作者：Jens Peter Jensen
从收益排行榜上看，似乎可以看出，成功并不只是做出一款好的或了不起的游戏，更多地是做出一款正确的游戏。有太多好游戏没有进入收益排行榜的前100名。如果你看看App Annie的收益排行榜，你最先注意到的可能是，只有17%的应用是付费的，而其他的都是免费的。那说明正确的游戏的模式并不是付费的，而是免费的。虽然以下数字仅是5月30日的 ，且排行榜每个小时都频繁地更新，但根据统计，进入收益排行榜前100名的免费游戏比例基本上介于85%到90%。
另一个值得注意的有趣现象是：5月30日当天，免费游戏《Word Rush?》在美国是下载排行榜上的第15名，但它并没有进入收益排行榜的前500名。那似乎暗示了，仅有高人气并不 意味着它就是正确的游戏。《Word Rush?》不是个例——通常来说，下载排行榜与收益排行榜并不成对应关系。当然有些游戏在两个榜单上都排上名，但显然，下载量大并不是进 入收益排行榜的必要条件。进入下载排行榜并不能保证也出现在收益排行榜上。
这听起来似乎非常势利，但为了进入收益排行榜，游戏设计必须与赢利策略紧密结合。游戏和赢利必须完美融合，这样玩家体验才不会被二者的结合干扰或破坏。在这方面， 《Candy Crush Saga》是最优秀的榜样之一，它的赢利策略执行得非常隐藏和自然，以至于玩家心甘情愿地掏钱。
至于积极的赢利策略执行不好的，反面案例非常多，但没有一个做得比《Super Monster Bros》更糟糕的。在苹果应用商店中，它也是经常公然抄袭其他游戏的代表。这款游戏后 来被撤出应用商店，所以你不可能再试玩它了。
收益排名前100的游戏通常都有非常积极的赢利策略，这是一个显著的趋势。但《Super Monster Bros》还告诉我们，光有积极的赢利策略是不够的。
既然你已经采用免费模式了、有积极的赢利策略了，花了大量钱开发玩家了，那么你还需要什么才能挤入收益排行榜前100？好吧，你可能只是刚刚具备可能性。不知道排行榜前 100名的不同游戏采用了什么玩家开发策略，很难说什么策略管用什么不管用。前100名的游戏的品质也有很大差距，并且与真实的排行并不对应。那意味着，积极的赢利策略和大 量玩家开发投入可能只是必要条件中的一部分。
我们已经知道进入收益排行榜的游戏中有《Clash of Clans》和《Rage of Bahamut》等，我们对这些游戏做了详细的分析，以便找出它们成功的原因。但在其他人的研究中，这些 游戏通常被与类似的游戏作比较，而不是放在整个竞争环境中做比较。甚至在某些情况下，判定什么游戏是同类的标准也太宽泛。这是我们做这个研究的原因之一：详细地定义收 益前100强游戏的不同种类。这样的细分有助于我们研究排行榜上的不同游戏。
苹果应用商店现在采用的类型太不准确了，无论是对开发者还是玩家，其实都说明不了什么。苹果应用商店只是用那种类型分法把虚拟商品入在不同的虚拟货架上。那些类型名称 取自传统的PC和游戏机游戏术语，其意义和对类型的期待不能转化到移动设备上。PC和游戏机玩法不能直接移植到移动设备上，且为了让游戏适应移动设备而做出的修改又删除了 大部分类型特征。
以策略游戏为例。尽管宽泛，但它是一个存在已久的类型。移动设备上不存在即时策略游戏，因为移动设备的操作组合不可能体现必要的速度和准确性。另外，苹果应用商业的“ 模拟”类型不能对应PC或游戏机模拟类型。在应用商店，《Hay Day》和《Tinytowers》被当成模拟游戏，而在PC上，《Microsoft Flight Simulator》和臭名昭著的《Farming Simulator》才算是模拟游戏。乍一看，《Hay Day》是《Farmville》的翻版，《Farming Simulator》是把开拖拉机和联合收割机放在第三人称视角下进行，所以即使它们的主题 相同，游戏确是非常不同的。
（《Hay Day》和《Farming Simulator》唯一的重合之处就是主题。）
赌博游戏的案例：《疯狂老虎机》、《大鱼赌场》、Zynga的《扑克》、《Jackpot Party Casino》、《Pharaoh’s Way》、《DoubleDown Casino》、《Bingo Bash》、《GSN Casino》、《Texas Poker》、《Bingo!》、《BINGO Blitz》、《Slots》、《Fresh Deck Poker》。
（不要被这些超级英雄的主题骗了，《Marvel War of Heroes》仍然是关于收集最强的怪物。）
收集+战斗类游戏的案例：《Rage of Bahamut》、《Marvel WoH》、《Lord of the dragon》、《龙之统治》、《勇者传说》、《War of the Fallen》、《Deity Wars》、《堕落 战斗》、《天堂火》、《海盗少女》、《变形金刚传奇》、《D.O.T.》、《Immortalis》、《灵异阴阳录》、《Book Of Heroes》、《热血兄弟》(RPG)。
（在《Injustice: Gods Among Us》中，传统的控制器被屏幕上的虚拟控制杆取代了。）
竞速：《CSR赛车》、《Fast & Furious 6: The Game》、《实况赛车3》、《极品飞车》, 《Downhill Supreme》、《Bike Race Free》、《登山赛车》动作：《D-Day》、《Frontline Commandoes》、《Hungry sharks》、《Sonic The Hedgehog》、《FIFA SOCCER 13》、《钢铁侠3》》《侠盗猎车手：罪恶都市》、《战斗之石》 、《Injustice: Gods Among Us》、《重拳出击》
