Hi Everyone. We have some fun news to share! Naavik is teaming up with Deconstructor of Fun and Phoenix Games to host a Royal Beach Party at Gamescom. The event will take place at an amazing rooftop beach bar on the evening of August 24th, and it will be a great opportunity to grab a cold drink and hang out with incredible people from across the games industry. Interested in learning more details and RSVPing? You can register here. We can’t wait to see you then!
Open Economies, Social Connectivity & Play — Crypto Corner
On this week’s Crypto Corner, Anton Bernstein, CEO and co-founder of Pocket Worlds, joins Nico Vereecke for a conversation about the future of social connectivity and play. Pocket Worlds is the creator of Highrise and Everskies, two leading mobile Metaverses with a combined userbase of more than 15 million players. We discuss his entrepreneurial journey, learnings from creating highly successful Metaverse Economies, and what role Web3 technology will play in the virtual worlds of the future.
#1: Stumble Guys Finds Its Footing
Clone games are everywhere. But not all survive. Remember when Apple pulled all the fake Wordle games from the App Store? Some, like Fall Guys, now have successful clones in games like Stumble Guys. To be clear, this writeup isn’t so much about how clones might have second mover advantage (Fall Guys isn’t even on mobile), but more so about how unique combinations of process improvement and design decisions can lead to amazing results.
This is particularly true for the hypercasual genre, which has seen faltering performance in recent months due to IDFA. Our friends at Deconstructor of Fun hit the nail on the head for Stumble Guys with this prediction a few months back: “Short term games which follow pop culture trends will be seen more frequently: An increasing portion of the new Hypercasual games that reach a certain level of success will owe their success to following social media and TV show trends, not [necessarily] to original mechanics or innovation in gameplay.”
And yes, recent analysis shows that Stumble Guys has grossed over $21M in revenue and has topped over 160M downloads. I predict this is in part due to Fall Guys’ success and resonate with this news because of a couple factors:
After developing 130 games, Mediatonic found its golden goose in Fall Guys. In many ways, this was a function of timing during the pandemic when people found refuge in multiplayer games. Stumble Guys took inspiration from the same concept and has shown inklings of success.
But, in many ways, Fall Guys was a victim of its own shortcomings. Its (smaller) development team couldn’t meet consumer expectation to transform the game into a F2P and cross-platform entity (much similar to the way Valheim came and went as quickly as it did). That’s likely part of the reason Epic acquired the studio behind the game, because of its experience in scaling cross-platform & F2P games.
And indeed, since it became free to play and was ported to a variety of platforms (including Switch), Fall Guys has seen a bump in activity, 50M players in two weeks. Fall Guys’ decision not to go straight to mobile when they converted to F2P is peculiar to me. They likely knew of Stumble Guys’ momentum, but perhaps it wasn’t as apparent in soft launch and they thought they could delay it. But for now, the meme prevails.
At any rate, mobile gaming has a wide open spot for more casual, social experiences across its portfolio (hindsight is 20/20). My colleague Jordan Phang shared a deft analysis in Naavik Pro on the future of hypercasual – at the time, he wrote:
“Beyond those examples, though, where opportunity may lie is in real multiplayer. There are already some examples like Hex Takeover by Voodoo, which has a PvP mode in addition to the campaign. The potential of real multiplayer can be seen by comparing two Fall Guys clones — Stumble Guys (SG) and Stumble Party Royale (SPR). Both were released very soon after the success of Fall Guys, but SG featured real multiplayer and SPR used the standard fake multiplayer. According to Sensor Tower, SPR peaked at 4 million downloads and $54k in revenue while Stumble Guys has 89 million downloads and $10 million in revenue. It has also seen a wave of popularity in Brazil, massively surging its downloads and revenue this year.”
As Jordan mentions, real multiplayer is a standout feature for SG that SPR didn’t innovate with, likely leaving players with a worse game experience — it’s no secret that bots can feel repetitive and unrealistic. Perhaps, instead, the success of Stumble Guys behooves us to look at the game more as a standalone entity rather than as a clone of Fall Guys.
Today some of the genre-defining features of hypercasual include (of which there are many to draw from): fake multiplayer, imitation of successful games, progression mechanics, fake ads to reality, and choice mechanics. But what it ultimately boils down to are design decisions around endless, repetitive, and simple gameplay. Kitika Games, the studio behind Stumble Guys, was able to perfect this in soft launch before a global release in January 2021. Compounded by the tailwinds of Fall Guys ported cross-platfom, now 18M people log in daily.
Stumble Guys is a standout clone that will continue to perform well so long as the team continues to test for different design mechanics and retains a critical mass of players for multiplayer. The challenge, as is for many hypercasual games, will lie in long-term retention and new user growth — where they were able to innovate and drive real engagement was in their unique twist on multiplayer in the hypercasual genre, let’s hope they can keep the momentum.
