Merge games are growing at a fast pace. They are also making a lot of money.
Obviously, these games are doing something right in terms of monetization.
For this reason, in this article, I’m analyzing best practices for merge games monetization.
Let’s see how these games merge dollar by dollar – into millions.
About Merge Games
Merge games are a subgenre of puzzle games – the most profitable mobile game genre.
In these games, players need to drag the same or similar items and merge them together. Once this is done, these items then turn into new and improved items.
For example, merging three green plants turns them into a flower. On the other hand, three small statues will become a bigger, more beautiful statue.
Upon this, players usually get rewarded with coins, treasures, or in-game characters.
It’s not just the rewards that players like about merge games.
Here’s what they love most about them.
One of the things that make merge games so appealing is their simple gameplay.
It is very quick for a player to pick up a merge game and understand the mechanics. Hence, the learning curve is short, as there are no complex mechanics that require lengthy explanations.
The other is instant satisfaction. When players merge items in these games, they create order out of chaos. This gives some players special fulfillment.
Something similar to finally cleaning up your room.
Finally, merge players enjoy games’ straightforward progression mechanics. They always know their path to the next level, so they always have a goal to strive toward.
Merge Games – Market Overview
This subgenre has been the talk of the town for a while now, and here’s why.
It all started a couple of years back, in 2017, when Gram Games released the first game with merge mechanics – Merge Dragons.
Just like it usually goes, other publishers soon recognized the potential of this mechanic. Hence, they soon started creating merge games of their own.
According to Sensor Tower, from 2019 to 2021, the number of developed merge games tripled. Meanwhile, their download volumes remained relatively stable.
All of this created strong competition, and eventually – market saturation.
When it comes to merge game revenues, they had spiked in 2020. According to Deconstructor of Fun, in 2020, the subgenre grew by 131% in year-over-year revenue. Moreover, in Q2 2021, their revenue volume was almost triple in comparison to Q1 2019 (Sensor Tower).
This was mainly thanks to the three top titles in the subgenre at the time – Merge Magic!, Merge Dragons!, and EverMerge.
Another strong contestant appeared at the end of 2020 – Merge Mansion by Metacore. According to Sensor Tower, by Q2 2021, this game has taken over the merge game market share. It has surpassed Merge Dragons on the top place and gotten to a 30% market share.
The long-time leader, Merge Dragons, is now in second place with a 13% market share, while EverMerge is third with 12%.
As you can see, the dynamics in the merge subgenre are quite exciting.
The most exciting part? The revenues.
Keep reading to find out what are the key merge games monetization strategies that drive their revenue growth.
Merge Games Monetization: Key Strategies
How do merge games monetize? Are they IAP or ad-driven? Do they monetize on core gameplay or meta-features?
Let me answer these questions for you and unveil the main monetization techniques we can find in merge games.
Just like most games in the puzzle genre, most merge games’ revenues come from in-app purchases.
Yet, there are some differences from the rest of the puzzle genre.
Let’s take match-3 games as an example.
In match-3 games, players often get stuck on more difficult levels. For this reason, they usually bring in-app purchase offers that directly assist players. For example, extra moves, purchasable boosts, etc.
On the other hand, in most merge games, the players’ are faced with different issues.
They are not struggling with difficult levels as much as with session restrictions and other limitations. Plus, they are more likely to pay for additional-in-game content.
For this reason, some common merge games monetization features include:
- Pay to skip wait times
- Premium currency
- Time-limited special deals
- Premium content
No, in-app ads are not the main source of revenue for top merge games.
Yet, we can find-in app ads in a lot of them.
This is because they usually appear as an additional revenue stream. In most cases, the ad format that appears in merge games is rewarded video ads.
As we all know, the majority of puzzle players are non-payers. No matter what strategy developers try to get those players to spend money, most of them simply ignore their efforts.
With rewarded video ads, merge game monetization leverages a lot of non-paying players.
At some point, all players run out of resources or need some kind of assistance. In such situations, for those not willing to spend, rewarded video ads can be a lifesaver.
This ad format is also a great fit with in-app purchases. If incorporated correctly, they should not cannibalize each other. In fact, according to ironSource, rewarded video ads have the power to boost IAPs by 6x.
The key to their success?
The right placements.