匹配消除游戏大概是最广为人知的、识别度最高的一类了。这类游戏的玩法主要是，找出三个或以上具有相同颜色或图样的实体匹配起来，匹配成功就能把它们消掉，同时获得得 分，当全部实体都消除完，就通关了。这类游戏在Facebook上一直很流行，有些休闲玩家不仅经常玩，而且可以一直玩上5、6年。这类游戏没有太多变化空间，基本上遵循已确立 的类型标准：在2D游戏面板上猛击“方块”，以便把它们组合成排或成列，然后消除。关卡有时候是限时的，有时候是以获得成就为通关条件，但基本上不会脱离这些套路。这类 游戏靠不同的主题和美术风格把自己与同类游戏区别开来，尽管许多游戏为了获得类似的吸引力，仍然倾向于模仿经典作品的风格。
匹配消除游戏主要有两种赢利策略：一是给玩家提供一些使游戏更容易玩的优势；二是提供额外的精力，即当玩家以当前精力或生命值不能完成关卡时，就可以花游戏币补满精力 或命值。观察一下排行榜，《Candy Crush Saga》的成功似乎说明了这种补满系统是相当受欢迎的。
匹配消除游戏的案例：《宝石迷阵》、《Candy Crush Saga》、《Puzzle & Dragons》、《泡泡龙》、《疯狂水果》、《Diamond Dash》、《Gems With Friends》
“部落”类型是源自游戏《部落战争》，这是最早一部以利用这类游戏机制而出名的游戏之一。这类游戏是围绕着一定建筑工地和建筑类型进行设计。随后玩家将建造并升级，同 时创造军队与敌人相抗衡去保护自己的城市。这里存在全局地图，玩家与玩家间具有一段相对的距离。“部落”类游戏的主要盈利策略是缩短建造时间，让这些内容能够更快速地 完成。而升级则会花费更长时间，所以玩家在等待的时候通常没有什么事可做。
“犯罪”类游戏包括《Arms Cartel》和《Crime Inc.》，并拥有一个能量类经济，即玩家可以花费能量去参与PVE和PVP模式。玩家同样也必须购买道具去完成任务，这里存在一种 宽松的建筑设置让玩家能够建造并升级。“犯罪”类游戏的主要盈利策略是重新填满能量让玩家能够继续挑战任务并与其他玩家相竞争。
“部落”类型：《霍比特人》，《亚瑟王国》，《神秘的帝国》，《Clash of Clans》，《君主与骑士》，《斯巴达战争》，《国王帝国》（豪华版），《银河帝国》，《帝国： 四国演绎》，《BattleNation》
“犯罪”类型：《环球军火商》，《Crime Inc.》，《IMobster》，《战争王国》，《混乱时代》，《现代战争》，《罪恶都市》，《黑社会帝国》，《文明战争》，《城堡时代 》，《Zenia – Age of the dragon king》
《Draw Something 2》，《踢他一脚》，《Flow Free》
技能射击游戏是指主要或唯一的游戏玩法包含瞄准特定目标进行射击，每种射击技能决定了玩家的成功和分数。这类游戏中最突出的便是《愤怒的小鸟》，但是在此之前它已经存 在于浏览器游戏中很长时间了。其游戏玩法非常简单也很容易学习，即游戏会使用现实对象和物理元素去传达游戏玩法。就像《愤怒的小鸟》的弹弓和《狙击射手》的狙击兵射程 。玩家已经知道这些游戏对象会做些什么以及如何利用它们。
《Scramble With Friends》，《4 Pics 1 Word》，《Scramble With Friends Free》，《Dice With Buddies》，《Emoji Pop》，《Heads Up》
如今，游戏开发的规模已经大大超过了当前App Store的项目模版了。他们所面临的情况就像一个老妇人在公园里带着100只狗在散步一样。这一大群狗在奋力移动着，但是老妇人 却很难去控制它们。现在App Store的运行方式就像：这个老妇人不会喂养不听话的狗，她拥有食物的控制权。
通过着眼于当前有什么而不是之前有什么，开发者们能够更好地理解App Store市场。通过理解不同类型的游戏机器运行与盈利方法，开发者能够更有效地打败使用旧理念和术语的 竞争者。App Store市场是以极快的速度移动着。从那时起关于美国前100名畅销游戏的研究便一直持续着，该列表也一直在发生着巨大的变化。如果能够了解游戏类型及其处境， 开发者便能够明确全新的设计方式或复制最成功的游戏类型与方法了。
当着眼于前100名畅销游戏时，你便会清楚到达前列的快捷方式便是使用IP。像《钢铁侠3》和《海绵宝宝搬来了》等游戏便在发行后1天内窜上了畅销排行前列。IP本身便是数百万 下载量的保障，所以如果开发者与一个强大且热门的IP合作，成功便是必然的，至少是暂时的。但是IP只适合拥有上百万成本的大型工作室，所以对于大多数开发者来说IP并不是 最佳选择。
不同游戏类型适合不同盈利策略。在前100名畅销游戏排行榜上表现出色的所有游戏都使用了最适合自己的盈利策略。有些开发者复制了其它盈利策略并用于自己的游戏中，但却未 曾获得较好的结果。游戏玩法和盈利必须紧密维系在一起。许多小型和中型游戏开发商更加专注于游戏，并选择之后盈利方式。这便减少了赚钱了机会。如果你的目标是赚钱的话 ，那么盈利最好趁早。
激进盈利的未来处于悬崖边上，即有一些国家已经开始制定游戏内部购买的相关法律了。英国可能是最先对游戏购买制定规则的国家，即基于自身的儿童市场法。如果游戏购买被 框定在法律中，App Store和手机游戏开发者便不得不发生改变。但是就目前看来，激进盈利还是帮助游戏进入畅销排行榜单的有效方法。
