In this Metacast episode, Aaron Bush and Thomas Baker, join your host Maria Gillies to discuss Naavik Pro’s recent deconstruction of Garena Free Fire, and how the game found success in a crowded battle royale market. The team also discusses the recent dip in mobile game earnings duiring Q1 2022 and the announcement of Bloodborne Kart, a fan mod-project centered from Bloodborne PSX creator Lilith Walther.

PocketGamer’s 2022 Mobile Games Awards

Congratulations to the winning games:

Free Fire Deconstruction

Reference: Naavik’s Garena Free Fire deconstruction

  • Part of Naavik’s recent expansion of 2nd vertical in F2P Mobile, in addition to Blockchain Games
    • Next deconstruction is of Cookie Run: Kingdom
    • More value for the same subscription cost of Naavik Pro

Gameplay Overview

  • Battle Royale genre: as popularized by PUBG
  • Succeeded on lower-end Android market in key regions of Southeast Asia, Latin America, India, and North America
    • 1B downloads worldwide, especially dominant in emerging economies
    • Was an under-served niche when FF launched in 2017
  • Critical success features
    • Lower player count: 50 instead of 100 → smaller map required, less RAM, more compatible with mobile format
    • Plentiful loot, mobile-friendly gun play
    • Players are generally evenly matched → not as dexterity/skill-based
    • Distilled Fortnite-like building capabilities with Gloo walls to lower barrier to entry
  • Performance was phenomenal in 2018 - 2021
    • But momentum is recently slowing, likely part of post-COVID tail winds
    • Recently launched FF Max → higher-end version

Garena Overview

  • Started as a game publisher, then rebranded to Sea Limited
  • Built on key early platform partnership with Tencent
  • FF is first and only major step to self-published games
  • Re-investing profits into e-commerce (via Shopee) and financial services (via SeaMoney)
  • Interesting model: Leverage cashflow and distribution networks to build larger ecosystems in digital services → but quite rare

Unconventional monetization mechanics

  • Players pay for power, not just cosmetics
    • Positioned in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone → significant enough but not overly unfair
    • Randomized elements dilute the purchased power
  • Cosmetics and power elements are temporary
    • Success may not translate with typical Tier 1 audiences
  • That said, FF is also taking off on Android in US
    • Accounting for significant revenue despite having a low percentage of downloads
    • Important to manage US market well, especially with recent ban in India

Suggestions for next steps for FF

  • Consider slowing down content treadmill and refocusing on technical performance
  • Could expand cross-platform, building on acquisition of Phoenix Labs, builder of Dauntless (cross-platform F2P game)
  • Spin out trans-media, like Riot did with League of Legends
  • Expand User-Generated Content to differentiate further as a mobile-based battle royale, building on Craftland feature

Mobile Game Earnings - Q1 22

Reference: Sensor Tower reported that mobile game earnings were down 7% in Q1 2022

Broader context

  • Q1 2021 saw a 25% increase in mobile game sales: Boosted by COVID lock-downs, prior to IDFA deprecation
  • More of a natural reset, likely cyclical phenomenon

Other observations

  • Larger decline in Google Play store versus Apple App store.
    • Possibly because Android owners are likely lower-income, with greater representation in blue collar roles affected by COVID-19
  • Consistent top grossing games: Honor of Kings, PUBG Mobile, Genshin Impact
    • Tailwinds from large and well-established Chinese gaming market

Bloodborne Kart

Reference: Fan project building on Bloodborne

  • Creator had previously launched a well-received PSX demake
  • Interesting game options e.g. increase loading times, lower frame rates to emulate PS 1 experience

Positive reactions from this genre/IP-bending project

  • e.g. of when Syndicate was rebooted as an FPS
  • Allows players to access the game on PC
  • Kudos to developer From Software for supporting fan access
  • Passion-driven, high-quality fan project → Part of broader phenomenon of bringing modding activity to a higher level
    • Reference: Interview with Scott Reismanis of
    • Opportunity for studios to enable fan-based mods to be integration with the original game, versus indie developers building standalone offshoots