Frozen City post-IDFA global launch UA case study

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Let’s start with introducing the company Century Games. They have over 1,000 employees in 8 countries across four continents. Century Games is a global game developer and publisher. Actually pretty interesting case. From $1 million/month in 2020 to $20 million/month now. Holy shit! What a ride!

Is this even possible in the post IDFA world? But UA is dead?! I must be dreaming.. 

Since 2010, they have released numerous popular online and mobile games ranging from casual to mid-core genres. You can see a few of these in the picture below. How did I find this company? I was doing some fake ads research and one of their games Valor Legends was using the Save the dog icon.


We already recorded a podcast about the global launch of Frozen City a while ago:

I also like to look into the numbers post-global launch, and it seems now its a good time. In the middle of writing this, I received an exciting message from Jesper Gustavsson about a new game that was just global launched, and it looks very similar to Frozen City – Whiteout Survival. Let’s talk about both games!

Frozen City overview

It is a pretty good & fun game!

Frozen city consists of character well-being, town/city/settlement development, and the ability to create and own settlements. As soon as the player enters the game, they are introduced to the game through a conversation between survivors. The players see the conversation about how they need to set up a fire and survive.


When the player enters the game, they see a conversation between survivors. The player has to assign and use the survivors and assign tasks to them to help them survive and sustain life in their newly built community.

As soon as the player enters the game, their first task is to find wood and use it to ignite the fire. Then the players will move on to other tasks while they make sure to keep the fire burning, while they build their community to fulfill their various needs.

The player has to do the tasks while taking care of the well-being of the survivors. Each survivor needs rest, food, and warmth. When any of the survivor’s need for necessities is on the lower side of the bar, the player can revive them using the facilities built in the community.

As the player keeps playing and improving the community, it will reach a maximum level. The player can move onto another city/town on the map to search for new resources and enhance their lifestyle differently. Once the player reaches the maximum level of a community, the help of that place will become an unlimited source.

USER ACQUISITION & NUMBERS

When we discussed the Top 10 revenue countries on the podcast, the United Kingdom and Germany earned more than South Korea. But that changed in the last few weeks. Revenue per download is looking pretty good in US & in KR.

When global launching a game, it’s important to have full team on the UA, analytics and creative side. If you don’t have it, you either work with publisher/partner or an agency/consultant. Let’s get to the actual UA operation:

Channel mix

Applovin is the most extensive channel in terms of spending on both iOS and Android.

  • Not surprising at all. I remember talking to Mr. Felix about Idle games scaling exceptionally well on Applovin on AdROAS campaigns both on iOS and Android! This is what is happening here!
  • We can see both videos and playables in their creative mix. But 50% of their overall spend goes to playable on Applovin!

Facebook

  • What is surprising is the fact that I have downloaded the game immediately after our podcast and I still see Frozen City creatives! As Mr. Jonathan Winters mentioned, this could be a global launch tactic to get more eyeballs and remind players about the game.
  • I don’t know. Feels like such a waste of resources. In my world, it’s called excluding existing players.

Google

  • They started scaling on Youtube quite heavily in the last few weeks.
  • Using mainly 30 second videos + some static images.

TikTok

  • It looks tiny, and they run only Korean creatives, nothing else!

Unity 

  • Started relatively big, but now scaling back

Applovin playable

We can see they are utilizing all big UA channels: Facebook, Ironsource, Google, Applovin, Vungle, and Unity, and started running some tests on TikTok!

Diversifying the UA portfolio efficiently is not an easy job. Here, we can see a good baseline of plenty of channels and looks like they are optimized. I did some publisher-level analysis again, and they seem to be in excellent shape.

They are showing their ads in games like Idle coffee shop tycoon, Tiny island survival, Bitlife life simulator, earth, and some hypercasual stuff. Not bad!

Also, in February, they already made $5 million in revenues—a pretty exciting story since they global launched the game at the end of December.


CPI vs. LTV? – omg not this picture again!