A Guide to the Top Grossing Games on the AppStore (Part 1)
by Jens Peter Jensen
Getting on the Top Ten grossing games list on Apple’s App Store is what many game developers hope to achieve. Some might hold the belief that making a great, well-designed and well-developed game is the way to get on the top grossing chart. That is a general misconception: it’s not about making a great game, it’s about making the right game. Here are the results of a study we conducted while trying to identify what the right game could be.
The “Right” stuff
For the sake of this discussion let us set aside the fact that a great game is a very elusive and subjective concept. That way we won’t get bogged down in the whole “good, bad and terrible” game discussion, at least not yet. After all, it is very hard to classify a game as being great, even if we assume that sales, download and grossing numbers are a good index of greatness.
Looking at games on the top grossing chart seems to suggest that success is not just about making a good or great game, but it is also about making the right game. There are plenty of great games that have not made into the top 100 grossing list. If you look at App Annie’s grossing charts, the first thing that strikes the eye is that only about 17% of the apps are paid, while the rest are freemium. That suggest the right type of game is not a paid game, but a game that follows the freemium model. These numbers are from the 30th of May and the charts change hourly, but statistically 85% to 90% of the games on the grossing top 100 list are actually freemium.
Another interesting phenomenon to notice is the following: Word Rush?, a freemium game, was the fifth most downloaded game in the USA on the 30th of May, but it wasn’t featured on the top 500 grossing chart. That seems to suggest high popularity alone does not indicate a right game. Word Rush? is not a singular case – in general the Most Downloaded Games chart does not correspond to the Grossing chart. There are of course games that show up on both, and obviously it is necessary for a game to get downloaded a lot in order to get on the grossing list. But going to the top of the Download chart does not guarantee Grossing chart presence at all.
Word Rush demonstrates that a successful game cannot be identified by high popularity alone.
