, handling many resources, upgrading buildings, researching technology etc - are revealed in more detail.

Game of War’s estimated average revenue per paying user is over $350.

"The Habit phases uses all the psychological hooks," Draganov explained.

Simply put, these are based around Operant Conditioning Theory, which see players rewarded with fixed and variable amounts of resources over fixed and variable intervals.

Most importantly, however, it's at this stage that players are strongly encouraged to join an Alliance, which is the only way to advance deeply into the game.

"Game of War is extremely social. It could be described as a social network that enables gameplay, rather than a game with social elements," said Draganov.

The result of this design is that the average player spends 10 sessions of 12 minutes daily in the game and that Machine Zone boast Game of War's 1 month retention rate of 12 percent is matched by its 1 year retention rate.

Big bucks

One reason that Game of War monetises its players at a much higher level than other games, it because it has a much more complex economy.

Draganov said that if you look at the 'cost' of 'buying' all the content in Supercell's games, for Boom Beach the total cost is $12,000. For Clash of Clans, it's $14,000.

In total, the IAP economy of Game of War is worth over $120,000.

For Game of War, however, the IAP economy breaks down to $44,000 in base upgrades: there are 1,768 individual building upgrades in Game of War compared to 957 in Boom Beach.

The other part of the IAP economy is researching. In Game of War, there are 1,951 upgrades compared to 233 in Boom Beach, which have a monetary value of $77,000.

In total, the IAP economy of Game of War is worth over $120,000.

Keep playing

The final part of Game of War is the Hobby phase.

At this stage of the game, players are organised in Alliances, which enables lots of people to act together in terms of raiding other Alliances and sharing resources.

Draganov says that many Alliances force their players to run multiple accounts so they can have farming-only accounts to boost their Alliance's resources.

On the more positive side, Alliances are rewarded by the game's IAP system, which means that when any Alliance member buys IAPs, all the Alliance members get resources too, even to the level of when someone spends $99.99, everyone in the Alliance gets more than $99.99 of in-game value.

In describing the Hobby phase, Draganov said Game of War provides an endless sink for player's time and money.

Indeed, given the enthusiasm for the Game of War, and the amount of time and money that's been spent in it, Machine Zone has continue to build out the meta-game even when players' individual accounts are maxed out.

One example of this has been the introduction of Wonders and Super Wonders, which Alliances fight over. More recently, there's been the introduction of the Alliance City, which is a resource sink for high-level Alliances that doesn't even have a strong gameplay reason to exist yet.

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.