Guest Post: The secrets to Blood Brothers’ success

Editor’s note: DeNA’s Japanese RPG card battler has been a hit for the mobile-social gaming juggernaut since release. As Inside Mobile Apps previously reported, Blood Brothers’ events feature is wildly successful for the game. In a third guest post from Kevin Oke, lead designer at both Adrian Crook & Associates, a social-mobile game design consultancy, and PlayRank, a second screen startup, he analyzes the successful components of Blood Brothers from an outsider’s perspective. He previously wrote guest posts for Inside Mobile Apps which analyzed Supercell’s Clash of Clans and NimbeBit’s Nimbe Quest.

DeNA Mobage’s Blood Brothers for iOS and Android recently celebrated its one year anniversary, and is continuing to monetize very well, with an ARPU that has grown every month since release. With this milestone in mind, now seems like a good time to take a dive into the game and highlight some of the things this collectible card game (CCG) does well.

Although it’s certainly firmly rooted in the conventions of the CCG genre (“hands-off” battles, card fusion, gacha) Blood Brothers does add its own touches of innovation, as explained below.

Blood Brothers PvP battle surfacingPvP

Blood Brothers excels at player vs. player (PvP) on a number of levels, one being surfacing. Good surfacing ensures that players are not only made aware of key AEM (Acquisition, Engagement, Monetization) features and the benefits they stand to gain by using them, but also pushed towards these behaviors via smart timing and offering incentives. This is generally done through contextual dialog boxes and limited time promotions.

As PvP gameplay is traditionally a strong source of retention and monetization, it’s especially important to do surfacing well. Blood Brothers keeps PvP at the forefront of the player’s mind with random PvP battles while the player is progressing through a level. These random battles are effective in several ways:

  • Surfacing of PvP gameplay to get the player interested in it and strengthen its ability to help monetize and retain players.
  • Increases PvP’s effectiveness as a morale sink (morale being the rechargeable energy resource needed to engage in PvP and raid boss fights).
  • Clear, simple goals and incentives (winning streaks reward the player with items) — these suck the player in, extending sessions and draining the player of their morale as they attempt to extend their win streak to hit the next reward.

Although conceptually not unique to Blood Brothers, the inclusion of “all-out attacks” (more effective than regular attacks but three-times more costly in terms of morale) and high level raid bosses that are susceptible to them further help to keep morale a precious resource and make a micro-transaction refill more tempting.

Lastly, compared to the confusing and convoluted user experience (UX) that precludes getting into a PvP match in Rage of Bahamut, there is little such friction in Blood Brothers. Opponent selection filtering options are eliminated in favor of pre-determined choices, and it’s immediately clear to the player what’s at stake with rewards, and how their deck stacks up against their potential opponents. (more…)

DeNA partners with Peter Molyneux’s 22cans for Godus

DeNA 22cans logosJapanese mobile-social gaming giant DeNA and 22cans today announced a partnership to publish Godus, a God game from game studio 22cans.

22cans, which is led by game industry veteran Peter Molyneux, chose to partner with the Tokyo-headquartered DeNA to distribute and market Godus when it launches for Android and iOS. No official release date was revealed. The game will also utilize DeNA’s mobile social-gaming platform for western territories, Japan and Korea.

“We have huge respect for DeNA’s successes in mobile gaming,” said Peter Molyneux, founder of 22cans, in a statement. “By fusing their expertise and experience with our passion and dedication, we are going to make Godus a truly groundbreaking reinvention of the god game genre. As a global leader in developing and publishing mobile games, DeNA is the ideal partner for us to collaborate with on the launch of Godus. Their breadth of expertise working with second and third-party game developers is invaluable as we prepare for the release of Godus on mobile devices.”

Godus is God game in the same vein as Black and White, where in it the user is a God, able to wield divine powers over their devoted followers. The game starts off at the beginning of civilization, and as the user advances, the people in the game will grant the user belief. With this belief, users can create entire lands and shape them in their own vision. Also, there are other worlds and rival Gods to face and challenge via multiplayer. As a God, a user can unleash earthquakes, volcanoes, or tondos upon opponents, as well as deploy armies of their followers into battle.

“One of my first jobs in the video game industry was working on the quality assurance team for Peter’s Populous 2,” said Clive Downie, CEO of DeNAWest, in a statement. “That title and its predecessor set the tone for a whole new generation of games. Fast forward to 2013, and it’s an honor to have the opportunity to work with Peter again on the launch of Godus. Our team is looking forward to working with 22cans on a game that we know will set a new standard for the mobile generation.”