The games on the top grossing list are there because they are designed specifically to make money. There are of course a few exceptions, like Minecraft – Pocket Edition. But most apps on this list are designed to be money-makers and this entails what is known as “Aggressive Monetization”.
In such cases it is not the game that makes the money, but actually a function for generating money is skillfully integrated inside the game. The most successful results of this “game inside a grossing function” strategy are seamless, unobtrusive or enjoyable experiences. Others are blatantly disruptive and aggravating. Whether it is the pleasantly scented velvet glove or the chainsaw with a vacuum tube attached, the goal is the same, to get money out of the
That might not sound very glamorous, but to be able to achieve a high-ranking game on the top grossing list, the game design and monetization strategy have to be intertwined. Games cannot each just be monetized in any way, the game and monetization have to perfectly blend so that the player is not unnecessarily disturbed or punished by the combination. Candy Crush Saga is one of the best examples of excellent symbiosis between gameplay and monetization. The
monetization is so seamless and natural that it seems almost stupid not spend that one dollar. You can read more about Cand Crush Saga in our case study.
There are many bad examples of aggressive monetization, but none are more amusing and exemplifying that “Super Monster Bros” by Adventure Time Pocket Free Games. Watch this gameplay video if you don’t already have an understanding of “vacuum tube” monetization. It is also an example of the frequent and blatant plagiarism that is happening on Apple’s App Store. This game has since been removed from the App Store, so you can no longer try it for yourself.
Super Monster Bros, or how not to monetize.
Aggressive monetization, user acquisition and something else
There is a very strong trend of aggressive monetization on the Grossing Top 100. But as “Super Monster Bros” by Adventure Time Pocket Free Game beautifully demonstrates, aggressive monetization alone will not get you to the top.
To make it to the top of the grossing chart, we so far discovered that you need to use a freemium game model and aggressive monetization (preferably, but not necessarily, in an unobtrusive way).
The next thing you need are users – and by the millions. That means you actually need a user acquisition strategy. There seem to be two main strategies for user acquisition:
paying to be promoted by a game with many millions of users
using the social media to get players to virally spread the game
The first requires a lot of money and the other can seem very molesting to social media users. It is however difficult for the onlooker to gauge the relative success of user acquisition, as numbers on the transactions above are not public.
Now that you have a freemium, aggressively monetized game and you spend a lot of money on user acquisition, do you need anything else to get on the Top 100 Grossing chart? Well, you might just do. Without knowing what kind of user acquisitions strategies the different games in the Top 100 use, it is hard to tell exactly what works and what doesn’t. There is a large difference in quality among the Top 100 Grossing game, and it does not correspond to actual game
rankings. That suggests that aggressive motivation and a large investment in user acquisition may be a way in.
The fact that the top 100 is a mix of low and high quality games also gives wight to the argument that it is all about the user acquisition. But there are also some “odd one out” games, and that gives me hope that there is another factor, the X factor if you will, that helps determine what gets in the Top 100. The X factor, or more likely X factors, is a difficult thing to identify when looking at the different Top 100 charts, but I personally hope it has something to do with game design.
It might not, but to get a better understanding of what the X factor is, I have made a short study on the genre and type composition of the Top 100 Grossing list of United States as I looked through the last half of May 2013.
Know thyself and know thy enemy
In this series of articles, in order to get a better understanding of the foundation and composition of the Top 100 Grossing chart, we conducted a study on the types of games that are on the chart. This is not a genres study, although some of the types identified correspond to genres. This a study that tries to identify the different types of games based on their gameplay and monetization techniques.
In this blog we have already looked at some of the top games like Clash of Clans and Rage of Bahamut, giving a detailed analysis of the games and looking at why they are successful. But they have mostly been looked at in comparison to similar games and not in comparison with the whole field of competitors. Even the idea of what is similar between these games may have been a bit too broad in some cases. That is one of the reasons this study was made: to specify and
define the different Grossing game types. This narrowing down would make it easier to talk about the different games on the chart.
As mentioned earlier the game design needs to blend with a monetization strategy to be a successful earner. This also means that it makes little sense to compare the monetization strategy of two different types of games. With the types clearly identified it then becomes easier to determine what games it makes sense to compare or not. It also becomes clear for a game designer what he should focus on, as the game will be in very direct competition with other games
of that type.
