There’s no question that the mobile gaming industry has evolved quite a bit over the past few years.
The majority of the top grossing apps in Apple’s App Store are games, and everyone is hungry for a slice of the profit pie.
A perfect example of a company benefiting from this mobile gaming boom is Supercell, a startup based in Helsinki, Finland.
If the name sounds familiar, chances are you’ve probably played one of their two hit games: Clash of Clans and Hay Day.
Each game is designed in a way that caters to a particular target audience. The former game, which has users defending their village from outside enemies (clans), is a little rough. On the other hand, Hay Day is more bucolic, and gives users the chance to tend their virtual farms and raise livestock.
On these two games alone, the 95-employee company churns out approximately $2.5 million per day.
You could buy a lot of virtual pigs with that kind of money.
The two apps have received 85 million downloads and counting. Supercell’s games have also stayed in the top 10 grossing apps for a while now, which is no easy feat whatsoever.
So what’s Supercell doing that’s making them so much dough?
As much as I didn’t want to download Supercell’s games, knowing that I would most likely get addicted, I had to figure out what separates Supercell from the rest of the pack.
That left me with no other choice but to download Hay Day.
The moment I started playing , I realized there was something unmistakably special about Hay Day.
For one, Hay Day has one of the best game tutorials I’ve ever seen. Each step, from planting crops to feeding animals, is carefully explained with photos and movements. Tutorials must be completed in order for a user to move on — but everything about swipes and taps are intuitive anyway.
The outcome? Each user is thoroughly educated on how to play Hay Day. One of the top reasons I delete games is because the game is A) too complicated or B) the instructions are terrible. What many game apps tend to lack are solid tutorials, which is deadly for user retentiveness — if a game is too confusing for a player, he or she WILL delete it.
There are also timers for just about every action made in the game, which keeps the player in suspense and has them return to the game and check on his or her progress. As a user becomes more involved with the game, more objectives, features and even animals and structures can be unlocked. This concept — making users work for rewards — can be attributed to stimulating the reward pathways in the brain.
This is where monetization comes in.
Most, if not all, top-grossing games have some kind of virtual currency, be it coins, tokens, tickets, etc. This is why so many casino-type mobile games make so much money. The way the App Store charges users is reminiscent of the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Once you start purchasing items from the App Store, it gets easier. Users become less and less reluctant to dole out money via the App Store.
So for users who aren’t particularly fond of the timers in the game, they can simply use diamonds to speed up the process of waiting for their crops to grow. But once they run out of diamonds, you’ll just have to buy diamonds with REAL money. The attention spans of this wired generation are pretty short, so why not take advantage of it?
Another ingenious way Hay Day gets people to pay up is through coupons — in-game, super time-sensitive coupons. What makes them work so well is that A) they are personalized (“You’ve been selected for this special offer”) and B) they expire within 24 hours or less. Not only does Supercell make its customers feel special, but this company knows how to get its users to act on impulses… and spend.
As I mentioned before, it’s no secret that casino games are lucrative, and Hay Day incorporates a lottery feature of its own in the game: the “Wheel of Fortune.” Every day, this wheel comes by the farm and lets users spin the wheel for a chance to win some sort of prize, be it coins or another spin. Each additional spin after that costs a diamond.
There are other features in Hay Day that games in the same genre also use, such as social media integration and in-game communities.
Singing Monsters, published by Big Blue Bubble, Inc., for instance, attracts gamers with the different musical sounds monsters make. It’s a charming game, but the timers are just a bit long, the prices for different actions and items are just a tad high and there isn’t enough customization options as there are for Hay Day. Singing Monsters does have scratch cards and games that users can play to earn more of the in-game currency.
There’s also The Simpsons: Tapped Out, which brings the humor of Matt Groening’s characters to mobile. Though the anecdotal aspect of the game is hilarious, the game experience is not as positive: Tapped Out is not very touch-friendly and the time to wait for characters to finish tasks can take too long.
TL;DR: For games that aim to have great user retention, there must be 1) easy-to-understand tutorials (user groups are recommended); 2) timers for in-game production, but don’t make them too long (e.g. In Hay Day, when a user plants crops, he or she will have to wait a certain amount of time to harvest them); 3) incorporate in-game currency/currencies, 4) give users limited-time only offers, 5) incorporate some sort of casino-aspect to your game.
I could go on and on about these “lifestyle” games, but I won’t for the sake of our shrinking attention spans. I will end this post by mentioning that I did get very hooked on Hay Day, and ended up having to shove the game into one of my app folders because I was checking my phone too often.
I haven’t touched Hay Day for a while now. But if I start receiving “We Moos You” push notifications on my phone… there’s a good chance that I’ll be back on the farm.