GREE’s Q3 2013 sales declined quarter-over-quarter to $370.9M, profits down 24 percent to $105.7M

GREE logoMobile-social gaming giant GREE today reported 37.9 billion yen ($370.9 million) in revenue and 10.8 billion yen ($105.7 million) in operating profit for the third quarter of 2013, a quarter-over-quarter decline of both sales and profits. Sales fell 4 percent and profits 24 percent. Year-over-year, revenues are down 18 percent from 46.2 billion yen ($452.1 million) in Q3 2012 and operating profit dipped by 56 percent from 24.5 billion yen ($239.7 million).GREE Q3 2013 earnings

The Japanese company, which was established in 2004, also posted an “extraordinary” loss of 4.03 billion yen (39.4 million) on one-time write-off of assets related to some titles. The loss was part of GREE’s plans to shift growth strategy to “selection” and “concentration”, where it will streamline its portfolio of core titles. Card battle titles from Pokelabo, the Japanese game studio GREE acquired in October 2012, are performing well for GREE. Three of the top 25 grossing iOS apps in Japan include Guardian Battle of Glory at No. 7, Sword of Phantasia at No. 10 and Clan Battle of Fate at No. 25. GREE also plans to share its successful Android lessons with Pokelabo, while Pokelabo plans to do the same for GREE with iOS lessons. (more…)

DeNA reports new earnings record with $2.04B in revenue and $775M in operating profit for fiscal year 2012

DeNA logoJapanese mobile-social gaming juggernaut DeNA today reported 52.3 billion yen (approximately $528 million) in revenue for its fourth quarter of 2013, a 22 percent increase year-over-year, while operating profit rose 3 percent from the same quarter of the previous year to 18.2 billion yen ($184 million). For the 2012 fiscal year, the company set a new earnings records with revenues of 202.5 billion yen ($2.04 billion) and 76.8 billion yen ($775 million) in operating profit, up 38 and 28 percent respectively.

“DeNA’s full-year revenues and operating profits increased for the ninth consecutive year, representing growth every year since the company went public,” said Isao Moriyasu, President and CEO of DeNA, in a statement. “We will continue to pursue aggressive growth worldwide for our mobile internet business, especially in the mobile-social games sector.”DeNA earnings report Q4 2012 (more…)

Capcom reports $644.3M in digital revenue, up 6.4% quarter-over-quarter

Capcom logoCapcom today reported net sales of 94.1 billion yen ($952.8 million) and 3 billion yen ($30.4 million) in net income for the 2013 fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2013. Compared to the Japanese gaming company’s yearly results in 2012, net income was down in 2013 by 55.8 percent and net sales were up 14.6 percent.

Notable mobile games included Minna to Monhan Card Master, which is distributed on DeNA’s mobile-social gaming network Mobage, continued to show growth, citing the increase in smartphone market penetration as the growth driver. Resident Evil: Outbreak Survive on Japanese mobile-social gaming giant GREE’s platform continuously acquired new users. Both titles “enjoyed membership” eclipsing two million each. Mobile game developer and publisher Beeline’s Smurf’s Village “has securely built stable sales over a long range.”

Capcom’s digital content business, which includes console, mobile and social games businesses, posted revenues of 63.6 billion yen ($644.3 million), a 6.4 percent uptick year-over-year, while operating income fell significantly year-over-year by 45.2 percent to 7.1 billion yen ($71.5 million).

Capcom estimates 97 billion yen ($982.1 million) in net sales and 12 billion yen ($121.5 million) in operating income for the next fiscal year ending March 31, 2014. The company plans to achieve its forecast by directing its development resources to the development of online games (mobile, PC online and downloads for consumer games), which is a growing area, and by launching major titles such as Monster Hunter 4 and Lost Planet 3 focused on the domestic and overseas markets respectively. (more…)

GungHo’s market cap surges to $9B

Puzzle & Dragons app iconGame company GungHo Online, the makers of the Japanese juggernaut mobile game Puzzle & Dragons, saw its market cap surge to $9 billion as its stock prices significantly jumped in the past few days.

GungHo’s stock, which is traded on the Osaka Stock Exchange, has more than doubled in price in April, increasing by about 20 percent from yesterday to today. As industry watcher and analyst Dr. Serkan Toto pointed out, the swell in the Japanese company’s stock price could be attributed to the recent launch of the English version of Puzzle & Dragons on Android, and the announcement for a version of the puzzle and role-playing game hybrid for the Nintendo DS handheld system and a new spin-off game called Puzzle & Dragons Challenge for iOS and Android (both titles are Japan only).

GungHo’s market cap is larger than other Japanese gaming powerhouses like GREE and DeNA as well as Zynga, which released its quarterly earnings yesterday.

Puzzle & Dragons, which is said to be generating between $62 million to $86 million per month, was labeled by Distimo as the top grossing app worldwide.

