Disney Magic Kingdoms by Gameloft is a mobile game that has been on the market for a while now. From its 2016 release until now, it surpassed the 100 million downloads mark and earned around $200 million in revenue. (AppMagic)
But what makes this game interesting is the boost in downloads it received recently.
In May 2023, the downloads for Disney Magic Kingdom jumped to more than 3 million, following the addition of Star Wars and The Mandalorian characters and attractions. To put that into perspective, during the past 12 months, the game received ‘only’ about 500,000 to 700,000 each month. (AppMagic)
A sudden uptick in downloads is not that common for an older game. But it shows the power of Live Ops coupled with a popular IP.
Does that mean that Gameloft cracked the code for maximizing the lifespan of mobile games and achieving long-term longevity?
Let’s find out!
Disney Magic Kingdoms: An Introduction
Disney Magic Kingdoms is a casual simulation mobile game. It also belongs to the idle genre. It revolves around the magical world of Disney where players create and manage their very own Disney theme park. Developed by Gameloft, this immersive game offers a captivating experience for Disney enthusiasts of all ages.
In Disney Magic Kingdoms, players are tasked with the exciting challenge of building and expanding their dream park, complete with iconic attractions, beloved characters, and decorations. The game combines elements of city-building, tycoon games, and adventure to deliver an engaging gameplay experience.
But this is only a fragment of what makes it so successful.
The main thing that makes this game stand out among similar games is the fact it leverages the immense popularity and recognition of Disney’s intellectual property.
Taking Advantage of a Mega Popular IP
The game seamlessly integrates iconic characters, stories, and attractions from various Disney franchises, which creates a rich and nostalgic experience for players. That makes it appealing to all Disney fans, which makes user acquisition a less daunting, and often cheaper, task.
This highlights the value of leveraging well-known IPs to attract and engage players, as it taps into existing fan bases and evokes a sense of familiarity and excitement.
Gameloft is not new to IP-based games. It also published IP titles like My Little Pony: Mane Merge, LEGO Star Wars: Castaways, Sonic Runners Adventure, and others.
It’s not even the studio’s only Disney game. There’s Disney Getaway Blast, another Disney-themed mobile game, and Disney Dreamlight Valley, available on PC and consoles.
The former is a new, but exceptionally successful life simulation adventure video game that’s getting rave reviews. Releasing it on mobile would be a smart choice for Gameloft and an exciting continuation of its partnership with Disney.
How Open Is Disney for Licensing Deals?
Game publishers like EA, PlayStation, Bethesda, Ubisoft, Square Enix, Gameloft, Xbox, and Take-Two have all licensed the Disney IP.
That might make you think licensing a mega-popular IP such as Disney is out of reach, especially if you’re an indie developer. But in fact, Disney is quite open to collaboration.
In 2022, Disney announced it exited game publishing and will focus solely on licensing deals. The company emphasized they’re open to working with both bigger and smaller studios.
“We’re very open.”, Walt Disney Games’ Sean Shoptaw explains in an interview for GamesIndustry.biz. “For us, the passion that folks have, regardless of the size of their studio, is the most important element to making a great product.”
But, of course, licensing a Disney IP doesn’t guarantee a successful game – game publishers still have to make an addictive game.
Here’s how Gameloft tackled this with Disney Magic Kingdoms.
Following the Hybrid Casual Trend
Disney Magic Kingdoms can be classified as a hybrid game because it combines several genres, as well as elements of both casual and mid-core gameplay.
That makes it appeal to a broad audience, including casual players who enjoy relaxed and accessible gameplay experiences, as well as mid-core players who seek deeper engagement and progression.
The game’s casual elements are evident in its intuitive controls, simple mechanics, and user-friendly interface. There are no complex decision-making or extensive time commitments.
Casual players can enjoy the game at their own pace, exploring the Disney-themed world, collecting characters, and completing quests without feeling overwhelmed.
On the other hand, Disney Magic Kingdoms incorporates mid-core elements that provide depth and strategic challenges. Most notably, the game offers a progression system through character leveling, attraction upgrades, and quest completion.
