- Solitaire Grand Harvest is developed and published in July 2016 by Austrian developer Supertreat, which was later acquired by Playtika in 2019. The game is a free-to-play tabletop Tripeaks Solitaire game with a mashup of Puzzle/Match level-based saga progression coupled with a Casino game economy.
- The game grew to dominate the solitaire genre, growing in revenue year over year since release, generating lifetime in-app purchase revenue of $600 million over 53.4 million downloads.
- The game borrows the level-based progression on a saga map from Puzzle/Match games, down to replicating the loss aversion moment of running out of moves. The game also borrows the scaling economy of Casino games, with the sources and sinks for Credits (coins) increasing as the player makes progress.
- Solitaire Grand Harvest was a top performer by revenue in 2022 across the three genres it borrows generously from, ranking No. 1 in Tabletop, No. 8 in Puzzle/Match, and No. 4 in Casino. Also, the farming theme has broad appeal for the casual audience on mobile and the game uses it in user acquisition creatives alongside the core solitaire gameplay for targeting its audience.
- The game can improve by adding more social and competition features, as well as reducing its load times and slow UI.
- Solitaire Grand Harvest will continue its dominance as the No. 1 tabletop/solitaire game, and with the team exploring more ways to add content depth (renovation and collection meta), the title can continue to grow on the Puzzle/Match and Casino Top 10 Grossing charts.
Supertreat: Building a Successful Mashup
In July 2016, a small team of less than twenty highly skilled developers founded a new mobile games startup to work on a revolutionary new casual game. This game would “merge completely new gameplay elements with proven mechanics, combine gorgeous graphics with an adorable story, and mix laid-back action with an irresistible gameplay hook,” the company said.
This is how Austrian developer Supertreat came to make their flagship — and as it stands their only — game. Solitaire Grand Harvest (SGH) released after a little less than one year of development, and the design is fairly straightforward. The title is a level-based F2P take on Tripeak Solitaire, a variant of the classic card game in which the goal is to clear three peaks made of cards (refer here for a gameplay demonstration). Supertreat’s take on this, however, has players journey on a saga-style map, expanding their farms and harvesting their crops along the way and earning credits to raise their bets and winnings in every game.
Just within a year of launch, SGH became one of the highest-grossing solitaire titles on mobile. Given its remarkable retention metrics, the game drew the interest of Israeli mobile publisher and developer Playtika, which acquired Supertreat in 2019 for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition was primed to leverage Playtika’s background in social casino. “We are confident that by leveraging our live-ops, game economy, and performance marketing expertise we will make Solitaire Grand Harvest the number one solitaire game in the market,” Playtika Chief Marketing Officer Nir Korczak said of the deal at the time.
Even with existing juggernauts like Scopely’s Solitaire TriPeaks, Big Fish Games’ Fairway Solitaire, and King’s Pyramid Solitaire Saga, Playtika’s SGH grew to dominate the solitaire subgenre of casual puzzle games and has remained the market leader in its genre.
Since its release in June 2017, SGH has made $600 million in in-app purchase (IAP) revenue on over 53.4 million downloads worldwide, with an average revenue per download (RPD) of $11.24. Google Play is the leading platform, accounting for $316 million (53%) of total revenue and 43.6 million (82%) of all downloads, though with lower RPD of $7.25.
On iOS, the game has generated $284 million (47%) of total revenue over just 9.7 million (18%) downloads, creating an outsized RPD of $29.14. The graph above highlights the game’s increasing trendline in downloads and revenue, both of which were further boosted by the Playtika acquisition.
With IDFA depreciation on iOS starting in April 2021, SGH moved to further push their marketing efforts on Android, causing the spike in downloads highlighted above. The trendlines also highlight the strength of SGH’s retention and depth of monetization as revenue continued to increase over the last two years even as downloads declined.
Comparing SGH’s performance with other top-grossing solitaire games aligned by launch, the RPD and revenue trends over the years showcase how much Supertreat’s app is in a league of its own. By year two, the game began experiencing an exponential increase in its downloads and revenue with the Playtika acquisition taking full effect. The performance of the RPD growth in hand with downloads made this game stand out from the others, signaling strong spender retention and deep monetization.