WeChat launches TV commercial campaign, targets Singapore

WeChat app iconChina’s largest web company Tencent recently launched a TV commercial campaign for its messaging app WeChat which targets the Singaporen market.

The TV commercial features two Taiwanese celebrities — Alan Luo Zhi-Xiang and Raine Yang. The commercial, which can be seen here, shows the two stars demonstrating some functions of the app, including a voice recognition functionality and stickers, a special emoji. The same TV commercial was used in Taiwan. The TV spot will air on free-to-air channels including Channel 8, Channel U, W drama and E-City starting this week.

Louis Song, country manager of Tencent’s international business group for Malaysia and Singapore, said the Chinese web giant hopes to increase the app’s presence and market share in the country.

“Singapore is a very strong market like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand,” he says. “We are witnessing a sturdy growth in mobile application platforms.”

At the 2013 Boao Forum For Asia in early April, Tencent president Martin Lau revealed that WeChat now has more than 40 million overseas users. In total, WeChat last reported that its user base was more than 300 million. Compared to other messaging apps in the Asian markets, Line Corp.’s Line currently has 120 million users, up by 20 million since January, and South Korean KakaoTalk has 70 million users. In the U.S., messaging app giants like WhatsApp haven’t released user base figures, but its estimated to be as high as 300 million, and Kik Messenger has officially said it now has more than 50 million registered users.

As Kik Interactive CEO Ted Livingston recently told Inside Mobile Apps, “messaging is the killer app in mobile.” Adding that whoever wins messaging will win this era of computing. While the messaging market remains very fragmented, WeChat making a market play in Singapore is another sign of a company wanting to spread its reach and become a global player in messenging.

DeNA’s Chris Plummer on the importance of live events in mobile-social games, especially for monetization

Japanese mobile-social gaming giant DeNA recently gave a talk at the 2013 Game Developers Conference about the success of live events, a gameplay feature, in its Japanese RPG card battler Blood Brothers. DeNA also has live events in other games such as card battle game Marvel: War of Heroes, which just received a new raid boss event featuring Deadpool.

We chatted this week with Chris Plummer, DeNA’s general manager of all North American game studios, about the importance of live events in mobile-social games, especially for monetization.

Chris Plummer headshotInside Mobile Apps: At the 2013 Game Developers Conference, DeNA revealed that events were key to the success of Blood Brothers. Is this a feature that’s as successful in other games from DeNA?

Chris Plummer, DeNA general manager of all North American game studios (pictured right): All of our current first-party games host live events on a regular basis and many of our third-party titles do as well. We feel it’s an essential part of operating a compelling live service that delights and entertains our entire audience of always-connected, mobile players.

IMA: What constitutes an event and what are the different types of events that are in DeNA games?

Plummer: The most important factor for an event is for the experience to be entertaining and engaging. You can’t think about running sales or pushing new content live with a fancy name and expect it to delight or perform like an event. Events must be experienced, played and engaged with deeply. Live events should have their own narrative, features or other elements that define the experience and are unique to the event. Similarly, event rewards should include special items or other valuable things that can only be earned by participating in the event. Limited-time exclusivity is another key element to any good event. ‘Experience it now before it’s over!’ The thought of missing out on a cool experience or rare reward is a powerful concept.

Perhaps the most important ingredient of all is the hourly live operation that happens behind the scenes during each and every DeNA event. Our live event teams work nonstop to ensure that everything stays balanced, exciting and that everyone has a good experience regardless of their level or skill. Live event analysis, tuning and operation is an art form all its own and something DeNA is particularly skilled at. A well-tuned, constantly monitored event will deliver so much more fun and perform significantly better than an event operated without a high degree of care and dedication.

IMA: Other developers, such as a direct competitor like GREE, run events in its mobile-social games as well. What differentiates DeNA’s events in its games versus the competition?

Plummer: What separates DeNA’s events from our competitors really boils down to our focus on delighting customers. A lot of talent, passion and energy goes into crafting and refining every one of our events and it shows in the final experience. After each event, we review all the details and challenge ourselves to make the next event even more fun. In this way, our events are always more entertaining, more rewarding and more fun for players. Try them and you’ll see.

IMA: What effect do events have on the monetization of a game?

Plummer: The way we run events is the single most important factor influencing the monetization in our games. These are always-on, live games and important live services for our players. We operate them with that level of importance in order to unlock their full potential.

IMA: What makes an event success? Are you measuring by an increase in retention, average revenue per user, etc.?

Plummer: Ultimately, an event is a success if it delights our players and they eagerly anticipate the next event. Everything else falls into place if players are happy and having a fantastic time. By focusing on our customers, other benefits like increased engagement and monetization come naturally.

IMA: What’s the next evolution for the events gameplay feature in DeNA games in the future, such as raid boss events in the upcoming first-person shooter The Drowning?

