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The Charticle: After a slow start, Zynga accelerates with paid versions of Running with Friends

Great game, struggling with monetisation
The Charticle: After a slow start, Zynga accelerates with paid versions of Running with Friends
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Combining the DNA of two extremely successful game types isn't rocket science.

Still, Zynga's launch of its Temple Run meets Words with Friends - aka Running with Friends - was hardly rush job.

Co-developed with Twisted Metal studio Eat Sleep Play, the free-to-play game was released globally in mid-March 2013, more than a 18 months since the endless runner genre exploded.

On your marks...

In terms of the with Friends gameplay, the issue has always been how will gamers react to its 'just-another-go' addictive nature being gated by asynchronous turns.

The other issue has been how to monetise: games such as Temple Run and Subway Surfers are a notorious soft-touch in terms of asking their players for cash.

Zynga has attempted to combine the two by enabling players to buy two additional 'in-run' lives at the cost of 100 and 150 gems, respectively, as well as buying pre-race bonuses.

Of course, you get some gems for levelling up etc, but to maximise your run distances, you need to purchase gems.

In this way, Zynga is hoping that the competitive nature of the with Friends gameplay will combine with the genre's 'just-another-go' nature to drive revenue.

Divide and conquer?

In terms of deployment, Zynga has chosen - as it often does - to split out iPhone/iPod touch and iPad apps, releasing a standard version and a HD iPad version of the game.

As you'd expect, given the gameplay, it's been the phone version that has performed best.

Running with Friends' performance on US iPhone top grossing chart (via App Annie)

It's been ranked in the top 10 top grossing iPhone charts in 6 countries, and been top 100 in 75.

In the US, it peaked at #15 top grossing.

In terms of the HD version, performance is much weaker. The game has been top 10 in 3 counties' top grossing iPad chart, and top 100 in 37.

Running with Friends HD's performance on the US iPad top grossing chart (via App Annie)

In the US, iPad top grossing chart Running with Friends HD peaked at #94.

Obviously, these positions don't take into account any advertising revenue Zynga has generated from the games. This could be relatively large, given its ability to cut its own deals over its 250 million monthly active userbase.

Upfront cost

Still, it's fair to say that Running with Friends is yet to prove itself as a success, despite its presentational polish.

But Zynga's not given up on the title.

It's just released two paid versions in Canada for testing - again splitting out iPhone and iPad.

Priced at $4.99, these Running with Friends Paid releases remove the ads and also give you a bunch of gems (although it's not yet clear now many).

Combined with an expected Android release, we await to see how these developments will change overall monetisation.