By year five, SGH had generated $360 million in total revenue (400% more than the No. 2 spot), over 44 million total downloads (38% more than the No. 2 spot), and an impressive RPD of $8.17 (111% more than the No. 2 spot). SGH was clearly outperforming the tabletop and solitaire competition, and it was doing so by using a unique mix of proven genre mechanics.
SGH is a well crafted mix of proven mechanics from the Tabletop/Solitaire, Puzzle/Match, and Casino/Slots genres. It's usually hard for developers to deliver an engaging experience across one of these types of games, but SGH’s smart decisions led to an innovative new casual game. For the moment-to-moment gameplay, SGH plays like an arcade-y level-based version of Solitaire TriPeaks. The gameplay balances skill and luck in a compelling way, with snackable two-minute durations perfect for the mobile context.
The level content is also easier to produce than other level-based casual puzzle games, owing to the tight structure of TriPeaks Solitaire with a few alternate mechanics. Supertreat’s releaes cadence of new levels, done so with a relatively small team, highlights this ease of production:
The levels are played on a saga map inspired from Puzzle/Match games and monetized with similar out-of-moves mechanics like other traditional games in the genre. If the player runs out of cards in the talon (the stock deck), the game prompts a +5 Cards purchase to continue playing the level or quit. If a player does decide to end the level, a helpful notification popup reminds them that they will lose the variable rewards they’ve collected in the level so far — a classic loss aversion flow from Puzzle/Match games. The biggest deviation from the Puzzle/Match genre is the use of Credits (coins) as energy to play levels in lieu of the traditional lives system, though these do generate over time similar to lives.
SGH borrows heavily from the Casino/Slots genre in the implementation of its economy around Credits. Like in Casino games, Credits are a highly versatile resource used as energy to play levels, for raising the bet at the start of the level for higher rewards, for purchasing Power Ups to win levels, as well as +5 Cards to continue playing when running out of moves. SGH also features the Credits-scaling economy of Casino games; as players progress, their income of Credits as well as pricing for all Credit sinks in the game increases. The $1 that used to buy 15,000 Credits at Level 100 inflates to buy 35,000 Credits at Level 4,000. This inflation economy is illustrated in the table below:
As a fine cocktail of these three genres, in 2022 by revenue, SGH was a top performer across all of them, ranking No. 1 in Tabletop, No. 8 in Puzzle/Match, and No. 4 in Casino. SGH is also wrapped in a broadly appealing theme of Farming, with players growing and harvesting crops as a real life analogue of generating income over time and working to build dream farms. This essay will cover key insights into how SGH successfully leveraged proven mechanics from different games and genres in the market to make a holistic experience that is greater than the sum of its parts, starting with:
- The game’s year-over-year performance trends
- The solitaire gameplay built for mass appeal
- What SGH borrows from Puzzle/Match games and why
- What SGH borrows from Casino games and why
- How the farming theme brings it all together
- Key Takeaways from creating a genre mashup
Let’s begin by looking at SGH’s historical performance over the years.
Since its release in June 2017, SGH’s IAP revenues have seen steady YoY growth. The team has done a fantastic job keeping players entertained, retained, and spending with a strong content cadence, live ops, and events. This is a notable feat; the game ended making $60 million in 2019 (when the Playtika acquisition happened), growing to $100 million in 2020, and further growing to $169 million in 2021. The revenue growth has seen a deceleration in 2022 ($196 million), growing 16% YoY compared to the 69% growth in 2021 ($169 million), which can be attributed to the downloads trend below. However, that’s still a notable achievement given the broader mobile gaming market’s slump.
SGH has maintained its YoY growth in downloads up until last year when the downloads fell by 35% (from 16.8 million in 2021 to 11 million in 2022). 2021 was the best year in terms of downloads, and this is correlated to the IDFA depreciation in April and Playtika boosting marketing efforts on Google Play during the same time on iOS (the spike in downloads discussed above). With downloads significantly declining YoY in 2022, Playtika has acknowledged that the current marketing environment is “challenging” and it’s harder to scale for profit with performance marketing.
The lifetime performance metrics of SGH highlights the US as its No. 1 region in terms of total revenue ($361 million / 60%) and total downloads (11.2 million / 21%). This is followed by Germany ($49.9 million / 8.3%), UK ($41.9 million / 7%), and Canada ($27 million / 4.5%). The U.S. also has the highest RPD of $32.35. Switzerland is another high RPD region with $30.40, making $5.74 million over 189,000 lifetime downloads.