Yes. Again! Scaling a game is not only a function of a killer user acquisition operation. It is also a function of an LTV. You can only scale your budget until the LTV allows you. Eg. If your LTV is $5, you can run profitable campaigns until you hit $4.5 CPI (or any other CPI that you calculate based on your margins). Why does Frozen City do so well? I worked on some Idle games before.

Generally, they have lower CPIs than other categories. What is important here is the LOW POLY visual design.

Finally, someone realized why hypercasual games use low poly all the time. It drives low CPIs. I was in a lot of discussion about how “fancy or more quality” visual style drives higher IAPs, because of the premium feel of the game. Seriously WTF?

The visual style doesn’t have any impact on IAP. If you have a different opinion, please message me, and let’s discuss it. Why would it have? BUT! There is this game called Whiteout Survival, which is Frozen City but with higher quality visuals, already making the same amount of money in a shorter time! I will look into it later on…

Frozen City is making around 200k USD/day from IAP (in-app purchase), and an additional 15-20% Ad Revenue as Felix calculated. The daily revenue is still growing pretty nicely since launch.

Monetization

The game is heavily inspired by FrostPunk – by 11bit studios.  Similarly, as in Frostpunk the game is a survival idle simulation with RPG auto battler element.

In the idle simulation part, you can see a clear connection to Adventure communist or Gold & Goblins – where the new standard for an idle game is that the resource multipliers are turned into heroes that are upgraded through shard gacha (Clash royale style).

This time they took it one again one step further and not only you multiply resource generation by upgrading the heroes – but you also fight with them in auto battles  ( Animal war/ Art of war legions)

There is also an adventure mode to fight with (roguelike style series of battles)

The interesting innovation to the idle genre is that now again similarly to Gold & Goblins the resource generator are not anymore in a 2D space on a sheet but in a 3d space, which is now a whole nicely themed city around the winter survival – similarly to the progression in a mine with Gold & Goblins.

As in Frost Punk, the city generator (this time it is a giant bonfire) is controlling the temperature of the city and all structures are built around it.

It constantly consumes a resource either wood or coal and you need to keep an eye on the flow of resources otherwise your workers will freeze or starve or you can even overwork them

As with all idle games the reset mechanic not only advances the story but gives you a new town with new resources or a new mechanic. Currently, there are 7 towns on the saga map.

There is very unique resource flow – the best previous resource of the last city is given in infinite quantity as the first resource of the new city to quickly build up the basic setup.

There is also an event mechanic where you have a different themed temporary idle game (fishing event)  that is recurring from Friday to Monday.

The monetization of the game is pretty tight. Already in the 3rd town, the progress pretty much grinds to a halt if you don’t have the correct hero in the resource chain of the multiplier.

Not only are you getting the resource very slowly – Hero upgrades unlock slots for more workers therefore, not having a hero of a specific resource literally stops you – the only way to get him – open gacha boxes and pray.
Ads are also very underutilized compared to other Idle games. Therefore only 15-30% additional revenue on Ads. In other games, this can go 50%+

The game offers free lesser quality gacha boxes for ads every 8 hours or a random resource as a small UI button at the bottom of the screen – which is very small, doesn’t move/animate, and you can easily miss it.

There is also no usual doubling of offline resources – instead, there is only a 2-hour cap for offline gains which you can prolong to 4 hours with a 16.99 subscription – which also does more construction queue, auto-battle speed, and survivors auto placements.

CREATIVE STRATEGY


Looking into the Mobile action ads gallery for a creative research. These are the types of creatives they run:

  • Attention-grabbing videos
  • altered gameplay
  • Gold&Goblins “inspired” videos
  • hypercasual mechanics
  • gameplay with choices

They are using primarily gameplay footage, focused on collecting resources (wood chopping, which some of the other 4X games use too) very similar to what gold&goblins are doing.

Creatives are also focused on a survival theme (DUH!) with a lot of emojis (this is kinda inspired by hypercasual creatives, you could see a lot of emojis in there as well) to underline the emotions. There is also an element of choice in creatives, and guess what? Usually, the choice you (or the hand) make in the creative is wrong, and everybody dies, ehm starves, or freezes to death.