Players need to strategize their park layout, optimize resource allocation, and make decisions that impact long-term growth. The inclusion of timed events, limited-time content, and the option for in-app purchases caters to players who desire more engagement and competitive aspects within the game.
By combining casual accessibility with mid-core gameplay depth, Disney Magic Kingdoms appeals to a wide range of players.
Let’s delve deeper into the game’s target audience.
Casting a Wide Net
As we’ve established, the target audience for Disney Magic Kingdoms encompasses a broad range of players in terms of their skill level and interests.
It’s also designed to appeal to both kids and adults. The game’s content and gameplay mechanics are crafted in a way that caters to a wide age range – it’s suitable for players of various demographics.
For kids, the game offers a vibrant and colorful world populated by beloved Disney characters. It’s wholesome and innocent, which makes it suitable for younger audiences.
At the same time, Disney Magic Kingdoms also caters to adult players by incorporating some strategic elements, management mechanics, and long-term progression systems. Adults who appreciate Disney’s intellectual property and have a fondness for theme parks can find enjoyment in constructing their own virtual Disney park and interacting with iconic characters.
Also, Disney Magic Kingdoms provides a virtual experience that resonates with individuals who have visited Disney theme parks or have an interest in doing so.
Appealing to such a large and diverse audience of gamers allows Gameloft to maximize Disney Magic Kingdoms’ user base and potentially earn more revenue.
Disney Magic Kingdoms Gameplay Concept
At the beginning of the game, players are given a small plot of land and limited resources. They must strategically construct attractions, such as Space Mountain, Cinderella Castle, and Pirates of the Caribbean, to attract visitors to their park.
The ultimate goal is to create a huge magical kingdom that captures the essence of Disney’s beloved stories and characters.
One of the game’s highlights is the inclusion of over 200 Disney characters, ranging from Mickey Mouse and Cinderella to more recent favorites like Elsa and Moana.
Disney Magic Kingdoms also incorporates an engaging storyline that unfolds as players progress through the game. The storyline involves a malevolent curse cast by iconic Disney villains. Players must overcome it by completing quests and collecting magical artifacts.
Main Game Loop
The game loop in Disney Magic Kingdoms revolves around a cycle of park management, character tasks, and quest progression.
Players construct attractions and concessions to attract visitors, assign characters to perform tasks, and complete quests to earn rewards and progress the storyline. As players advance, they unlock new content, characters, and areas of the park, which expands the possibilities and challenges within the game.
The loop repeats as players continually strive to improve and expand their park, unlock new characters, and complete quests and events.
So even though the basic game loop is relatively simple, the additional features and the ability to unlock new content make it enjoyable long-term.
Let’s analyze each of these features in-depth and find out how they work together.
Main Game Mechanics and Progression Systems in Disney Magic Kingdoms
In this section, I’ll focus on core mechanics and progression systems that make up the Disney Magic Kingdoms gameplay – park construction, resource management, quests, storylines, and characters.
Players start with a small area and expand their park by constructing various attractions, concessions, decorations, and iconic Disney landmarks. Each building has its own requirements, which players must manage strategically.
Essentially, it’s a light-building mechanic borrowed from mid-core games but simplified to make it accessible to casual audiences as well.
While players get to choose the building placements, those decisions aren’t as important as in traditional city building or tycoon games, like SimCity for example.
There are wait timers for building, like in mid-core games.
In turn, buildings earn players resources like Magic. This brings me to another essential aspect of this game – resource management.
Quests and Storylines
Disney Magic Kingdoms features a rich storyline woven into the gameplay. Players embark on quests that follow a narrative, often involving conflicts with Disney villains or fulfilling specific objectives.
Quests provide a sense of purpose, guide player progression, and reward players with experience points, resources, or character tokens.
What’s more, the quest system offers a structured path for players to follow and explore the game’s content. These objectives guide players through different aspects of the game, encouraging them to engage with the various mechanics and systems available.