In terms of downloads, the game is also very popular in low RPD regions like Brazil (No. 2 at 4.41 million / 8.3%), India (No. 3 at 3.68 million / 6.9%), and Philippines (No. 4 at 2.32 million / 4.3%), where it relies more on ad-based monetization. Germany and the U. K. come No. 4 and No. 6 with 3.08 million (5.8%) and 2.16 million (4%) of total downloads, respectively. The regions for top revenue and downloads parallel regions with a high affinity for card games, including solitaire and tripeaks solitaire (referred to as Patience in Europe).
Before getting into the details on what's driving these numbers, let’s take a finer look at the layers of gameplay.
The most common solitaire card game is Klondike, with most people familiar with this version given its popularity on the Windows OS (where it’s been freely included for decades). Tripeaks solitaire is a version that involves sorting cards from a layout in the playing area according to specific rules, with the goal being to remove all cards from the playing area before running out of cards in the stock deck. A quick game of classic tripeaks solitaire can be played here to familiarize yourself with the general rules.
In SGH, each level begins with a unique layout of cards in the playing area with certain face-up cards covering face-down cards. At the bottom of the screen are cards in a stock deck, and the game begins with a face up card drawn from this deck onto the top of the discard pile. Players have to tap any card in the playing area that is one higher or one lower than the top card visible on the discard pile, irrespective of the suit of the cards.
For example, if the top card is a three, players can choose an available two or four from the playing area to move to the top of the discard pile. Once all face up cards covering a face down card are removed from the playing area, the face down card flips face up. The order in which players attempt to play cards adds to the skill (planning and strategy) as well as luck (chance of getting cards in a sequence).
The game continues until either all cards are removed from the playing area, resulting in a win, or until the stock deck runs out, resulting in an out-of-moves situation where players can either continue by purchasing +5 cards or quitting to retry. Each level is scored from one to three Stars depending on how many streaks were completed and how many cards were remaining in the stock deck when the level was won. If the player plays multiple cards from the playing area in a row, it fills a streak meter that rewards the player with bonuses like extra cards, Credits, and increases to the level Star rating meter. The streak breaks when the player draws a card from the stock deck.
The levels are well paced with a variety of layouts and mechanics, and the balance of luck and skill keeps the repetitive gameplay of tapping and matching cards feeling fun and evergreen. The level balancing is on par with the best Puzzle/Match games, bringing players frequently to close wins with a few cards left in the stock deck, and more importantly, near misses with a few cards left in the playing area. The second-to-second in-level gameplay is fast and responsive, and the team has managed to create and operate the level funnel with precise tuning for its intended end level loss aversion moments.
To play a level in SGH requires players to sink Credits, which are used as a replacement of Lives as energy in the game. The pre-level popup shows the cost of playing the level as well as the pre-level Power Ups that can be used to help at the start of the level:
- Remove Cards: removes three cards at the start of the level
- Clear Playables: clears all face-up cards on the playfield
- Wild Drop: adds three Wild Cards (act as any card) to the playfield
The Power Ups are useful, but it's hard to communicate their effects through their icons alone, unless players use them or re-familiarize themselves with the help of the info ‘i’ button. The pre-level popup also communicates rewards for other progression vectors like the Album Collection, Seasonal Gems, Competition Event Trophies, etc.
Players can also choose to increase their stakes in the pre-level popup by tapping +/- to increase their winnings by paying extra Credits, with level difficulty remaining the same. This adds a betting angle to levels, in which players can sink more Credits for the same level attempt to gain more progress. The image above shows that the Credit winnings and the Credit cost to play the level scale proportionately. The Standard Bet costs the Base Cost and comes with a Winnings multiplier of 1x, and the bet can be raised x8, which also comes with a Winnings multiplier of x8! Depending on how cautiously players bet and spend their Credits, their reserves can last 1-8x level attempts.
Level rewards for other progression vectors have their own scaling systems. For example, the Album Collection for a Standard Bet rewards a Green Pack that each provide four cards and lower card rarity, whereas playing on the Extreme Bet rewards the players with two Purple Packs that each provide five cards and higher card rarity. This way players are nudged to play the game on the highest Bet to maximize their progression with every level attempt. This system of wagering is common to Casino games in which players are nudged to raise their bets for higher earnings; it adds a deeper dimension to playing levels.