Some of the creatives even have an end card with Pre-register now headline.

Altered gameplay – using manager building and queue of people trying to become the best manager of the camp/city (also full of emojis)

There is a creative with fishing – boats, upgrades, more boats, more fish = again, Gold&Goblins right there.

Hypercasual gameplay – creatives very similar to snow race which was on the top of the ranks for some time.

All in all, there is heavy inspiration coming from the amazing game Gold&Goblins, but it’s actually a pretty clever copy.

They also use multiple different attention-grabbing intros in their creatives where you see the earth being frozen by aliens. (Pretty fun stuff)

We can also see static images showcasing progress.

A pretty interesting mix of all formats. Running playables on ad networks, statics, and videos on Facebook.

Frozen City video examples

Frozen City static images




Anatomy of a well-performing video

Producing a creative winner is not an easy job. Thank you captain obvious! So let’s look at the anatomy of a well-performing creative:

  • Hook
  • Meat
  • Call to Action

The hook:

The first 1-4 seconds of your ad are the most important part. Make the most of this time window by captivating your audience with a powerful, attention-grabbing hook that draws them in to keep watching. Ensure the hook is related to your game at least in some way. This will ensure a smooth transition from the initial hook to the following key message of your creative.

Meat

Attractions of the game itself are highly effective selling points of the game. Show gameplay recordings and share strategies, extraordinary characters, and your unique artistic style. Reveal the elements within your game that make it memorable and unique to new audiences. Also, you can use altered gameplay in your creatives. Not every level you show in the creative needs to be in the game.

Call-to-Action

Don’t forget to add a compelling call-to-action at the end of your video ad. Use your game slogan, a catchy slogan, and a clear button to direct users to the next step. Keep up the momentum and transfer your audience’s attention to the next action – try next level, achieve level XYZ, purchase?!

I have to admit, I am really impressed by their creative concept’s depth. They are constantly bringing new ideas and testing them on Facebook, where you can see at least 120 creatives live. Hats off!

Time introduce the Whiteout Survival

Let’s start by looking at the creatives before I explain their genius move. This is just fucking genius. I was already talking about this in some of my previous articles.

Frozen city vs Whiteout Survival creative comparison

More Whiteout Survival Creative concepts

What do we see here except the best-performing Frozen City videos:

  • Attention-grabbing videos
  • A lot of altered gameplay
  • Hypercasual mechanics
  • Gameplay with choices

Whiteout Survival

Whiteout Survival global launched on February 12 (a month ago). Whiteout Survival is a strategy game centered on a glacial apocalypse theme. Fascinating mechanics and intricate details await you to explore!

Since you got here, you already know what we are seeing here, right?

A thrilling 4X game developed by Century Games. Explore the epic story and lead your survivors through a world of ice and snow. This is what their Facebook Fan page description says. We are again seeing a brilliant move leveraging an Idle game, Frozen city, in the onboarding flow to ease up the funnel.

If you zoom in on the previous screenshot, you could see Whiteout Survival was in the softlaunch for some time and getting revenues. Here comes Jesper again with his brilliant point of view.

This game is just starting to get a lot of attention, they are bombarding me with ads on Facebook and other channels. Again, I see Applovin as a top spender. They seem to know what they are doing!

Takeaways & last comments

  • I have to admit, I totally forgot about how great Frozen City UA operations are and they keep proving they’ve built a solid post-IDFA UA strategy
  • Amazing creative depth, always testing multiple different concepts. From hypercasual mechanics to altered gameplay and competitor “inspiration”
  • For successful global launch and scale, you need both killer UA & killer monetisation strategy. It’s not easy to do it without one or another. In this case, they tested their low poly Idle game first and then when saw it was working, they added it to as onboarding flow to the new 4x game Whiteout Survival

Take a look at the full UA, GD & Admon case study below

As always, special thanks goes to Mobile action for providing the insights! You are awesome!

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