Written By: Pradeep Gupta
The growth of our Ludo and Parchisi game taught us that a dice board game can be monetised and can be potentially a good business. So, we started looking for games which can fit in the following criteria:
# Should have organic downloads
# Should be Globally Recognised
# Dice based Board Game
# and, not developed by a well known developer
The research brought us to the Business Trading Games Category. Games like these were played around the world and were highly recognised among friends and family.
Many of us had played these business games in our childhood & most of the players wanted to play the same on mobile as well. But until now, like Ludo, existing mobile business games across the globe did not offer an optimal gameplay experience. Inspired by the success of Ludo & Parchisi Star, we thought of giving it a try & started building a new business game called Bankrupt.
15 Min Version
On doing the market research we came across a lot of mobile business games. All of them took the classic business board and ported it directly on mobile. Even though the UI and UX were complicated, players were still playing those games.
The things that they liked were
- Buying Properties
- Building Hotels
- Collecting Rent (Highly Loved)
What they did not like was the complicated UX and the duration of gameplay. Each game took at least 60 minutes to complete, which was quite high considering the fact that most successful mobile games had shorter session duration.
With these insights the team started to redesign the game. The team's primary objective was to make sure a game could be completed in 15 minutes while maintaining all of the interesting gameplay elements.
We made the following changes in the traditional game design:
1. Players roll one die instead of two dice
2. No. of properties was reduced to 20
3. Hotels were allowed to be made after completing a set of 2 properties
4. Utilities could also be upgraded from Level 1 to Level 3
In addition, the values of properties, rent, mortgages, and other variables were set in a manner so that the game would converge towards completion within 15 minutes. We used heuristics and simulations to calculate the final value of these variables.
With this design, we went live with 2 & 3 player mode. We got a lot of positive feedback from the community, and got the rating of 4.5+ on the Play Store.
Our initial retention number with this MVP was around
D1: 31% D7: 10% D30: 2%
Just like Ludo and Parchisi STAR, the social aspect was going to be really important for the success of this game. Our next focus was to build a community around the game, which would eventually help us grow and also improve the retention numbers.
The next few releases were focused on getting players to play with their friends and family. The invite process was designed to be super simple, intuitive and easy. We made the gameplay more fun and interesting by adding Team up modes and elements like Chat and Emojis. We witnessed a spike in retention numbers after adding these features.
Our improved gameplay and player journey, coupled with social feature integration, led to a ~3.4 % increase in D30 retention.
While the game started growing we wanted to understand the monetisation potential of it. That would help us understand expected LTV of the users.
Monetisation was designed in such a manner that the player making payments in the game gets some advantage but not big enough that it becomes a PAY TO WIN game. There are 4 loops that we have designed for it:
- We allowed players to re-roll the dice at the cost of some gems
- Players were allowed to exchange the Luck Card in exchange for some gems
- Players could buy coins to play high bet games
- Incentivised ads: Players could watch ads and get rewards that were in slim pickings: 5 gems, 100 coins.
With these loops in place, We were able to achieve a payer rate of 0.35% with $10 Payer Lifetime value in Brazil which was quite comparable to our other game Parchisi STAR.
At this point the game started generating revenue of $500+ daily. This was quite decent considering the DAU numbers. We were expecting more organic downloads to come with improvements in D7 and D30 numbers. The social and referral aspects were also expected to kick-in and contribute to our growth. While we incorporated multiple social & referral features to increase the organic traffic, the long term retention was the key for success/failure. D30 for Ludo and Parchisi had been above 7% and we expected the same from Bankrupt as well.
Team started brainstorming on different ways the long term retention can be improved. Fulfilling players' top requests, introduction of a leaderboard & improvements in the onboarding flow were the major themes that emerged from the discussions.
One of the major requests coming from the players community was to add a Big Board. Players loved buying properties. The Big Board was intended to serve players who wanted more strategic and in-depth gameplay and were willing to spend more time on each game. After releasing the Big Board we immediately saw a significant increase in our major KPIs.
Our D30 jumped from 3% to 4.5%. This was because the seasoned players who had started their journey on the small board preferred to move on to the big board. The Big Board held them more because of the strategy element. But the D30 was still quite far from our expectations.
Next we started working on the leaderboard which was designed to target engaged & competitive players . To ensure that participating players have good chances of winning rewards, we made 2 design decisions.
- Players would be grouped into 200 each. To earn rewards, players would only compete against their own group members.
- Players having similar engagement levels will be grouped together.
After releasing the leaderboard we observed the time spent increased by approx 15%. Also D30 retention reached 5% but it was still quite low when compared with our target of 7%
For us, the next step was to focus on onboarding and teaching players how to play the game. Team worked on these onboarding flows and it definitely helped us in moving up our D1 retention from 30% to 32%. But there was no impact on D30 retention.
We were at least 8-9 months deep in the experiment cycles. At this time the game had decent retention but not good enough to sustain & grow. Additionally, the organic growth via social media was not kicking. After much deliberation and thought we concluded that we probably won't be able to fix retention and organic growth will continue to be an issue. We decided to finally say goodbye to the game.
Bankrupt was very close to us. We worked hard to make it a success like Ludo STAR and Parchisi STAR. The whole development process helped us learn a lot.
Key Learnings :
- Better onboarding flow may help in improving D1 but if the game is not offering lot of depth, then it won't help in increasing the long term retention.
- More strategic gameplay (yet simple) is necessary to improve long term retention and Bankrupt was unable to provide that.
- Reaching out to players interested in the popular IP of Business Game was almost impossible without collaborating with the IP holder
Business Trade Board Game is still a market which has not been cracked. If someone cracks it in the future, we will be super happy to learn how they did it.