In-level players have access to two Power Ups, an Undo that places the last card collected to the discard pile back to its source (onto the playing area or the stock deck), and a Wild Card that can be played anytime on top of the discard pile which allows any card to be played on top of it. The Wild Card is particularly useful as using it does not break the streak, and the game highlights this option by spinning the wild card when players are close to completing their streak and if there is no card to play on top of the discard pile. These Power Ups are always available to the player, even when the player runs out of cards and is facing the choice to purchase +5 cards or quitting the level.
The in-level tuning does a great job at frequently creating scenarios for players where they are one card away from completing a streak but there is no card that can be played, leaving the players to choose between breaking the streak or paying for a Wild Card to continue the streak, and get some bonus rewards as well as increasing the Star Bar. The streak is also affected by the color of the suite, with complete single color streaks giving double the bonus rewards and Star Bar increase. This adds another layer for skilled players to use the Wild Card more frequently and maximize their rewards and progress.
The table below captures the Credit costs scaling for all the different sinks in Level 51:
The dollar cost above corresponds to how many Credits the player can buy at the time they are on Level 51, as further in the game the Credits purchased per dollar increases. The cost of the bets are scaled 1-8x but the costs for Wild Cards and +5 Cards scale a bit differently, gently nudging the players to opt for higher bets and increased rewards.
This betting mechanic and cost scaling economy were novel at the time SGH released, with King’s Pyramid Solitaire Saga using the more traditional lives-based economy and Scopely’s Solitaire TriPeaks using a coins-based economy without the betting. Recent releases like Playrix’s Fishdom Solitaire, as well as Fotoable’s Solitaire Home Design, both use SGH’s coins based betting system for their levels.
As players win levels, they progress on the saga map, which is broken into level packs associated with growing different crops. Completing a level pack allows players to grow a new crop in their fields. Every hour the farm becomes ready to harvest and players gather Credits proportional to the crops unlocked, hence proportional to the saga level progress.
Growing a farm alongside the levels makes the progression clear, simple, and understandable with real-world context. When players return to play a session they come back to a farm ready for harvest, with all the crops unlocked ripe and glowing, and the empty fields nudging players onward with crops yet to unlock. Once players complete the last crop, the last level in the game, they are put into a Masters League with other players to compete on replaying old levels until the weekly cadence of new levels (and a new crop) releases. This is the standard endgame loop deployed in most Puzzle/Match games like Homescapes, Royal Match, etc.
Every hour, the farm generates enough coins to play one attempt of a Standard Bet, and winning a level (without using +5 Cards and Power Ups) always rewards the player close to break-even profit alongside progress in the saga, events, and other progression vectors. The cost to play a level is generally lower than the cost to buy the first Wild Card or +5 Cards, and the cost to buy the first Wild Card is always higher than the first +5 Cards. The Wild Card and +5 Cards also scale with successive purchases.
The player’s current Crop Level defines the economy scaling of the Credits for these sources and sinks, illustrated by the table below:
This form of Credits scaling, seen commonly in Casino games, gives players a strong sense of progress as they win and move forward in the saga map, building their farm along the way, growing more crops, and harvesting more Credits. The price increases for playing levels also signals progress to the player, moving to higher wins proportional to their higher costs.
The usual correlation in level-based F2P games is higher the player’s spend per week, the more level attempts they play. By having players betting different amounts, they can pace themselves in unique ways. Overall the game does get more expensive to play per level attempt, meaning players playing the same number of levels with the same bets would monetize more the further they are in the level funnel.
Spenders who differ on a scale of x8 in weekly spending can still play the same amount of time as x1 spenders by playing all attempts with the maximum x8 Extreme Bets. This is a huge incremental innovation on the Puzzle/Match genre of level-based monetization as it allows for spenders spending the same amount of time playing the game to scale their spend 1-8x. This relationship of weekly playtime to weekly spend is more linear in other games lacking this Casino wager system.
All of these call to the strengths of the Supertreat team coming up with a unique genre mix for the core game, and being able to balance and operate the levels as well as the economy to gain the benefits from where they were borrowing from:
- Level-based Puzzle/Match games with level balancing to ensure players more often than not fail closer to the goal, habituating the use of +5 Cards and Power Ups to make faster progress.
