The IAP Inspector

How does Badland Brawl monetise?

How does Badland Brawl monetise?

Welcome to The In-App Purchase Inspector – our regular look at free-to-play mobile game monetisation from the consumer's perspective.

In each instalment, we consider how well a developer has designed its in-app purchase retailing to work alongside the overall gameplay and metagame experience.

This time we're looking at Frogmind’s Badland Brawl.

Could it be a contender?

At this stage of the mobile game sector, gameplay innovation is a difficult challenge to successfully overcome.

But Frogmind’s mash-up of Angry Birds-style trajectory physics with MOBA-inspired victory conditions as seen in its PVP-focused title Badland Brawl is as good an attempt as we’ve seen in recent years.

And, as you’d expect from a studio which made its reputation with the atmospheric Badland games and is now majority owned by Supercell, the overall level of polish and user experience is of the highest order.

Yet, the point of the In-App Purchase Inspector is to look deeper into the game’s retention and monetisation techniques.

In that context, the basic flow is focused on the game’s characters, or clones. Currently there are 37 clones, each of which has their own specific attributes in terms of physics (notably mass, speed and trajectory type) and stats such as the damage they inflict to different targets.

Hence unlocking more clones and upgrading the ones you already have is the game’s core metagame loop.

There are plenty of numbers behind each clone

The mechanism for doing this is collecting each clone’s upgrade material, which works in a similar way to a trading card game or RPG character. A certain amount of material is required for each level upgrade.

Where Badland Brawl does something clever is providing the ability for you to enhance eggs.

As expected, this material is primarily gained by opening chests - called Eggs - of which there are various different types and rarities.

The most common are the two timed Ground Eggs, which gift material for two clones every four hours, plus random amounts of soft and hard currency, gold and gems respectively.

Much better, in terms of their rewards however, are the eggs you gain by winning brawls. As with most F2P games these days, you can have up to four of these stored at any time, although only one can be actively counting down. 

Playing the game also sees you accumulating Gears. Each victory gets you three Gears, but even when losing you can earn up to two Gears. Get 10 Gears and you can open a Gear Egg, which at the start of the game provides the most rewards.

Finally when you join a Tribe (the game’s guild system), you gain access to the Tribe Egg, which works in a similar way to the Gear Egg, albeit on a communal basis. Neatly, you can also donate clone material to members of your Tribe and request them too.

It’s about time

This sort of setup is now standard, of course. Where Badland Brawl does somethin clever is providing the ability for you to enhance eggs (hence gaining better rewards).

In the case of the timed Ground Eggs, you can enhance them 2x by watching a rewarded video, but for the other eggs, enhancement is just a question of increasing the wait time.

In fact, you can stack the level of enhancement, say from 2x to 4x, to 4x to 8x, or 8x to 12x, by waiting for the timer to countdown to zero and then enhancing it again.

Rewarded video ads are part of the flow for some egg types

You can only enhance the one active egg at a time, but at any point you can spend hard currency to enhance and open any egg immediately. However, as the level of enhancement increases so does the number of gems required.

It’s an interesting way to give players more control in terms of how aggressively they want to spend to get better rewards.

It’s an interesting way to give players more control in terms of how aggressively they want to spend to get better rewards.

Aside from such loops, you can at any point head into the store and spend gems directly to buy high value eggs, priced from $3 to $30. There are also the usual one-off retail bundles, typically triggered when your player account levels up or you upgrade to a higher arena.

Attention to detail

Another subtle refinement Badland Brawl implements is by tightly controlling the supply of soft currency. In many F2P mobile games, soft currency is often gifted in large amounts and quickly becomes worthless. In Badland Brawl, unless you’re converting gems to gold, you always have more clones to upgrade than gold to do so.

Significantly, this doesn’t really impact gameplay as you can only take eight clones into a brawl and quickly most players will choose a set which works together in a complementary fashion and focus on upgrading them to the max.

The game hub, showing the three main types of eggs; Ground, Gear and Play

Nevertheless, this demonstrates the attention Frogmind has paid to Badland Brawl’s balance in terms of ensuring all play is rewarded in some manner, as well as providing a sophisticated way of either waiting a little or a lot, or spending a little or a lot to speed up progress.

Combined with action-heavy gameplay and a smooth overall user experience, the entire package is compelling on many levels.

Of course, whether this will translate to commercial success is less clear. With two million downloads at launch, Badland Brawl is off to a good start, but even games this polished can struggle to make an impact in such a competitive market.

In that context, as Frogmind continues to update and hone its game, the coming weeks and months will be crucial.

You can download Badland Brawl now for iOS (link) and Android (link).

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz 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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