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Game monetization design: Analysis of Hay Day
by Pete Koistila on 06/09/14 03:42:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Game experience: heavily addictive – know your limits

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs.

Supercell team has understood what Jobs meant. Overall game experience of Hay Day is extremely entertaining, user friendly and most of all fun. Storytelling and overall ambience are well-finalized and tutorial section guides player well into gaming mode. Once player is set into the gaming mode, player stays in for many hours in a row. Hmm… feels like a déjà vu to me? Yes, I felt like this while playing Clash of Clans by Supercell.

I can realize why Hay Day is very addictive and why it creates turnover to Supercell regularly. Let’s analyze the reasons more detailed.

Core loop: it runs like a Swiss clock

Well-designed core loop rewards player for being active and promises progress for each return session. The core loop of Hay Day seems to consist of four different core actions:

  1. By planting & harvesting crops you get experience points (XP) & ingredients for manufacturing & feeding the animals.
  2. By collecting manufactured resources you get experience points.
  3. By selling manufactured resources you get experience points and coins (soft currency).
  4. By purchasing new manufacturing equipment you use coins and time, but get experience points.

Hay Day core loop

Image: Core loop of Hay Day [1]

Retention: something for all player types

Do you remember while I analyzed Clash of Clans? The key indicators Supercell is tracking are 1, 7 and 30-day retention rates. That’s why players won’t lose their interest easily: all stages of Hay Day are heavily analyzed and optimized. There is something for all player types all the time. No matter if you are a newbie, mid-range or elite player.

Retention rate measures how effective you are at getting players to come back to your game. For example what percentage of the players who played your game in day 1 are still playing in day 2. [2]

Hay Day seems to have really good stickyness stats as DAU per MAU percentage of Hay Day Facebook app according to Metricsmonk is about 50%. How come this is possible?

More detailed look reveals Hay Day seems to have multiple retention techniques in use:

  • Tutorial phase of the game is very well designed. Tutorial phase is extremely important. If player won’t continue to play the game, because it’s too complicated the game might be deleted or forgotten. In the tutorial phase of Hay Day newbie is well and easily learning how to play Hay Day.
  • Player is kept busy and Starbucks test is passed. No matter if you have 30 seconds or 30 minutes game session ahead there is something fun to do all the time. Smaller and bigger achievements are gained regularly. Not many inactive periods exist within the game.
  • iPad lock screen messages invite player back into the game. Lock screen messages like “Milk is ready to be collected” keep on popping up once you leave your iPad for few hours. No money is spent unless player is playing the game.
  • Limited time offers. Sale counter tickers and offers in the Hay Day newspaper might fasten your progress in the game. You just want to go back and check the newspaper again.
  • Events board. “Visitor bonus – visitors pay double the price for limited time only”. Once again, you just want to go back and see if there are visitors.
  • Timers for in-game production. Player keeps on coming back again and again to see how well their mini-tasks are progressing (e.g. Milk is ready to be collected).
  • Items unlocking at certain levels. Player is curious to continue to see the unlocked items ahead. It’s good to have sticky features for different player types. Have a look at Explorers and Achievers of Bartle test and then rethink the purpose of items unlocking at certain levels.

Many of the retention techniques in use are actually based on the theories of persuasion and human psychology. So I recommend game designers to study consumer behavior and sales psychology.

Monetization: it’s not just milking cash cows

The principles of game monetization design seem to work really well as does the game core loop design and the tracking of the core analytics. Still things could be done better :-) For example social aspect is lacking of some monetization elements (see the next chapter for suggested improvements). Also the topic itself (farming with pigs and cows) might prevent some of the players from starting the game at all. Pigs and cows have very different meanings for Muslims and Hindus than Christians. Despite these facts Hay Day is generating revenues very well: estimated daily revenues vary from 185000 USD to about 2 million USD according Think Gaming and analyst Tero Kuittinen. [4, 6]

The following elements seem to work well:

  • Dual currency mechanism; soft currency (coins) and hard currency (diamonds). Diamonds and coins can be both purchased with real money.
  • User spending is optimized: Player always have something to buy, but for “whales” (big spenders) there could be even more to purchase.
  • Player progress – levelling system: with levelling systems Supercell gains monetization opportunities. Achievements are well listed.
  • Storages get full unless you use diamonds or spend time to gather resources to expand the storages.
  • Time is spent for core loop activities unless you once again use diamonds to fasten the progress. Otherwise you spend a lot of time with the game.

Hay Day also has some monetization features which are lacking from Clash of Clans (CoC) such as sale banner counting sale time in minutes and global trade with friends.

Social aspect: how to generate even more buzz?

There has been a lot of discussions that there is no need to use real money because Google is full of Hay Day cheats available. Phrase “Hay Day cheats” results over 14,1 million search results in Google in early June 2014 as the amount of the search results in January 2014 for the same phrase “Hay Day cheats” was 6,6 million. So players keep on buzzing more than ever. The other thing is how many of these “cheats” are there for purpose. Just to keep players in playing and discussing about Hay Day.

Compared to Clash of Clans (CoC) Hay Day seems to be missing some of the following features of social aspect which could increase monetization faster. Note: some of the following features have been added in the later release versions of Hay Day. This blog post is based on the Hay Day version 1.15.34:

  • Social aspect of Hay Day is not guiding towards adding friends as well as CoC
  • Role of adding friends (“helpers”) is left pretty open for a newbie: Why should I add friends? What do I get out of it?
  • The key message why player should add friends is hidden under one single smiley face icon (click smiley face icon on any farm next to farm name to see the key message). Why this key message is not shown after “Add friends” button is clicked? At least until player has added friends it could be shown.
  • Global chat board is missing (compared to CoC): I noticed neighborhood chat feature was added into later version of Hay Day, which is a great enhancement. [5]
  • Global top player rankings are missing (compared to CoC). At least I could not find those at level 10 still? Some player types want to be best and show it all. No matter what it cost. Ranking lists create whales. Top players of ranking lists might work as brand ambassidors (compare to elite-guild player Jorge Yao of CoC).
  • In CoC players could unite to form elite-groups. Why in Hay Day players can’t unite to form mass production “farming guilds”? Farming guilds could compete against each other and single players could get incentives for uniting.

Despite the previously listed suggestions social aspect seems to work better than ever. According to Metricsmonk Daily Average Users (DAU) of Hay Day Facebook app is around 7,5 million and Monthly Average Users (MAU) is around 15,8 million on June 9, 2014.

So I’m happy to finalize my blog post with the same sentence as I used for Clash of Clans: “Figures won’t lie, social aspect, game experience, core loop, retention and monetization all work better than ever. Try it yourself and you are hooked.”.

This blog post is based on the Hay Day version 1.15.34 (current version is 1.18.166). [5]

 

References:

[1] Deconstructor of Fun, Behind the Success of Hay Day

http://www.deconstructoroffun.com/2013/01/behind-success-of-hay-day.html

[2] Gamesbrief.com, The business of games, Retention rate, churn and duration

http://www.gamesbrief.com/2011/11/retention-rate-churn-and-duration/

[3] Metricsmonk, App Detail: Hay Day | metricsmonk.com

http://metricsmonk.com/apps/facebook/333917559972367-hay-day

[4] Think Gaming, Hay Day revenue estimates

http://thinkgaming.com/app-sales-data/4/hay-day/

[5] Appannie.com, Hay Day – What’s new

http://www.appannie.com/apps/ios/app/hay-day/

[6] Bgr.com, Flappy Bird revenue: Clash of Clans makes 60 times more money

http://bgr.com/2014/02/11/flappy-bird-revenue-clash-of-clans/


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