GDC: Game numbers from Kongregate

Some Kongregate games had success in selling items costing as much as $5,000

In a presentation at GDC today, Kongregate showed some of the numbers behind their games and offered important advice for developers on how to best monetize their games. Some of their key pieces of advice: Make sure players can spend at least $1000 or more on your game, don't cap spending on the game by availability or utility, and don't underprice your game items. The talk was well-attended, with several hundred people in the audience interested in finding out some of the key metrics behind Kongregate's games.

The presentation was given by Kongregate COO Emily Greer and Developer Relations Manager Anthony Pecorella. They had obtained permission from a number of developers to show metrics for their games, and they provided significant amounts of examples to illustrate their advice. Key metrics that Kongregate tracks include the percentage of repeat players, which they define as someone who plays the game more than once no matter how long it is between plays; the number of repeat players who become regular players; and the number of regular players who become addicts.

Some of the conclusions Kongregate has drawn from their metrics are that the number of players who make it to the end-game state are crucial to revenue, and that the games that produce the most revenue tend to have guilds or leagues, feature player-versus-player gameplay, and offer visible status results to players.

One of the several comparisons Kongregate used for illustrating their points was between Swords & Potions, which they called a "hare", and Business Tycoon Online, which Kongregate labeled the "tortoise." Swords & Potions is slick and accessible, with an effective tutorial and compelling early play, but it loses steam in the end-game. Business Tycoon Online, by contrast, is dense with options and has a high learning curve with a lengthy tutorial. It's slow to get into initially, but the end-game is compelling. Repeat players for S&P were 55.6%, while repeaters for BTO were only 25.8%. The repeaters who turned into regular players were 56.9% for S&P, while it was only 20.9% for BTO. The number of regular players who turned into addicts was where this changed; S&P had 51.9% conversions, while BTO leaped to 60.1%.

Monetization also showed some clear differences between the two games: S&P features packages priced from $1 to $50, while BTO has packages ranging from $1 to $1,000 to buy virtual currency. S&P's currency offers no breaks for buying larger amounts, while BTO offers big bonuses for large currency buys. S&P does offer a beginner's discount for some packages, while BTO doesn't. In S&P, everything can be earned through play, while in BTO there are many things that can only be purchased with hard currency. Finally, upgrades in S&P are priced from 50 cents to $10, while in BTO upgrades ranged from 5 cents all the way to $5,000 (and yes, they sold some of those). Crucially, in S&P it's difficult to spend more than $100.

How did all this work out in revenue? The percentage of buyers for S&P was 2.93%, while for BTO it was only 0.71%. But the Monthly Average Revenue Per Paying User (MARPPU) was $17.07 for S&P, while it was a staggering $96.22 for BTO.

Finally, the Monthly Average Revenue Per User (MARPU) was $0.50 for S&P, while it was $0.69 for BTO. They had nearly identical lifetime ARPU.

According to Kongregate, the winner in the end was Swords & Potions, which turned in higher revenue overall due to its greater ability to build a big user base through the easy acquisition of new players. Still, they probably could have done much better at revenue by adopting some of the features of Business Tycoon Online, including an array of much higher priced goods and a more compelling end game.

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