When monetizing a game, you need to make a lot of choices.
Some of them will be right, some will be wrong.
Speaking of choices, in this article, I’m analyzing a game called Choices. More precisely, its monetization strategy.
Keep reading to find out everything about Choices: Stories You Play monetization and all the other things that contribute to the game’s success.
About Choices: Stories You Play
Choices: Stories You Play was released in August 2016 by Pixelberry Studios.
These games revolve around lifestyle topics, especially around customization. For example, fashion, decoration, interactive storytelling, etc.
Choices falls into a specific lifestyle subgenre – interactive story.
Games like Choices are also frequently called “visual novel games” and “interactive narrative games”.
However, let’s not get too caught up in classification.
In Choices: Stories You Play, the main focus is on interactive storytelling. Players can make decisions (dialogue lines, outfits) that have an effect on the narrative. Besides this, the game combines strategic advertising, superb storytelling, and smart monetization strategy.
All of this contributes to the game’s success.
Let’s see just how successful the game is, according to GameRefinery’s iOS data.
During its lifetime, the game has gotten 32.7 million downloads and $175,4 million in revenue. This puts it in second place in the subgenre, behind its main competitor – Episode by Pocket Gems.
The subgenre is not only competitive, but it’s also more and more profitable.
According to App Annie, in 2020, the consumer spend in interactive story games grew by 25% year-over-year.
With all of this in mind, let’s go over the main factors that make Choices: Stories You Play monetization successful.
First Time User Experience
When players first launch Choices, the first thing they get is a – choice.
What better way to follow the theme of the game.
More precisely, they get an opportunity to pick between two genres for their first story – romance or steamy. Next, they get to pick a book of their choice.
After that, they are thrown right into the game’s tutorial, where they need to personalize their character.
The whole first-time user experience in Choices is about the players. It’s about their interests, picks, and customization choices. This makes the players feel good and motivates them to play the game further.
This game uses a “contextual lesson” type of tutorial. It teaches players how to play the game while they are playing it, using short written instructions.
The tutorial starts with choosing a look and a name for their character. This is where they find out that some looks can be bought with premium currency.
Of course, in this phase, there is no need to purchase it.
Learning doesn’t stop here – the tutorial is spread across the game. Whenever there is a new thing players should know about, they get short instructions titled “tutorial”.
One of these things is the game’s economy. As you can see above, the game explains that some choices cost diamonds and what this means for players.
This type of game should deliver a simple and seamless user experience. It should feel like reading a real book.
Just without paper cuts.
Choices delivers this kind of experience.
Within the narrative, players can proceed with a simple tap anywhere on the screen. The same simplicity applies to picking between different dialogue choices.
Whenever players go back to the game’s home screen, they should be able to track their progress. For this reason, the first thing they can see on the home screen is the last book they played. They can also see other books at their disposal, free and VIP.
Additionally, on the home screen, players can see their currency count, their account profile, and a “rewards” section. All in all, the game’s UI is simple and intuitive.
How Does Choices: The Stories You Play Work?
Choices is a game that is all about narrative and decision-making.
Since not all people enjoy the same narratives, the game offers a lot of different books to choose from. They cover various topics – from romance to horror and sci-fi.
Just like real-life books, they consist of multiple chapters. These are also the game’s natural transitions.
Equally important, the game allows players to impact the narratives.
A few times in each chapter, players need to make conversational choices that affect further dialogue. The other types of choices they are faced with are customization choices, e.g., picking an outfit.
Every choice they make matters.
Not only does this impact the course of the narrative, but it also shapes their personality and their relationships with other characters.
All of this makes players care about making the best choices possible. This is where the game meets the players and tries to monetize them.
Choices: Stories You Play Monetization Strategy Breakdown
Interactive story games typically attract a casual female audience.
Their main motivation to play the game is the thrill of the narrative. The fact that the players can control the story makes the game even more exciting. To make things even more interesting, some players are ready to spend.
However, the majority of players won’t spend a dime on the game. For this reason, Choices has them covered too.
Keep reading to find out more about Choices: Stories You Play Monetization strategy.
Which Monetization Models Choices Uses?
Choices is one of many games that embraced the trend of hybrid monetization.
Therefore, it monetizes with in-app purchases (main strategy), in-app ads, and subscriptions (additional strategies).
Keep reading to find out how all three blend together.
Choices In-App Purchases Strategy and Setup
The game’s economy consists of two currencies – keys and diamonds.
What’s interesting about them is that there is no classic hard and soft currency division. They can both be bought with real money, they are both important, and have different purposes.
Players can use diamonds to buy certain decisions that control the story. These decisions are always clearly better than the free ones next to them.
Not only that, but they can help players access exclusive scenes, unlock new outfits, and boost relationships. In other words, they provide a premium gameplay experience.
