The Charticle

The Charticle: 2 million downloads not enough to stop The Drowning sinking

When a hit isn't really a hit

The Charticle: 2 million downloads not enough to stop The Drowning sinking

It was back in June 2013 that we first viewed The Drowning though The Charticle's lens.

Then, our interest was raised because DeNA's iOS-only first-person shooter had been soft launched in nine countries for three months.

This prolonged period suggested the developer - internal studio Scattered Entertainment - was spending plenty of time to ensure it had a hit on its hands

Unfriendly welcome

In that context, the game's global launch - backed with a strong PR campaign - was something of a surprise.

Despite its strong graphics, innovative controls and skill-based progression, The Drowning was savaged by the hardcore gaming press; mainly for concerns over its monetisation mechanics.

This seemed to have a knock-on effect in terms of chart position.

Although it gained fairly strong initial download numbers - DeNA claims 2 million and it entered the top 10 download charts in 39 countries for iPhone and 48 for iPad - it didn't find an audience in terms of commercial success.

Distimo' view of The Drowning's launch; a short burst and decline

The iPhone version was top 10 top grossing in only three countries - Laos, Lithuania and Malta - while the iPad went top 10 top grossing only in Malta, Ecuador, Armenia and Bolivia.

The Drowning's performance on the US iPhone free download charts. The recent uptick is thanks to an update with 2 new game modes

In terms of the top 10 territories, The Drowning's highest position was #219 in the UK's iPad top grossing chart.

The Drowning's top grossing performance on the UK iPhone chart. Not troubling the top 250 - via App Annie

Conversion issues

This is something of a surprise as you'd expect a core-focused game to monetise at a higher level per user (or paying user) than mass market games; certainly that's the case with DeNA's card-battlers.

However, the company commented that in terms of average revenue per daily active user, The Drowning was "probably monetising at the same level as Candy Crush Saga".

The problem is that given the massive user base of King's global hit, Candy Crush Saga has lower than average ARPDAU.

A game like The Drowning was never going to compete with such casual hits in terms of pure download numbers. Instead it needed to monetise each users at a much higher level, and this seems to be its key point of failure.

We considered the game's economic system previously in our Monetizer column.

First attempt

On the basis, most people would view the game as a flop, although DeNA refutes the claim.

The game's creator director Ben Cousin suggests The Drowning could have been better described, highlighting its time-based arena gameplay. Perhaps some players thought they were getting a free-roaming shooter.

He also says the energy mechanic - used in other genres such as racing games - had an impact on retention.

"In the future, we probably won't use the mobile-style game loop," he pondered.

Yet, his key conclusion is there is an audience for free-to-play shooters on mobile; something DeNA and Scattered Entertainment will no doubt be investigating in future releases.

Two markets where The Drowning performed comparatively well were Mexico and Thailand; seen above in terms of their iPhone top grossing charts - via App Annie

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.