Plummer: Events differ by game since each game has its own unique features, content and driving parameters. As such, new event types evolve based on the unique attributes of each game. You may see some similar event types in our games, like our very successful Raid Boss framework, but you will also see new and surprising event types unfolding as new game systems are released or existing games continue to grow.

Mobile apps news roundup: Kabam, GameStick, Wooga and more

Kabam logoKabam launches $50 fund to help bring Japanese games to the West – Mobile-social gaming developer Kabam told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that the company has established a $50 million fund to help bring Japanese games to Western markets. The money provided by Kabam to Japanese game developers will help with localization, translation, analytics tracking, marketing, user acquisition, retention and more. Other major gaming giants like DeNA, GREE, Zynga and Pocket Gems have all invested more and more into the publishing of third-party titles.

playjamPlayJam delays GameStick shipments by two months – PlayJam informed Kickstarter backers of its Android-based games console GameStick that it’s delaying the shipments of the device from April to June. The delay is due to an unexpected amount of units to produce and the company’s apparently-low bank balance, which led to PlayJam changing its shipment plans for the units from air-freight to shipping via boat. Inside Mobile Apps last got its hands on the GameStick a few weeks ago during the 2013 Game Developers Conference.

Plain Vanilla logoPlain Vanilla lands $2.4M in second round funding – Plain Vanilla, the Icelandic game studio known for its trivia games such as Twilight QuizUp, landed $2.4 million in second round funding, which brings its total funding to $3.4 million. With the new influx in cash, Plain vanilla wants to build out its trivia games into a platform.

Wooga logoWooga releases mobile-exclusive title Pocket Village – Wooga released Pocket Village this week, its first exclusively mobile title, for iOS. Inside Mobile Apps first learned about the village building sim back in February.

GREEGREE updates MLB: Full Deck with 2013 rosters and new features – With the start of the 2013 Major League Baseball season, GREE updated its MLB: Full Deck with the 2013 rosters for all 30 MLB clubs. GREE also added new player-versus-player features, including the ability for users to accumulate points with each PVP win and gain rewards from multiple tiers. Other updates include re-designed player profiles, an improved tutorial, new live events and a fresher user interface.

Puzzle & Dragons is the top grossing app worldwide, Distimo says

Puzzle & Dragons app iconDistimo’s new monthly blog post series titled “Top Global Apps” named GungHo Online’s Puzzle & Dragons as the top grossing app worldwide as of March.

Before digging into the rest of the top revenue generating apps for iOS and Android, Distimo first listed off the top five free apps for iOS and Android based on downloads worldwide. For iOS, the most downloaded free app in March was King’s Candy Crush Saga, which is a match-3 puzzle game that was all the rage at the 2013 Game Developers Conference a couple of weeks ago. On Google Play, Facebook was the No. 1 free app in terms of global downloads. Interestingly, four of the top five apps for Google Play were communication or social networking apps, with Temple Run 2 as the one exception. On the other hand, three of the five apps for the Apple App Store were games, while the other two apps were Google-published apps — YouTube and Google Maps.

Moving on to the top five paid apps for iOS and Android based on downloads worldwide, messaging app WhatsApp Messenger came in first for the Apple App Store and keyboard app SwiftKey Keyboard for Google Play. According to a report from Digital Trends, WhatsApp is rumored to be in acquisition talks with Google, a deal that would be “close to” $1 billion. The remaining four paid apps for the Apple App Store were games. For Google Play, four of the five apps were utility apps — including SwiftKey Keyboard — with Minecraft – Pocket Edition as the lone game.

Aside from Puzzle & Dragons, which was already alluded to as the top grossing app worldwide, on the Apple App Store, Finnish developer Supercell’s Clash of Clans grabbed the No. 1 spot and Hay Day took the No. 3 spot on the top five revenue generating apps chart for iOS. While apps from all of these charts generated most downloads in the U.S., the top five revenue generating apps for google Play included apps that were localized in Asia, hence generating most revenue from countries like Japan and Korea instead of the U.S. The puzzle and RPG hybrid title Puzzle & Dragons was No. 1, while three of the remaining four apps on the top five revenue generating apps chart for Google Play were games from Korea including WeMade Entertainment’s 윈드러너 for Kakao and CJ E&M’s 다함께 차차차 for Kakao. Candy Crush Saga was the one game that was generating most of its money from English-speaking territories like the U.S., Australia and large European countries.

All the data from Distimo’s blog post came from its premium subscription-based service AppIQ, which allows its customers to see how many downloads and how much money almost any Android or iOS app makes.Distimo top free iOS March 2013Distimo top free Android March 2013Distimo top paid iOS March 2013Distimo top paid Android March 2013Distimo top grossing iOS March 2013Distimo top grossing Android March 2013


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