While they’re not one-to-one comparisons given platform and feature differences, Fall Guys will continue to have a strong brand, driving licensed cosmetics and partnerships their way. I believe that so long as the team doesn’t enter mobile, Stumble Guys will win the space. Will Kitika Games be able to maintain their success and to launch another hit with these learnings? (Written by Fawzi Itani)
#2 Free Fire: Bringing Battle Royale to the World
This deconstruction of Free Fire was originally posted in Naavik Pro during March. Now, we’re excited to publish the full report for free, and, in collaboration with GameMakers, share a great discussion about it with our team. Note: some data will be outdated, but the trends stand — and you can always sign up to get day one access to all of our premium reports.
Last December, Free Fire, the battle royale game that is still relatively unknown in the West, reached a huge milestone: 1 billion downloads, making it the most downloaded Battle Royale game ever and placing it ahead of PUBG Mobile.
While that is definitely a noteworthy achievement, Free Fire has been breaking records left and right since it launched in September 2017:
In 2021, it was the most downloaded game (fourth in 2018, close second behind PUBG in 2019 and 2020; and finally hitting the first position last year).
In Brazil, a country notoriously known as a no-spender market, it broke records from the start, beating the second best, Clash Royale, by more than 4x.
Free Fire cemented the first position regarding revenue in the Indian market after PUBG was removed from the Indian stores September 2020, and until the recent ban, showed a strong upwards trend in one of the fastest growing markets of the world.
Free Fire was the most watched battle royale game of 2021 (1.08 billions hours watched), slightly edging out Fortnite. Related, since December 2020, Free Fire is the second most watched game on YouTube, after Minecraft.
As we know, the battle royale world is full of big names and stories: Fortnite disappeared from both the App Store and Google Play store after issues with direct payments in the game. India banned PUBG for digital sovereignty reasons with a bang (and returning with a slightly smaller bang and green blood this summer) – a fate that just hit Garena mid-February!
What sets Free Fire – and its developer, Garena – apart is how it breaks a long standing axiom that to be a successful developer, you need to be successful in the West. As we’ll cover in detail in this report, Free Fire rose up in countries like Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, India… and only way later grew in popularity in the United States.
Notably, after such a meteoric rise, daily active users (DAUs) have been steadily dropping since August 2021 – and the decline is occurring across regions. For a company that relies on the profits from its gaming business to fuel reinvestments into its other major ambitions (e-commerce, payments, etc.), this is concerning.
In this essay, we will look into:
How did Garena build up the game to this point? What core design elements of the game led to it becoming so successful across regions?
What are the regional stories – namely SouthEast Asia (SEA), Latin America, India, and the US – and why do they matter?
How does Free Fire and Garena fit into the larger Sea Limited (parent company) ecosystem?
Why has Free Fire been losing users and revenue in recent months? Why has it fallen so precipitously from the peak… and was it actually the peak?
Why did Garena launch an HD version of the game, Free Fire Max, last fall? Plus, what else should we expect from Free Fire going forward?
Content Worth Consuming
Ariana Simpson Talks the Future of Web3 Gaming and the Metaverse (VentureBeat): “Arianna Simpson is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, one of the top venture capital firms investing in tech, games, and crypto.From her perch, Simpson has a broad view of the investment landscape, and it has led her to investments in a variety of cryptocurrency and game companies including Irreverent Labs. She believes in the power of decentralization enabled by blockchain technology, and she also believes that will lead us to the metaverse.” Link
Lumi Interactive CEO on making the world (and games) a kinder place (GI.biz): “In an industry (and a world) that prioritises speed, trends and the next best thing, mobile startup Lumi Interactive wants to give its audience a space to slow down.Bolstered by a recent $6.75 million investment led by Andreessen Horowitz, the Australian studio is poised to build out its team and deliver a full launch of its debut mobile game later this year. Lumi's ethos is a simple one, according to the studio's CEO and co-founder Lauren Clinnick. It wants to make the world a kinder place.” Link
Sonic On The Big Screen Boosts Mobile Games To New Heights (PocketGamer.biz): “For Sonic Forces: Speed Battle, data.ai found a clear correlation between markets where the movie performed well against the top markets by downloads for the game. These were led by Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and France, which were all among the top 10 international markets by gross box office earnings.” Link
Soft Landing to Conversion – Introducing Onboarding Best Practices PART 3 (GameRefinery): “The first time a player makes a purchase in this shop with real money, they will immediately receive the full amount of “bonds” (character shards) needed to acquire a special character for their roster. This character’s passive skill is particularly useful for new players on low player levels since it boosts the experience points gained when offline. But wait, there is more! This conversion incentive is also cleverly linked to retention. After the initial purchase, for two days, the player will receive extra daily log-in rewards that are specially designed to aid in swiftly powering up your character roster.” Link
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