Completing quests rewards players with experience points, in-game currency (such as Magic and Gems), character tokens, decorations, or exclusive items. These rewards contribute to player progression, allowing them to level up, unlock new attractions or characters, and access additional gameplay features.
Even though this is a mid-core feature often found in genres like RPG, the quests in Disney Magic Kingdoms are fairly straightforward and don’t require much input from the player.
Quests are also integrated with time-limited events that occur in Disney Magic Kingdoms, but more on events later in the article.
As you might expect, Disney characters are at the core of this IP-based game. They have a strong emotional appeal and are beloved and recognized by players of all ages.
By incorporating a wide range of Disney characters into the game, Disney Magic Kingdoms taps into the nostalgic and emotional connection players have with these iconic characters.
They’re one of the main reasons players download this game.
It’s also one of the main reasons they keep playing.
Character Collection System
Gameloft was smart by introducing a character collection system into this game. The goal is to collect all characters from various Disney IPs.
Collecting and interacting with favorite characters evokes positive emotions and enhances player engagement, which in turn fosters a long-lasting attachment to the game.
It’s also the most effective meta-layer for mobile games because it offers the perfect monetization opportunity that boosts retention.
According to SensorTower, character collection was the most dominant meta feature in 2022 among leading games. 70% of top games like Honor of Kings, PUBG Mobile, and Genshin Impact utilize it and base their monetization strategies around it.
In Disney Magic Kingdoms, when players collect all characters (within a theme), they get gems as rewards. This scarce premium currency is another powerful motivator for completing collections.
Leveling Up Characters
One of the main progression systems in this Disney game is leveling up characters. This goes hand in hand with the game’s personalization options (costumes) and gives players long-term goals.
Also, many quests can’t be completed without reaching certain character levels, which ties it all in with core gameplay.
Leveling up a character requires a combination of XP and character tokens. Character tokens are specific items that players need to collect to progress a character to the next level, which makes them a valuable resource.
Learn more about resource management in Disney Magic Kingdoms in the following section.
There are several resources in Disney Magic Kingdoms players need to obtain and manage to advance through the game.
Resource management is another mid-core feature. But as you might guess, it’s simplified for a casual audience, while still providing depth to the game and driving engagement.
Magic is the primary in-game currency in this simulation game. It’s used to build and upgrade attractions, purchase decorations, and clear obstacles within the park.
Players can obtain Magic by collecting income from attractions, completing quests, and fulfilling character tasks. The goal is to carefully balance the spending of Magic so that there’s enough to expand the park and meet the various requirements of quests and character progression.
Gems are the premium currency in the game.
Players can acquire it as a reward or occasional free gift, or purchase it with real money. Gems have multiple uses, including speeding up tasks, unlocking premium content, purchasing special items, or obtaining missing collectibles.
It’s a valuable resource that’s not as readily available as Magic.
Tokens are character-specific items that players need to collect to level up and progress their characters. They’re generated when players complete certain tasks or participate in events.
The game shows players which quests can earn them the required token, making everything easier for casual players. Also, the Character Book reminds players when they have the necessary items for a new character.
However, players need to strategize which characters to focus on, ensuring a steady supply of tokens to unlock new abilities or costumes for their characters.
Time is also an important resource in this mobile game. There are wait timers for actions such as welcoming new characters, upgrading characters, and building.
Players can skip timers with gems, which makes this currency very valuable.
Happiness is a resource that reflects the satisfaction of visitors in the park. It is influenced by the presence of decorations, attractions, and characters, as well as the completion of quests and activities.
Disney Magic Kingdoms Monetization Strategy
Disney Magic Kingdoms employs a hybrid monetization model that combines in-app purchases and ads to maximize revenue. This strategy also offers players a variety of options for enhancing their gameplay experience.
This Disney game offers players the option to make in-app purchases using real-world currency. Offers are based on speeding up progression, unlocking exclusive content, obtaining in-game resources, and removing pop-up ads permanently.
These are the most common ones.
Players can purchase bundles of in-game currency, primarily Gems, which can be used to speed up tasks (i.e., skip wait timers), acquire premium items, or unlock characters.