- Casino-based scaling of the economy to foster a strong sense of progress with increasing numbers for sources and sinks, as well as deeper monetization of the genre stemming from the balance of higher bets and Credits inflation.
With such a strong core game at its foundation, let's take a look at how the meta keeps the repetition of the core engaging.
As explained earlier, the saga map is broken into level packs each with its own crop to unlock. At the end of each level pack, there is a milestone reward in the form of Crop Master - a reward crate that allows players to pick prizes after completing all the levels in the current level pack. The number of prizes scales according to the number of stars collected the pack, shown by the progress from Wooden Crate (one prize, eight stars) to the Diamond Crate (10 prizes, 48 stars) in the image above.
Players are allowed to replay old levels to gain more stars to upgrade their crates before picking their Crop Master rewards. Once the Crop Master rewards are picked, the level pack is complete and the new crop is unlocked and added to the hourly harvest. From there, players move onto the next level pack. The ‘choose 1-10 from a pool of 15 rewards’ implementation does a great job of elevating the reward moment with variable rewarding and further drives repeated action to unlock the next crop.
The Crop Master functions as a simple vertical progression on top of the level pack for players to maximize rewards and level mastery with every new level pack unlocked. Since this reward can only be redeemed once, players’ focus is maintained on the current pack of levels with the highest economy scaling for Credit sources and sinks. Players are still allowed to play older levels from previous level packs, but there are no real incentives to do so. The saga map also has a spin wheel with variable rewards in the middle of each level pack, which acts as a milestone between Crop Master rewards. On top of the saga map meta, SGH features a whole other vertical progression with its implementation of the Grand Farm, the player’s forever home.
On top of the saga map, the game also features a renovation and decoration meta in a separate area called the Grand Farm. Here players can expand their farm by building and upgrading various buildings set in a predetermined order to increase their Daily Farm Bonus. Similar to harvesting the saga map farm every hour for Credits proportional to the level progress, the Grand Farm can be harvested once a day for Credits proportional to its upgrades. The ways to make progress on the Grand Farm restoration meta is a key new way SGH deviates from other casual games.
The Grand Farm has a separate Seasonal Area for renovation, which lasts about two months and consists of a traditional tasks system for renovation. The resource used to complete tasks is Gems, which can be collected while playing the solitaire levels, with higher bet levels rewarding more Gems. Each Seasonal Area is broken into Chapters with short narratives, and players are required to complete all chapters to win the final season prize. Completing these seasonal tasks also rewards players with Blue Ribbons (a sort of Farm XP) that grants upgrades to the Grand Farm when players reach the next milestone (level up).
In this manner, SGH’s Grand Farm is a persistent representation of the progress made seasonally — make more progress in the seasonal tasks to collect more base farm XP to level up the farm. Since the seasonal tasks have their own pacing and usually only the most dedicated players are able to complete them (<top 10 percentile players), the Grand Farm’s vertical integration on top of the seasonal content makes it a ‘forever home’ as presented in-game. The seasonal pacing also ensures players can't rush and get their Grand Farm fully upgraded but need to work over seasons to make progress. Since the Grand Farm level is tied to the amount of daily Credits available to harvest, this also ensues the economy remains balanced.
Though the Grand Farm works best to set mid-to-long term goals for all players, it pales in comparison to the short onboarding other casual games have with a renovation meta. In SGH, it takes a while to make even the first few upgrades on the Grand Farm — in the time it takes most games to initially complete an area or two to onboard players in the flow of completing renovations, the Grand Farm can take days to complete upgrades on the first two buildings. This slow progression is alleviated a bit by the faster progress at the start in the seasonal tasks.
So we have a persistent saga map meta as well as a persistent renovation meta, but SGH doesn’t stop there — there’s also seasonal collections!
The game features a seasonal card collection called Grand Album that lasts about three months and rewards players for completing sets of cards. Cards have their own rarity, from common one crown cards to rare five crown cards as well as separate legendary cards. Cards are obtained through opening packs of varying rarity won by playing the solitaire levels. The game does a great job creating added loss aversion in the levels by dropping the card packs seemingly randomly when players take a turn playing a card. Only by winning the levels do players get to keep the dropped card packs, after which they are opened like a gacha box to reveal the cards.