Genres and types
The current genres used on the App Store are too inaccurate to really mean anything for either developers or consumers. The App Store genres are more likely a way for Apple to put virtual wares on different virtual shelves. The genre names are taken from the traditional PC and console terminology, and the meaning and expectations of those genres simply do not translate to mobile devices. PC and console gameplay cannot be imported directly to a mobile device and the changes needed to make a game fit on mobile devices strips it of most genre characteristics.
Take the strategy genre for example. Although broad, this is a strongly established genre. Real Time Strategy (RTS) does not exist on mobile devices as mobile control schemes cannot facilitate the necessary speed and precision. Also, the Simulation genre on the App Store does not correspond to the PC/console Simulation genre. In the app store Hay Day and Tinytowers pass as Simulations while on the PC Microsoft Flight Simulator and the infamous Farming Simulator
do. At a glance, Hay Day and Farming Simulator may sound the same but Hay Day is a Farmville clone and Farming Simulator is a game about driving tractors and combines in first and third person view, so even though their theme overlaps, the games are very different.
The only thing that Hay Day (left) and Farming Simulator (right) have in common is the theme.
In Part 2 and 3 of this post we will go through all game types we identified on the App Store and analyze which has the biggest share of the market: Action, Adventure, Arcade, Board, Card, Casino, Dice, Educational, Family, Kids, Music, Puzzle, Racing, Role Playing, Simulation, Sports, Strategy, Trivia, Word. Stay tuned!
To identify and classify the types of games present on the Top 100 Grossing games list, we have played and divided them based on the gameplay and game mechanics they use and also based on their monetization strategy.
The types found do not represent the whole range of types available on the App Store. They only represent the games present on the Top 100 Grossing list at the time of the survey. Here follows a listing and explanation of the different types of games on the top, and their “share” of the total amount of 115 surveyed games. By playing these games the following 12 types were identified:
Casino – 11% of top 100
The Casino Game type emulates games that can be played at a casino. The main type of games available are slots, Texas Hold ‘Em poker and Bingo. This type is pretty self explanatory as it strives to be a close replica of the “real” casino games.
The Casino type monetizes by selling playing chips to the players, again just like its real world counterpart. They also rely on a form of in-game currency (IGC) that gives different kinds of special advantages to the player. The major difference from the real world counterpart is that there is no real money payout option. That means that the players use real money to gamble, without the possibility of winning real money.
The game mechanics are made to closely resemble the real world games they mimic, like Poker, Blackjack and Slots. There are a limited number of options and the player just chooses one by pressing a button. These games resemble Internet gambling sites in all respects, sans the payout option.
The main monetization strategies used in Casino Games are getting the players to buy more playing chips to gamble for and getting them to use in game currency to get advantages in the gambling games.
Like for instance the opportunity to win bigger prizes in slots, or even just to play games. So, in essence, the players are paying for the privilege to play, without the possibility of winning anything back. The players play for real money or in-game currency and are paid in “chips” with no other value than to initiate new matches in those specific games.
Poker looks fun, until you realize that you’re paying for the right to play, and you can’t actually win anything.
Casino Games examples: Slotomania – Slot Machines, Big Fish Casino – Free Slots, Poker by Zynga, Jackpot Party Casino, Slots – Pharaoh’s Way, DoubleDown Casino – Slots & Video Poker, Bingo Bash, GSN Casino, Texas Poker, Bingo!?, BINGO Blitz – FREE Bingo + Slots, Slots?, Fresh Deck PokerCollect and Combat (Pokemon clones) – 15% of top 100
In Collect and Combat games the player fights to collect creatures of some sort and then uses them to fight and collect even more creatures.
There are two main varieties within the Collect and combat type, one is the “card” type and the other is the “band” type. In both types there is a tendency of using sexually suggestive anime art, as some developers seem to believe that a sexualized art style will further motivate player to collect more creatures.
Within “card” type games, the player is represented by one of its collected creature and can do quests or PVP fights with it. Within “band” type games, the player chooses several different creatures to send on quests or PVP matches for him.
The goal for both types is to gain creature experience and to get more creatures. The player can also combine two of the same creatures to make a higher tier creature of that type. Or they can sacrifice some creatures to give another creature more experience. The quests are designed with some variety in mind, but it basically boils down to tapping for next action. The combat itself is mostly just tap to attack and lacks any tactical aspect.
Don’t let the superhero theme fool you, Marvel War of Heroes is still about having the toughest monster in your “pokeball”
As the main motivation of Collect and Combat games is to get more and stronger creatures, the main monetization strategy is to offer rare and powerful creatures to the player in exchange for in-game currency. There are also a variety of advantages like player buffs and the like available in both quest and PVP, but the main monetization angle is the accumulation of more creatures.
