Dynamic Pixels is a leading mobile games developer based in Russia and CIS. Established in 2004, the company has grown into an experienced studio with almost 40 titles for java, Android, iOS and Bada. Dynamic Pixels games are distributed by content-providers, operators and vendors across South-East Asia, Middle East, Far East, South Africa and Western Europe, reaching in excess of 5 million players across the world.
We are all fans of the tower defense genre. So when the question of what kind of game we would like to develop came up, we knew it would be a tower defense game. But knowing the genre was not enough. What we needed was at least the slightest idea of a style or some kind of plot for the game. We spent days and wasted tons of pizza trying to figure it out, but in vain. At that point, our programmer saved the project. We still don’t know how, but he did it. When everything seemed to be lost he came in and said: “Let’s develop a tower defense game based on sports!” And you know, it clicked: the turrets and creeps would be transformed into sportsmen, the battlefield into a sports ground; a humorous touch would level the usual view on sports as a protracted process.
Being generous doesn’t pay off (or does it?)
It’s very important for the rest of our story to mention that we planned on earning some money on the project. That is why we thought out the business model of Goal Defense even before we started development. We decided to give the game an extremely loyal model of monetization. Basically, users had access to all in-game features and could finish Goal Defense without purchases and tiresome replays.
Why? We hoped that loyal monetization at release would help us get: (a) a high number of downloads, (b) top 10 spot in categories and (c) a large and constantly growing user base. After reaching these goals, a series of updates would take care of the monetization (high profits). In other words, we didn’t want to make users pay. We wanted them to feel free to enjoy the game at its fullest. In this case only truly addicted players would purchase anything. And though the percentage of those is very low, we hoped a huge user base would make this percentage rather substantial.
From free to temporarily paymium
The release of the game went great. Goal Defense managed to reach the 6th and 7th spot in the top lists in the US. We even received a letter from Apple, saying that they were considering the game for a feature in the AppStore. However, as good as the release went, a month after (and after more than 350,000 downloads), we realized we didn’t reach or goals in the first place. We had a high-quality project, lots of positive reviews, but Goal Defense didn’t become as big as we had hoped. The project could not boast an exceptionally high rate of downloads and, consequently, didn’t bring in much money! We didn’t panic. We simply switched to a ‘paymium’ mode, until we could make a well-informed decision. Which meant that we had to figure out how to make users that are not inclined to pay buy something. This required some analysis.
We figured out:
- at which point users left the game and why (Goal Defense: in the middle of the first episode/6th level, mostly because it was too difficult to play);
- how many users kept playing the game after aforementioned point and how many finished the game (Goal Defense: 50% kept on playing and 30% finished the game);
- at what point in the game user made their first purchase (Goal Defense: at the start of the second episode/11th level);
- what they bought first (Goal Defense: bonuses);
- the sum of the first payment (Goal Defense: $1.99);
- what items were bought more often (Goal Defense: bonuses ‘hail’).
From this data we understood that we had to:
- motivate users to buy sportsmen as they are more expensive than bonuses;
- nevertheless increase the number of bonuses they buy;
- make the game easier at the start;
- motivate users to make purchases during the first episode;
- motivate users to make purchases.
We came up with a series of updates to be released. A couple of weeks after each update we would repeat our analysis to check on the effectiveness of the updates. Each update included new features. The features were picked taking into account the expected effectiveness of the feature, the expected reaction of the users and the expected amount of time for its introduction.
|Goal Defense v1.0.1||Goal Defense v1.0.2||Goal Defense v1.0.3||Goal Defense v1.0.4|
|Raise the game virality||Motivate users to buy diverse bonuses. At that moment ‘hail’ was the most popular bonus.||Motivate users to buy sportsmen||Motivate users to buy sportsmen and bonuses and do this earlier|
Features added/purchases introduced
|- Recommend the game and get in-game currency||- Introduced an automatic launch of a free bonus. When a user was on the verge of loss a bonus would appear to show how effective it could be.||- Switched off the auto unlock of sportsmen and bonuses (basically left only one sportsman and one bonus to play with, to unlock the rest the user had to buy them with crystals)||- Placed certain sportsmen from the shop on the field on some levels with a consequent proposition to buy him. Thus we ‘advertised’ them.|
|- Follow us on twitter and facebook and get in-game currency||- Improved the tutorial and the descriptions of bonuses in the shop||- Introduced the pop up of a shop window after each loss to motivate the user to buy smth||- Raised the price of bonuses. They were more difficult to acquire and users had to solve problems in some other way: by buying sportsmen!|
|- Switched off crystals acquisition after the level replay. You win the level – you get crystals, you replay it – you don’t.||- Made the first 10 levels easier||- Improved the description of sportsmen in the shop user clear||- Shortened the operation time of bonuses|
|ARPU + 18%||ARPU + 84%||ARPU – 40%
These measures affected the gameplay. It became less diverse. But the problem was that users managed to finish the game even with one kind of sportsmen and 1 kind of bonus.
|ARPU + 103%|
Concluding from our own experience with Goal Defense, loyal monetization may bring you lots of positive comments, lots of traffic and favorable reviews. However, your game will never reach the top 10 and you might not be able to break even on development of the game. In short, paymium is a great way to get any money for your project, without the need for further updates, but it is never as effective as hard, well-thought monetization.
Hard, well-tought monetization should be aimed at those who do and those who do not want to pay. Especially the last group is important. If your user base is not very substantial you’ve got to make the most out of every user. It is hard, but if you find a way to do this you’ll be astonished by your financial results. Besides that, monetization, in the way we used it, requires constant monitoring and analysis until it’s perfected up to the stage of “wow, that’s a great deal of money we get here.” And for that you’ve got to find a way to integrate data collection into the game.
There’s still lots of thinking and analysis to be done in terms of Goal Defense. A few more updates are to be released. We strongly believe that the best has yet to come so we’ll go on pushing it up.
Goal Defense is available on iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) in the AppStore. It’s available for Android as well, on Google Play. Check out Dynamic Pixel’s Dev Blog to see what the development team is currently working on.