The game offers bundles or boosters that provide a combination of resources, characters, or bonuses at a discounted price. For example, the Pluto bundle.
These offers can accelerate player progress and provide players with a competitive advantage.
In-App Ads in Disney Magic Kingdoms
Disney Magic Kingdoms incorporates ads as another source of revenue.
The main ad format is rewarded video ads – players’ favorite ad type. By voluntarily watching ads, players can earn rewards such as gems. That makes the players’ experience smoother without the need for direct monetary investment.
Rewarded video ads can also be a gateway to in-app purchases.
By rewarding players for watching an ad with premium currency, developers give players a taste of it. Gameplay with some premium currency to spare is, of course, very satisfying, which might convince some players to spend real money on it.
Retention Strategies in Disney Magic Kingdoms
Retention is where this game excels at.
Staying relevant and popular for all these years was not easy, but by employing various retention strategies, Disney Magic Kingdoms achieved that.
Progression systems such as character collection and leveling up, quests, as well as kingdom expansion are the core of the retention strategy for this Disney game.
It’s simple – if you want players to keep coming back, you need to provide them with long-term goals.
Progression systems achieve just that.
Additional features like push notifications, daily login rewards, and updates also aid retention in this game.
Daily rewards are an effective feature for motivating players to come back every day. This system is quite intricate in Disney Magic Kingdoms, which shows a lot of thought has been put into it.
There’s even a rewards calendar that displays which rewards players can get each day.
Not only do players get daily rewards for logging in, but they also get extra bonuses for keeping the streak by doing it every day. If they lose their streak, players have the option to start over or use gems to save their streak.
On top of that, there’s a monetization feature incorporated here.
Besides free daily rewards, players can also purchase premium rewards. It unlocks all premium welcome rewards and allows players to claim all past days.
These premium welcome rewards are similar to a battle pass, but seem to be available only to new players.
Live Ops – The Key to Success
Everything we’ve talked about so far plays a role in Disney Magic Kingdoms’ success – the popular IP, addictive game mechanics, progression systems, cool features, monetization strategies, etc.
However, I would say that the number one reason for existing players coming back and new players coming in is this game’s live ops strategy.
Live ops are essential for the success of games like Disney Magic Kingdoms. They involve ongoing updates, events, and content releases that keep the game fresh, engaging, and relevant for players.
The way this game is set up (Disney IP + character collection system), makes live ops easy. Consistently adding new characters from the rich Disney universe is a no-brainer and works exceptionally well.
Players not only love all of these characters but also want to collect them all, which seems to be more than enough to keep coming back to the game.
As I hinted at the beginning of this article, Disney Magic Kingdoms’ influx of new players in May lines up perfectly with the early May update and the addition of Star Wars characters.
It’s not a coincidence.
The addition of popular franchises like Star Wars brings in new and existing players who are fans of those franchises, boosting downloads and attracting fresh interest.
Along with adding new characters, Gameloft also incorporates events.
Events introduce themed content, special challenges, and exclusive rewards. Quests during events may require players to complete event-specific tasks or participate in event-related activities. This integration of quests with events provides additional excitement and engagement for players and unique gameplay opportunities.
For example, after Star Wars characters have landed in the game, there was a time-limited event, which allowed players to complete their collection of the original trilogy.
Besides main events, there are also a ton of mini-events players can participate in – there’s always plenty of fresh content for players.
It’s important to note that live ops also present monetization opportunities, especially when introducing new characters or exclusive content. Players who are fans of specific franchises or characters may be more inclined to make in-app purchases to acquire those items.
Disney Magic Kingdoms: A Summary
Here are the main takeaways from Disney Magic Kingdoms.
- Licensing world-famous IPs keeps being a huge trend for mobile games because it aids both paid and organic UA, opens up additional monetization opportunities, and makes live ops easier.
- Combining light mid-core features with casual gameplay results in an enjoyable gameplay experience that has depth.
- Live Ops is a key strategy for increasing a game’s lifecycle by maximizing retention and even attracting new players.