Keys work as an energy currency. Players need them to start a chapter or to restart it and make changes to their choices.
Every time players use all their keys, the wait timers appear. In other words, their sessions are restricted.
In-App Purchase Price Points and Bestsellers
Both above-mentioned currencies can be found in the game’s store.
Diamonds come in five different packs, with price points ranging from $1.99 to $99.99. The smallest pack has purposely been made the least attractive of them all. It is the only one that doesn’t come with a discount. Obviously, the focus is on higher-priced offers.
The game may be missing out here.
The thing is, there are not enough low-priced offers – only two of them are under $20. For this reason, the offers might be off-putting for low-spending players.
Keys come in three different packs, from $1.99 to $39.99. Again, only the bigger packs are discounted.
The store also offers a VIP subscription, which I will cover later in the article.
Wondering what players buy most?
The non-discounted, cheapest diamond pack ($1.99) is the game’s bestseller. Also, the smallest key pack is among the top three. This tells us that Choices players’ tendency is not to spend a lot of money on single packs.
Therefore, it would definitely be good to include more offers for low-spenders.
As you can see, both of the game’s currencies sell well. This is because they are both valuable in their own way.
However, the motivations to purchase them are completely different.
Players buy diamonds because they crave getting the best possible outcomes. On the other hand, the main motivation to purchase keys is to play longer sessions.
Most importantly, players definitely don’t lack the motivation to spend money on this game.
How In-App Purchases Really Work in Choices?
In order to get better insight into how Choices monetizes its players, I played the game for 6 days.
Here comes my playing diary and my main findings.
In order to analyze Choices, I picked its most popular book – “The Royal Romance”. It’s a romantic story in which a waitress catches the attention of a prince.
On the first day of playing, I got a taste of a premium gameplay experience.
The game gives players a stash of diamonds and keys to get them started. With them, they can pick premium choices, and their sessions don’t feel limited.
I did all of this and still didn’t spend a lot of currencies.
After completing the first chapter, players can see the chapter rewards they’ve won. They also find out that there is something called the “VIP Bonus” that doubles up these rewards.
This naturally sparks people’s interest, so I went to check it out.
It’s a subscription offer that costs $14.99. The subscription brings a full VIP pack: diamonds, unlimited keys, bonus rewards, and VIP books. It lasts for one month and renews automatically.
One thing is for sure – it brings better value for money than the offers in the store.
However, players probably won’t be keen on buying the subscription this early in the game. They are still enjoying the premium experience. Hence, they are not missing out on anything nor feel restricted.
At least not yet.
Nevertheless, it’s great that the game subtly introduced the subscription. This way, the players interested in becoming a VIP will check it out, while others won’t. It’s completely optional.
In the second chapter, my character was getting ready for a royal ball.
Don’t want to mess that up.
Before the ball, I had to pick out an outfit for my character. There were three choices, one of which was purchasable with diamonds. That one seemed most appropriate (of course). Therefore, I bought it, just like most players would.
After this chapter ended, I got the chance to restart it for the very first time. This is where I learned I could go back in the game and alter my choices.
In Choices, players often wonder, “What if I picked out the other decision? Would the chapter end differently?” With this option, they can find out the answers to these questions.
In this phase, players have plenty of keys to try this out. However, in the later stages of the game, this is a potential monetization opportunity.
On my third day of playing, I found myself in a tricky situation in the narrative.
I had to confront a bully named Olivia and comfort my new acquaintance, Hanna. There was a choice between two decisions, one of which would make my character look real bad.
However, the better choice was a paid option.
This is where I spent almost all of the diamonds I received at the beginning. This is an important point for the game’s monetization strategy. For the first time, players can feel resources lacking.
From this moment on, they start thinking about ways to earn or buy extra resources.
In chapter 4, it finally happened.
The prince asked my character to meet him outside. This sounds like a dream come true, the moment where the real fairytale begins.
But only for payers, sorry.
A choice between a free and paid option appeared, and I had no currency to go with the paid one. Trying to pick the paid option brought me an offer to buy the smallest pack of diamonds ($1.99).
This is where the premium gameplay experience stops.
It happens at the point where players are engaged with the game and start running out of resources. However, perhaps the best thing about it is how it complies with the narrative.
This choice would potentially bring a whole new twist to the story. However, not everyone gets to find out what happens.
My character was getting ready for a derby, and I was supposed to pick out a modern outfit.
I went to the closet, and two out of three outfits were purchasable. Plus, the free one was the least modern of all.
At this point, a lot of players feel frustrated because their choices are very limited.
Since I didn’t really have a choice, I picked the free outfit.
Luckily, this didn’t have any impact on the story. These outfit choices are obviously here just to make players more or less happy.
On day six, I played another chapter. Again, I couldn’t afford premium choices – no big deal.
