Jelly Splash vs Candy Crush: it’s all about virality

Jelly Splash is a very fun new puzzle game from Wooga that’s rocketing up the charts. It’s a cross between Candy Crush Saga and Dots, both known for their insanely addictive gameplay, and Jelly Splash doesn’t disappoint on that front. You’ll be hooked – we promise!

jellysplash

Michail Katkoff has a good post highlighting the monetization improvements Jelly Splash implemented vs Candy Crush’s implementation. Michail highlights Jelly Splash’s use of virtual currency as a major reason they’ll see better monetization. This is spot-on, and explains why 85% of the top grossing games use virtual currency to monetize, and you should too.

But monetization isn’t the full story, which is what will make the Jelly Splash / Candy Crush battle (Skirmish of Sweets? Clash of Confections?) worth watching. Freemium success is a combination of Retention, Monetization, and Virality, and there’s a very complex balance.

Candy Crush doesn’t monetize particularly well on a per user basis. It has a below average ARPU index, Think Gaming’s measure of how well the game retains & monetizes players versus an average top grossing game. There’s lots of opportunity for improvement, and they wouldn’t dominate the top grossing games without something else.

Their success comes from the fact that they are a regular chart topper on the top free games list, which we estimate as 150,000-200,000 new installs daily (US/iOS). While some of this paid user acquisition, we think the more distinctive factor is the strong virality built into the game.

Candy Crush has smartly baked viral engagement into the core of their game, allowing non-paying gamers to avoid paying by sharing the game with their friends. Put differently, viral sharing and monetization are fungible. So while King takes a monetization hit, they are able to get tons of new users through viral means. In a world with steadily rising user acquisition costs, that can be a very smart formula.

Note that there’s lots of speculation here, and Jelly Splash has some great virality baked in too, which is what will make the Skirmish of Sweets so interesting. The results should provide some good data on the right balance of monetization and virality. Stay tuned….we’ll post updates as data flows through.

How to maximize in-app purchase revenue in games

Emily Greer at Kongregate has a great presentation from Casual Connect on maximizing revenue from in-app purchases:

She brought some great statistics from Kongregate’s games, a broad enough sample to see how differing strategies impact ARPU. A few things that she highlighted that we see come up repeatedly:

  1. Low entry prices don’t work. $0.99 in-app purchases don’t entice more people to purchase, and simply drags down the average purchase price and ARPU.
  2. Big spenders represent 50%+ of revenue for high performing games. While they are less than 10% of users, they are critical for overall monetization. You need a strategy for how a user can engage
  3. Prices of in-app purchases are usually inelastic. Put differently, great games can raise prices on their in-app purchases and increase ARPU. (connect this to #1 and #2 for more justification)
  4. The highest earning games are all about retention. Games with great long-term retention keep the interest of big spenders and create an in-game economy that continues to provide reasons for them to spend over time.

Emily backs it up with lots of stats from Kongregate and some case studies. If you want to read about how to make more money, go read the piece. It’s full of gold nuggets from her hard won experience.

When you’re ready to put it into action, integrate Think Gaming’s SDK. We make it easy and automatic to uncover your own gold nuggets.

Mobile monetization is terrible! Or is it?

VentureBeat has a few sound bytes from Interpret’s forthcoming Gamebyte syndicated research report. A first read would have you believe that the sky is falling. Most notably, they cite lower monthly ARPU for mobile games and the fact that only 21% convert on in-app purchases. OMG – mobile monetization is terrible! 

But there’s a shiny silver lining. Free-to-play games are much more broadly penetrated: ~50 million people in the US play games on their phones, twice as many as play MMOs on PCs. And those 50 million people already generate as much revenue as MMOs, despite the fact that

  1. Smartphones aren’t fully penetrated
  2. The Android monetization experience is a hot mess and it’s the fastest growing smartphone OS.
  3. In-app purchase revenue is a new phenomenon where most game developers have a lot of work to optimize in-app pricing and positioning 

Our take? Yes, it’s early. And, yes, there’s lots of work to be done. But this rocket ship appears to be gathering steam in a way that portends very significant future growth.

Long live mobile monetization!