Mobile game Crossy Road has made $10m in just over three months since its launch in November 2014, including $3m from in-game video advertisements.
Developer Hipster Whale revealed the revenues figure in a presentation at the GDC conference in San Francisco, during which co-founders Matt Hall and Andy Sum also said that the game has been downloaded more than 50m times so far.
According to Polygon, Hall described himself as “happily surprised” by Crossy Road’s success, noting that the developer made several design decisions – including being unaggressive in the promotion of in-app purchases – that have likely reduced its revenues.
“If you make a game that’s only about business, you’re going to get Candy Crush clones,” said Hall. Instead Crossy Road took its inspiration from 1980s arcade game Frogger, providing players with a variety of characters to tap across roads and rivers – and ultimately, to splat against or under cars, trucks and trains.
Players earn currency from playing that can be spent on unlocking new characters, with no timers, lives or pay-gates forcing them to delay or pay to continue playing as much as they want.
“Obviously, $10m is fantastic. That’s way, way, way, way, way more than we thought we would get. But someone on the free-to-play business would look at those numbers and think we could make a lot more per user. But, if we changed it … if we followed some of those best practices … if we sold coins and had a ‘save-me’ button and it felt like the other games, would anyone have cared?”
At least $3m of Crossy Road’s revenues have come from its in-game video advertisements – usually for other mobile games – which players can choose to watch to earn more currency.
That figure was revealed in a separate GDC talk by Jussi Laakkonen of games tech firm Unity, whose advertising network Hipster Whale is using for its game. Crossy Road had earned $1m from the ads by mid-January, but the game’s Android release has fuelled another $2m since.
“The success of Crossy Road with Unity Ads shows that mobile games can make millions of dollars with ads that users choose to watch,” said Laakkonen, according to industry site PocketGamer.biz. “Opt-in, seamless part of the game and high monetisation - that’s the holy grail of in-game mobile ads.”
Hall is right that $10m in three months may seem relatively small compared to the most lucrative freemium games: as a comparison, Candy Crush Saga players spent $1.33bn on that game in 2014 alone – more than $3.6m a day.
Not every developer wants to make a Candy Crush though. Hall is hoping that publishing Crossy Road’s figures will inspire other independent developers to realise that there are many ways to approach freemium without fleecing gamers and over-concentrating on heavy-spending “whale” players.
“Once you realise you don’t have to hunt whales, and you can make money in this way, then hopefully people will give it a shot, and we’ll get lots of cool stuff on the app store,” he told Polygon.
In the case of Crossy Road, the next “cool stuff” will be an update featuring British characters, including busby-wearing guards and policemen, judging by recent tweets by artist Ben Weatherall.
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 4th March 2015 09.39 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010