If players receive duplicates, which happens often, the cards are converted to their crown value (which increases as per rarity) and can be exchanged in the Crown Center, a shop for buying Credits, Power Ups and Card Packs using crowns. Players win the Grand Prize if they collect all the cards before the season ends. Card packs are also bundled with the items in the store. This feature does a good job of satisfying the completion motivation of players who tend to play level-based casual games, and in-line with the same motivations driving other parts of the game - complete all levels/tasks, collect all crops/cards etc.
The only shortcoming of this system is the lack of persistent progress from season to season, like the implementation of the Grand Farm. An addition of a persistent progress vector that tracks cards collected, crowns collected or sets completed could add the same stickiness benefits the Grand Farm adds to the Seasonal Areas. This is somewhat alleviated in the Grand Album as the season lasts a much longer time.
A short note on few of the other traditional events:
- Carrie’s Carrots: a weekday streak event that gives increasing boosts for winning levels without losing. Losing a level resets the streak and its boosts.
- Lucky Collection: a collection event that lasts a week where players can buy limited edition decorations for their Grand Farm.
- Tournament Events: a weekend event that supercharges competition between players on the most active days.
- Roll & Win: a three-day dice rolling mini-game event.
All the events are built to encourage players to play more levels, betting more to gain progress in the events and incentivized by the loss aversion of losing event tokens when they reach an out-of-cards scenario. For all the seasonal and event tokens to be won from levels, a key caveat is only levels in the Current Crop Level (the last level pack the player is on) or levels in the endgame Masters League are counted.
Players cannot go back on the saga map and play older levels to make progress. This ensures players continue to move forward on the saga map as intended though it does raise the question of why keep the previous levels on the saga map still accessible. Maybe that's a legacy problem that doesn’t need attention as most players only play the newest levels anyway.
This seasonal content driven live-ops strategy seems to be working well for SGH, but given their 2-3 month pace between releases, it does seem slower than other casual games being able to have new seasonal content on a monthly basis. SGH could also do with a team/clan implementation from casual games to deepen the social mechanics and expanding to group based collaboration and competition mechanics.
Shop for Credits
Since Credits are used for every part of the game economy — from energy to play levels to betting and increasing winnings — almost every purchase in the game involves them. Every instance of credits with a dollar value scales with the player’s increasing Crop Level, a common format of Casino game economies. The bundle items like the number of Power Ups and Card Packs remain the same.
The top IAPs are a combination of different packs from the Store. Since these packs are dynamic in nature, often with event offers running on top of them for bonus Credits or Card Packs, they are the foundation of the whole monetization. Players are met with offer pop-ups when returning to the game or running out of coins, but they mostly lead players into the Shop which shows the current running deals.
The game’s out-of-cards flow parallels its Puzzle/Match counterparts where players are nudged by an “Are you sure you want to quit and lose rewards collected in the level?’ prompt when they try to end the level. If players try to make a purchase for +5 Cards or a Wild Card when out of Credits, the game prompts a personalized “Break the Glass" offer based on their Crop Level with a discount on Credits.
If players choose to close the offer, they are taken to the Shop. Level-based Puzzle/Match games treat this out of moves moment as the most important moment in gameplay to get right as it leads to the lion’s share of the monetization. SGH follows a similar path and does a great job balancing the level difficulty dynamically in a way that most out of moves attempts leave players with loads of variable rewards, doubling down on the loss aversion of the moment.
SGH also has a weekly pass (No. 7 in top IAPs) that has a free and premium rewards track that is unlocked by collecting energy. Energy is collected by playing solitaire levels and completing missions. The Credit rewards are scaled according to a player’s Crop Level but also the cost Golden Ticket for the premium pass is segmented. For the early game, it costs $1.99 per weekly pass and can go up to $9.99 for mid to late game players. The energy system ensures players are well paced with the missions and cannot complete all of them and the pass on the first day of the weekly cycle.
Overall, SGH has a well-balanced game economy that rewards players at a rate designed to incentivize continued play. It also provides enough pinch at key moments to encourage spending and balanced for a wide audience from spenders to non-spenders as well as highly engaged to mid and low engaged players.