Once I finished the chapter, I got the first IAP pop-up in the game. It said “hot deal”, and it was inviting me to visit the store and get some more diamonds.
After that, I noticed a change on the home screen.
Instead of the book I last played, the first thing I could now see on the screen was a VIP book.
This is a great placement for the offer, and here’s why.
In this part of the screen, players were previously engaging with the book they were playing. Therefore, they are used to paying attention to it.
This strategy doesn’t feel too aggressive either. The game is basically telling players, “Hey, check this out!” Moreover, players can still find the book they’ve been playing underneath.
The timing to highlight the VIP features is also right. At this point in the game, the players are engaged enough to consider them.
Choices In-App Ads
How do you keep the non-spenders engaged and stop them from churning?
One way to do this is to give them the option to watch opt-in ads and earn resources themselves.
Which Ad Format Is Used in Choices?
Choices relies on one ad format – rewarded video ads.
This is the most popular ad format of all – 82% of game developers use them (DeltaDNA).
Why is that?
They are completely optional and don’t interfere with gameplay. Moreover, they are a natural fit for other monetization models. In fact, 4 in 5 developers believe rewarded video ads work best in a hybrid model (Walnut).
In Choices, rewarded video ads allow players to earn a couple of diamonds per day. This keeps non-payers from churning and brings additional revenue to the developer.
How Frequently Do Ads Appear?
During 6 days of playing Choices, I stumbled upon two rewarded video ad placements.
The game doesn’t wait too long to introduce them.
Players are eligible to watch them after they finish the first chapter. After that, they are able to look for them on the home screen any time they want.
Let me explain exactly where they appear and what they bring to the table.
One of the features on the home screen is called “rewards”.
In it, players can find a rewarded video ad placement – daily ads.
It works on a simple principle. Players can watch 3 ads per day, and each of them will bring them 1 diamond.
This means they can earn up to 3 diamonds per day.
If we know they would pay $1.99 for 20 diamonds in the store, this is certainly a good incentive to watch ads every day.
This isn’t something that brings players the absolute premium experience. However, if they are patient and persistent enough, non-payers can earn a decent number of diamonds. Besides watching ads, they can get them for completing challenges (daily check-in, playing 7 days total, etc.).
If they do all of this, they will be able to occasionally pick premium choices.
After I completed chapter 2 and claimed my rewards, I got a pop-up invite to watch a rewarded video.
Since it said, “watch an ad from our sponsors,” the game apparently has sponsorship agreements. This is yet another revenue stream for the game.
This way, players can earn 1 diamond. This should be motivating enough for them to watch the ad.
The placement is also good because finishing a chapter is a natural break in the game. This is where players will either exit the game or proceed to the next chapter. Logically, there is a better chance that those who proceed to the next chapter will engage with the ad.
In interactive story games like Choices, almost all the focus is on the core game – storytelling.
While this has its advantages, it’s not particularly great for retention rates. The thing is, these games lack social features, diversity, and additional progression mechanics.
All of these things are very important for user retention. At Deconstructor of Fun, they even call retention rates for interactive story games “notoriously low”.
Ok, so what is this game doing to overcome these challenges?
One of the main strategies is putting a focus on the content. If the stories are interesting and captivating enough, more players will continue playing the game.
Some other retention techniques Choices uses are:
- Social media connection
- Push notifications (rare)
- Daily login rewards
Choices: Stories You Play Monetization Insights
You’re probably wondering, “How good is this game’s monetization strategy?”
From my point of view, it’s not perfect, but it’s very good.
As I mentioned before, the main thing I would change about it is the number of low-priced offers. Since the majority of payers are low-spenders, it would be good to give them more options.
Now, let’s focus on the good.
The best thing about Choices: Stories You Play monetization is how optional it is. The game’s title seems to apply to its monetization strategy as well.
Even though there are plenty of purchasing options and free monetization models involved, players aren’t forced to do anything.
It’s not mandatory for them to buy diamonds for better story outcomes. Nor do they need to pick out purchasable outfits.
If players don’t spend a dime on the game, they can continue playing anyway. They just probably won’t be as happy with some of the choices they make.
The most “aggressive” monetization strategy in this game is session restriction.
Players can’t access new chapters whenever they want. However, this is something players can get used to and adapt their playing schedules.
In addition to this, let me list some other good things about Choices: Stories you Play monetization strategy:
- Combining three monetization models
- Introducing IAP actions in the tutorial
- Strategic rewarded video ad placements
- Rare IAP pop-ups
- Subtly introducing subscription options
Wrapping Up on Choices: Stories You Play Monetization
To sum up, Choices uses monetization strategies that make the most sense for this type of game.
It provides players with the motivation to spend. At the same time, it doesn’t make non-payers feel powerless.
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