Collect and Combat examples: Rage of Bahamut, Marvel WoH, Reign of Dragons, Legend of the Cryptids, Lord of the dragon, Legend of the Cryptids, War of the Fallen, Deity Wars, Pantheon the Legends, HellFire, Pirate Maidens, Transformers Legends, D.O.T., Immortalis, Ayakashi: Ghost Guild, Book Of Heroes, Blood Brothers (RPG).
Controller Emulator (envy) – 16% of the top 100
Controller emulator games are games that are played on a virtual controller of some kind on the mobile device.
At a first glance, the games in this category are very varied, but the fact that the main game mechanic is a virtual controller makes them closely related on a gameplay and mechanics level. There is also a variation where the gameplay traditionally uses a controller, but the basic game design has been changed to accommodate the mobile device platform.
In Injustice: Gods Among Us the traditional controller has been substituted by an on screen stickpad emulator.
Both types seem to suffer from a form of controller envy, hence the title of the category. These games have a gameplay that is too complex or demanding to use the standard “tap and swipe” interface that mobile devices use, and have therefore made some kind of virtual controller interface on the device.
There are many different kinds of games in this type, racing, fighting, shooting, platformer and others. But they all share the common factors of having a virtual controller and of being speed and skill based games.
One main monetization strategy in these games is unlocking more content. More cars, more weapons, skills, levels and characters. Some of the content can be unlocked by grinding the game for hours, while others are only available by the use of in game currency.
While there is room for a lot of variation in this category, most of the games here use an energy system that limits daily playtime. If the game can get the player to want to play more, the player will definitely buy more energy to continue playing. A secondary strategy is to offer the player advantages which unlock content faster or limit the grinding.
Controller Emulator(envy) Games examples:
Racing: CSR Racing, Fast & Furious 6: The Game, Real Racing 3, Need for Speed? Most Wanted, Downhill Supreme, Bike Race Free by Top Free Game, Hill Climb Racing
Action: D-Day, Frontline Commandoes, Hungry sharks, Sonic The Hedgehog, FIFA SOCCER 13 by EA SPORTS, Ironman 3 – The Official Game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Battlestone, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Punch Quest
Builder Worlds: Minecraft – Pocket Edition, Survivalcraft
Lane Runners – 3% of top 100
The Lane Runner type is a game where the player moves automatically along a predefined track with either one or more lanes, usually three, and has to avoid obstacles while constantly moving forward. The gameplay consists of swiping the screen to direct the playing character left, right up or down in order to avoid obstacles and collect “coins” and such.
This type represents a small share of the top 100 grossing titles, but it is established and easily recognizable.
The main monetization strategy of the Lane Runner is convincing the player to buy an extra life when he dies in order to continue playing. The monetization strategy is complementary to the gameplay of running forward at a fast pace. When the player dies, the game stops and offers you the chance to continue for the price of some in-game currency. In this way, the Lane Runners are similar to the old arcade games, where the player had to insert coins to continue.
This is the key moment of Subway Surfers when players reach for their wallets.
Lane Runner examples: Temple Run 2, Vector, Running with Friends, Subway Surfers
Match Three – 7% of top 100
The Match Three type is perhaps the most famous and easiest recognizable type of them all. The gameplay is based on matching three or more entities of the same color or type to get points or clear away the level. This type of game has long enjoyed strong popularity on Facebook and has been played heavily by the casual gamer in the last 5 – 6 years. There isn’t room for much variation in gameplay for this type. They all follow the same established canon for Match
Three games: swipe to rearrange the pieces in a 2D grid, in order to align them in a row. Sometimes the levels are time based, sometimes they are achievement based, but they never stray from the formula. The games differentiate themselves by having different themes and art styles, although many games prefer to mimic the style of established titles so as to get traction through similarity.
We all know and dread this moment…
There are two main monetization strategies in the Match Three type: one is the play advantages making the game easier in different ways. The other is the energy approach where the player has energy or lives and loses them by playing or failing to complete a level, and can only refill by using in game currency. Looking at games on the chart, such as Candy Crush Saga, it seems that the refill approach is the most successful.
Match Three examples: Bejeweled, Candy Crush Saga, Puzzle & Dragons (English), Bubble Mania?, Fruit Mania?, Diamond Dash, Gems With Friends, Gems With Friends Free
In the third and last part of this article we will go through the remaining seven types that we identified and then we will draw the much wanted conclusions. So stick around!