The content depth provided by the horizontal and vertical progression coupled with the tight Credits and Level balancing drives strong monetization. Looking at 2022, worldwide, unified numbers, SGH’s $10 RPD is on par with Scopely’s Solitaire TriPeaks (No. 2 by top revenue), yet Supertreat’s game generates 2.5 times the revenue from a larger active audience of repeat spenders.
SGH wraps its whole game under the farming theme, a broadly appealing fantasy used effectively in casual games on mobile. The theme adds a lot of real-world analogs to the game mechanics — like crops taking time to grow for harvest — that help make the rules more understandable. The cute animal characters add a lot of charm and personality and are deployed heavily in events, while the creatures’ related win animations are fun and the loss aversion moments intensified by the use of exaggerated sad eyes. The vibrant color scheme and country-style guitar soundtrack adds to the sit-back-and-relax mood.
Solitaire and its farming theme are used heavily in the UA creatives to appeal to the target audience with a combination of:
- Escaping to a “simple life” to take a break and relax from hectic urban lives.
- Echoing an “American dream”-type opportunity and entrepreneurship, which still resonates with casual players.
- Affirming and idolizing the lifestyles of many rural (and especially Midwestern) blue-collar Americans, which they enjoy indulging in.
This combination of theme and gameplay in the creatives has been a proven winner for SGH by drawing their primary audience from other solitaire and card games. For acquiring the attention of Match/Puzzle games, SGH uses intense creatives that implore players to save the animals from grim fate, similar to nightmare creatives used by the genre. For all other casual audiences, SGH uses calming, zen-like creatives that market the solitaire gameplay as a form of relaxation.
SGH’s farm theme is unique to solitaire games. Comparatively, Scopely rebranded its own take on solitaire last year to Tiki Soliatire Tripeaks after eight years on the market, while King relies on a niche theme for casual audiences that marries playing solitaire with exploring the mysteries of Ancient Egypt.
Shaking up Entire Genres
SGH entered the Tabletop/Card Game genre with its solitaire core, borrowing heavily from industry leaders in its genre as well as Match/Puzzle and Casino genres. The team at Supertreat managed to borrow disparate elements and mechanics and integrated them in a smart and accessible way to create an irresistible gameplay hook.
This revolutionary casual game succeeded at a scale that ultimately shook up multiple genres simultaneously. Competing solitaire games have tried to follow suit by taking SGH’s formula and fusing with home decoration gameplay, and Puzzle/Match games have tried to emulate SGH’s casino economy by putting out Royal Match-style spins on Supertreat’s game. Both approaches are in their testing infancy and we’re yet to see a game succeed at scale.
As SGH approaches its seventh year on the market, Supertreat’s tech is starting to show its age. Even though the game remains robust, fast, and snappy when it comes to moment-to-moment gameplay, the loading screens are frequent and even in their absence there are noticeable pauses between opening and closing pop-ups on top of frequent input delays. This gives the game the feel of an early Facebook game, and the current crop of casual mobile players are inclined to perceive any slowness as a function of unforgivable lag.
SGH has achieved something incredibly challenging. It's not just developing the levels or the economy that's difficult, but also operating the product in a way that engages and monetizes a broad audience. While it's possible to create a level-based casual game with core monetization that relies on players spending when they run out of moves, can you ensure that most attempts fail closer to completion, regardless of how varied play may be? Similarly, while you can emulate a casino game economy with the goal of matching their spend depth and RPD, can you balance the economy in a way that is tight but also gives you levers to scale and operate it for years? These are the challenges that SGH has successfully overcome.
Puzzle and casual game titles are growing by leveraging social and competition features, as evidenced by the success of titles like Candy Crush and Royal Match. SGH can achieve even greater success by implementing more social and competition features. While the game currently features leaderboard events for individual players to compete, it lacks a team/clans implementation that could open up new social gameplay avenues, such as collaboration events like a team chest event or a collaboration competition event like a team battle event. Additionally, the game can expand its current individual player competitions by introducing shorter leaderboard events, such as a race event where players must beat a certain number of levels, that can be active more frequently.
SGH has a strong track record in the Tabletop/Card Game genre and is expected to remain at the top. However, the team is exploring additional ways to enhance content depth through features such as renovation and collection. By expanding its audience and implementing new features, SGH has the potential to climb even higher on the Puzzle/Match or Casino genres’ top-grossing charts.