App Marketing Conversations: Candy Crush Is…Crushing It. PvZ2 Makes Successful Transition to F2P

by GameHouse

In this weeks Apps Marketing Conversations: Ryan Morel of GameHouse, Robi Ganguly of Apptentive and Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ discuss Candy Crush’ continued run atop the app store charts and Plants vs. Zombies 2 making a successful transition to free to play.

Watch the video here, or read the transcript below. Make sure to check out the other segments in this weeks App Marketing Conversations from Apptentive & MobileDevHQ!

Ryan: Good morning. Welcome to another installment of App Marketing Conversations. I am Ryan Morel of Gamehouse. As always, I am here with Ian Sefferman of Mobile Dev HQ and Robi Ganguly of Apptentive. How are we doing this morning, guys?

Ian: Great.

Robi: Well.

Ryan: Good. So, today, we are going to talk about two separate apps. And one, which is in a continued run of success, almost like no other. And another, the second is a new one. So, the first is Candy Crush. And it seems like everyone on the planet has played Candy Crush at this point. Everyone, it seems, except for you. Everyone in it has probably paid for something in Candy Crush. And, so, this morning, Ian, you were looking at it and saw that’s it’s still number three overall top downloaded?

Ian: Yeah. Number three in overall top downloads.

Ryan: And number two top-grossing.

Ian: And number two top-grossing.

Ryan: And so, we have to be going on six months, nine months, 12 months?

Ian: That’s a long time. I can’t even remember the first time I saw it.

Ryan: So, I think the first question is, at least that I have, and we can talk about some other things that they have done to be successful later, but, how are they still acquiring users at this point?

Ian: I am constantly amazed at the places that I see Candy Crush saga show up now. I was impressed when it went to in-app advertising on other apps. I was like, “Wow. They actually have some budget. I’m seeing them on a regular basis.”

Robi: I feel like I’ve talked about that. A few months ago.

Ryan: Ian did the funny kind of voice that he saw on TV.

Ian: And then I saw it on TV. Now I hear it on the radio. It’s all over the place. And so, they are clearly finding general interest, middle America type folks.

Ryan: Yeah. Well, I think the interesting thing is, especially when you compare Candy Crush to Clash of Clans and Hay-day, is they aren’t necessarily in the top downloads to the point that Candy Crush is, but they are always in the same top-grossing. So, does that mean that they are turning more, more people who are willing to pay Candy Crush than Hay-day and Clash of Clans? Is that something for them to be worried about in long term, do you think?

Ian: For Clash of Clans toward them?

Ryan: No. Toward Candy Crush. That was a really well-phrased question.

Ian: So, I think what you and some of our customers have seen is the longer time you are out, you better hope that the more generally applicable you are. Otherwise, your cost for install goes way up. Because you have to find the right targeted folks after expanding all of those folks. So, Candy Crush is in a good spot, because anybody can use it on a bus, anybody can use it on a plane. There are a lot of places for the general consumer. They obviously have to hit like a saturation point at some point. I have no idea what their international usage looks like. So, my guess is if they’re 50 percent of the way there in the United States, what are they internationally? Is that where they need to go next? And is that the same position?

Ian: What do you think?

Robi: I think it’s kind of funny how we look at this and say, “Wow, it’s amazing that we are getting it on the radio. And that people are still downloading this.” Because, I don’t know, 15 years ago, a movie comes up, you would hear across all those channels, and sometimes it would flop and sometimes it would do really well. Like, “Titanic”. For nine months, it sort of topped the charts, pulling people in the theaters, going like, “Huh.” That’s just an incredibly successful movie. So, I mean, it sort of feels like incredibly successful media franchises have very long legs. And they do cover a lot of people. We just feel very shocked by it now because media has become so fresh, but, they are a universal thing.

Ian: But there is a little bit of difference in there, right? Which is, “Titanic” is a massive budget, by all accounts expected to do massive amounts of money. Whereas, Candy Crush is a relatively simple thing that was able to start here. It’s like an indie film, which does well in one random film festival.