Resource Management Multiplayer Strategy – 19% of top 100
The Resource Management Multiplayer Strategy type consists of games where the main gameplay mechanic is the gathering and managing of resources, then using the resources to build a base and participate in PVE and PVP.
There are two main variations of this type, the “Travian” type and the “Crime” type.
The “Travian” type is named after the game Travian, which was one of the first well known games to make use of such gameplay mechanics. This type of game is designed with a fixed number of building sites and building types. The player then builds and upgrades, while generating troops to fight enemies and protect the city. There is a global map available and players are positioned within relative distance to each other. The main monetization strategy in the “ Travian” type is shortening build times, making things finish faster. Upgrading takes a long time and the games are designed so there is very little to do in the waiting time.
The “Crime” type consists of games like Arms Cartel and Crime Inc. and have an energy type economy where the player spends energy to participate in PVE and PVP. The player also has to purchase items to complete missions, and there is a looser set of buildings to build and upgrade. The main monetization strategy in the “Crime” type is to refill energy so the player can keep doing missions and fighting other players.
Resource Management Multiplayer Strategy examples:
Travian type: The Hobbit, Kingdoms of Camelot, Arcane Empire, Clash of Clans, Lords & Knights, Spartan Wars, Kings Empire(Deluxe), Galaxy Empire, Empire: Four Kingdoms, BattleNation
Crime Type: Arms Cartel Global (Before Modern War), Crime Inc., IMobster, Kingdoms at War, Age of Chaos, Modern War, Crime City, Underworld Empire, Civilization War, Castle Age, Zenia – Age of the dragon king
Pet, Dress Up and House – 8% of top 100
The Pet, Dress Up and House type are games that have borrowed elements from dollhouse play and the tamagotchi games. The gameplay is about getting “dolls”, building places for the “dolls” and playing with them. Looking at the game examples, the dolls could easily be “Dragons” as there are more examples of that than any other type of doll.
This type is very similar to the Social Tap Economy type described below, but the main difference is that the Pet type is centered on the “pets”, while the Social Tap Economy games are centered on the town or base. The difference in focus also affects the optimal monetization strategies, although there are a lot of similarities.
The main monetization strategy is to unlock new dolls and accessories. As this game type revolves around collecting dolls, it is natural to monetize the acquisition of new dolls. A secondary strategy is to shorten build times and get currency to build and buy new things.
Pet, Dress Up and House game examples:
Dragonvale, Dragon Story, Dragon City Mobile, Dragon Skies, Campus Life, The Sims? FreePlay, MinoMonsters, Haypi Monster
Play Around – 3% of top 100
The Play Around type is, as the name suggest, more “play” than “game”. The mobile devices allows for playing around with stuff by tapping, dragging and swiping around a finger on the screen. The “Play Around” type consists of games where the gameplay is about dragging around objects, drawing or otherwise “playing”. This is a very open approach as the player doesn’t necessarily follow a strict set of rules. The monetization strategy for this type is getting more things to play with.
Play Around (with one finger) game examples:
Draw Something 2?, Kick the Buddy: Second Kick, Flow Free
Skill Shooter – 4% of top 100
The Skill Shooter is a game where the main or only gameplay consists of shooting something at a specific target, and the skill of each shot determines the success or score. This type was made famous by Angry Birds, but has existed inside browser games for many years before that. The gameplay is very simple and easily learned, as the games use real world objects and physics to convey gameplay. Like the slingshot from Angry Birds and the sniper scope from Sniper Shooter. Players already knows what these game objects do and how to use them.
There are two main monetization strategies for this type, one is buying power ups and such to make the game easier, the other is to unlock more content. The content approach is the one most uses today. Games of this type are mostly freemium games, so they are a sort of demo of what the game could be like if you spend money on it. There is usually a lot of content visible, but only very little usable.
Skill Shooter game examples:
Angry Birds Star Wars, Mini Golf MatchUp, Super Stickman Golf, Guncrafter, Sniper Shooter by Fun Games for Free
Social Tap Economy – 7% of top 100
The “Social Tap Economy” type is the game type most identified with the tablet platform. The gameplay consists of building and doing tasks and chores in the player build environment. Its called “Social” because the games focus heavily on the players connecting to other players, either through the game or more often through social media platforms. When the players connect through social media they also promote the game, at the same time creating an enormous
amount of free publicity.