Ryan: “The Blair Witch Project”.

Ian: Yeah. “The Blair Witch Project”; that’s a great example. So, it’s like slightly different. People get surprised by “The Blair Witch Project”, while they might not get surprised by “Titanic”.

Robi: Yeah. That’s definitely true. And I think that that sort of speaks to the way the distributional has really turned things on their head, too, because, why was “Titanic” so expensive? Well, part of it was that the whole story around the movie could start off being, “Wow. This is a huge, big budget film.”

Ryan: I think the really interesting thing here is that, to some extent the dream is alive. And, King is a well-established, large company that has resources. But there are other companies who have done similar things that just kind of started from nothing.

Ian: King is a well-established company but it’s only a few years old.

Ryan: Yeah. But, it’s a stack of money. It’s some amount of revenue. The three of us couldn’t go make “Titanic”, right? But, we probably couldn’t go build an app either. But, three people could, and do it well, and all of a sudden, create this huge franchise. How much is being brought in from Candy Crush? A million dollars a day?

Ian: I would think, at least.

Ryan: At least. I mean, that’s pretty amazing. This is available for pretty much anybody. Obviously. So, congratulations to King, and hopefully they can keep it up.

So, the second thing is the release of Plants vs. Zombies 2 last week, which they denoted the name. It’s about time. Because it took them so long to get it out. But, I think the interesting thing they did was that PopCap has long been a company focused on downloadable space and pay $9.99, $19.99 to get a game, and it’s yours, and everything in it is yours. And Plants vs. Zombies is one of their first really big moves away from that model and into the freedom play model, which, I think they have done pretty well.

So, as of today, it sits number one top downloads, number 20 top-grossing, something like 16 to probably 20 million downloads at this point in the first week, which is fantastic. What have you seen from the game itself, or from PopCap, about their move into freedom play and kind of how they thought about it?

Ian: So, I haven’t installed Plants vs. Zombies 2 yet, but, from all external perspectives, it looks like moving to freedom play is still the way of the future. It becomes better and better everyday. The opportunities to get in front of more people as a publisher and as a marketer and then to monetize from there becomes easier.

Robi: I mean, I think that it’s interesting, too, because if we look back, I don’t know how long ago it was now, almost a year maybe, and PopCap had been integrated into EA and part of that and then there were layoffs. And the part of layoffs, they were talking about where the business was shifting and they specifically said the shift to freedom play has surprised us, and that is why we are making aggressive moves right now. And it looks like, hopefully, inside they feel like that was the right bet, but, it looks like, externally, they put resources on the right stuff.

Ryan: Yeah. I think I have played, and maybe a little too much. The interesting thing is I think this is a really good case study in how you can use freedom play for games that aren’t necessarily consumable, “Oh, I need to buy more coin. I need to buy more men,” I mean there is some aspect of that. But, one of the things that I really like, and I really appreciate as a consumer, is that it’s really clear what you’re getting for the money you spend. It’s like, “You want to play these additional five levels? Great, that’s another $1.99.”

Ian: So, what are the mechanics like? Is it sort of, “You’ve reached this point, you cannot go any further unless you pay?”

Ryan: You can go back and play through everything again, try to get more stars and more keys and all this stuff, or you can just pay.

Ian: Got it.

Ryan: “You’re going to pay? Great. Take your money.” And the thing I like about that is, and we have started to see this a little bit more, especially the removal of the Xbox points, is the move away from platform-specific currencies and coins into just dollar amounts, that people really understand. Because it’s easier to count in your head. It’s like, “This is a dollar if I want to play? Well, yeah, it’s worth a dollar. I’ll pay that,” versus, “That’s 500 points. How much is 500 points? I don’t really know.”

So, I think for companies that are looking to make a move away from straight pay games into freedom play, they pay for the next pack. Anything else to add here, guys?

Robi: Nice job to both King and PopCap.

Ryan: Can we have some of that? Alright. Thank you very much for watching. Make sure to subscribe to our channel, like this video and watch the other segments from Ian and Robi.

By Ryan Morel

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