The games simulate some kind of economy through buildings generating some kind of output, either money or resources, and the player has to manage this and make more resources. Its called “Tap Economy” because even though things take time to build, they are only finished when the player taps them. That means that the economy is only functioning if the player returns to tap things several times a day. This is to keep the player invested and motivated to do things all day long.
The main monetization strategy is to shorten build and production times and to expand the cap of the player possibilities. The Social Tap Economy type games have a restricted area for the player to use. If the player wants more, the only two options are to grind or to pay. Most make it possible to grind in the beginning but then the price of expansion rises exponentially, raising the grinding time from hours to weeks. This is to encourage the use of in game
currency instead of grinding.
Social tap economy examples:
Hayday, Metropolis, Tiny Towers, Pixel People, The Tribez, Simpsons Tapped Out, Castle Story?, Smurfs’ Village
Tabletop Games – 5% of top 100
The “Tabletop Game” type consists of games that look like and are based on real world board games and party games. They copy or emulate real world board games into mobile games. The games in this type are easy to understand and play, as they are already commonly known. The games gives the player the possibility to play well known board games with friends over the internet instead of face to face.
The main monetization strategy for this type is showing commercials, with the option to use real money to make them go away. There are also a content unlocking strategies, but that is secondary. It is a challenge to monetize games that most people have a copy of in the closet, so most developers use old school commercials and ads to monetize this type of games.
Tabletop Games examples:
Scramble With Friends, 4 Pics 1 Word, Scramble With Friends Free, Dice With Buddies, Emoji Pop, Heads Up
Tower Defence – 1% of top 100
The “Tower Defence” type is also a well established one. The gameplay consists of building “towers” that damage attackers as they try to reach something. The attackers either travel in predetermined lanes or in random patterns, either top down or side view, and the player places automated defences to keep the enemy from reaching a specific spot. There is also a variation where the player actively controls something that shoots at the attackers, but the automatic
fire defence towers are more common.
The main monetization strategy of this type is power ups and content unlocking. The “Tower Defence” type usually has levels with increasing difficulty, so the games can monetize by selling items to make the player more powerful and the game easier.
Tower Defence game examples:
Bloons TD 5, Kingdoms Rush Frontier
The rules of the top
Some of these types are already well established while others are new, but they are much suitable for describing the games on The Top 100 Grossing list that any definitions the App Store currently uses.
The sheer mass of games being developed have outrun current item templates in the App Store, its vocabulary and terminology. They have been left behind like an old woman walking 100 dogs in the park. It is the dogs that have the power of movement, while the old woman is unable to control all of them. The way the App Store works now can be approximated by the following metaphor: it is the old woman that controls the dogs by not feeding the ones that don’t behave, and the old woman has monopoly on food.
By taking a closer look at what is there, rather than what was, developers can get a much more nuanced understanding of the App Store market . By understanding the different types and how they work and monetize, it is possible to get a leg up on competitors that use old concepts and terminology. The App Store market moves with lightning speed. From the time this type study on the top 100 grossing in United States was made to the time this blog article was fully published, the list has changed significantly and might even merit a new type study. By knowing the types and their topography, developers can identify new avenues of design or copy the most successful types and methods.
Powerful IPs are powerful shortcuts
When looking at The Top 100 grossing chart for a while, it becomes clear that an quick and easy way to get to the top is by using IPs. Games like “Iron Man 3” and “Spongebob Moves In” skyrocketed to the Top Grossing in only one day from launch. The IP alone ensures millions of downloads, so if a developer teams up with a strong or hot IP, success seems certain, at least for a while. But IPs are mostly only available to the big studios with millions to spend, so using IPs is not even an option for most developers.
The key to good monetization
The different game types work better with specific monetization strategies. The games that perform best on the Top 100 Grossing chart are all games that use the best possible monetization strategy for their specific type. Some developers copy other monetization strategies and apply them inside their games, but that never gives good results. Gameplay and monetization has to be tied into each other. Many small and medium game developers focus on the game and only
afterwards on the monetization. That reduces their chances to earn money. Monetization has to be involved in the very early stages of game development, if the goal is a top grosser.
The future of aggressive monetization stands on a precipice as there are several countries that are looking into legislating in-game purchases. The UK might be the first to rule on in game purchases, based on their own children marketing laws. If legal requirements are created on in games purchases, the App Store and mobile game developers might be forced to reinvent themselves, as aggressive marketing and monetization is more the rule than the exception on App Store.
But for now, it seems that aggressive monetization is absolutely necessary to get to the top of the Grossing charts.