In merge games, rewarded ads often appear as boosters and time boosters.
The booster placement appears when players need assistance. For example, the option to earn currency by watching an ad when they are stuck.
The time booster placement allows players to decrease wait times by watching rewarded video ads.
Merge games didn’t lose sight of one of the biggest mobile game monetization trends in 2021 – battle pass subscriptions.
They usually appear in a hybrid monetization model that combines IAPs, ads, and subscriptions.
Here’s how they usually work in merge games.
Battle pass subscriptions bring a premium gameplay experience for those players who want it.
In most cases, these are engaged and loyal players.
For this reason, battle passes are usually introduced in later stages of the game, not right away. Usually, it happens after a couple of sessions.
The battle pass subscriptions in merge games usually come in a free and paid version. The paid version typically costs anywhere between $5 and $10.
It’s not even the price that matters most, but the battle pass value.
Battle passes should be one of the game’s most price-worthy offerings. Free battle pass versions give all players a glimpse of this rewarding experience. Paid battle passes are for players who crave premium gameplay.
This is more than a monetization strategy.
It is also a powerful tool to boost engagement and retention in merge games. Plus, it’s a great fit with other monetization strategies, especially in-app purchases.
Meta Layer Monetization
In the same way as match-3 games, merge games are based on a simple mechanic.
Sure, merging is a great mechanic, but it can get repetitive.
Luckily, there is a known way to minimize this risk.
It is meta-layer monetization – a big mobile gaming trend, especially in the casual game category.
In merge games, we can commonly find three types of meta layers:
- Narrative meta
- Light construction and customization meta
- Collectible meta
The main purpose of all of these meta layers is to make merge games more interesting. They help games reach broader audiences and bring players a deeper in-game experience.
All of this should have positive effects on retention rates and give players more to strive for in a game.
Finally, meta layers also influence merge games monetization. They help these games monetize more players, directly or indirectly.
Examples of Merge Games Monetization
If you want to find out about the best merge games monetization practices, it’s best to take a look at the top-grossing charts.
These games climbed all the way up there, so they must be doing something right.
Hence, let’s take a closer look at some of the world’s best merge games.
EverMerge is one of the three top-grossing games in the merge subgenre.
Besides merging, EverMerge players have plenty of other things to watch out for in the game.
Its core loop includes mining, merging, building, and collecting.
Hence, if EverMerge players want to progress, they need to balance three different systems – energy, resource management, and inventory.
Wait, there is more.
On top of this, the core gameplay is supported by two different meta layers: character collection and narrative meta.
All of this plays a role in the game’s monetization strategy.
EverMerge is set on monetizing as many players as possible. Hence, it relies on the power of hybrid monetization. That includes all three major monetization models: in-app purchases, in-app ads, and subscriptions.
However, only one of them is the main one – in-app purchases.
EverMerge In-App Purchases
EverMerge’s IAP strategy is set around its premium currency, rubies.
With rubies, EverMerge players can get almost anything they wish from the game. Most importantly – with rubies, they can skip wait times. This is the game’s main monetization point. Moreover, players can also use them to buy coins and resources.
Its bestseller among iOS players in the U.S. is a $9.99 ruby pack. This tells us that EverMerge has high player LTVs.
Hence, it also makes sense to offer them other types of IAPs.
Besides all things related to rubies, the game also offers players additional content to purchase. For example, unlocking new lands or new heroes.
This way, the game gets to monetize different types of players.
EverMerge In-App Ads
In Evermerge, players can engage with one ad format, but only if they want to.
Of course, I’m talking about rewarded video ads.
They appear in several different placements and bring players rewards. With them, players can earn resources and energy, as well as skip certain wait times.
One of these placements is more popular than the others – the game’s earn resources placement. The thing is, here, players get to choose between three different rewards.
Obviously, players like having the ability to choose something themselves. This makes them feel like they determine their own in-game destiny, not the game itself.
EverMerge’s subscription offer appears after players get a grip of the game – on level seven.
It comes in the form of a battle pass, and it’s named the Gnome Rush. Players can choose to play it for free or to buy its paid version for approx. $5.
In most mobile games, battle passes are purchasable with real money.
In EverMerge, players need to use premium currency to buy the battle pass. This way, the game encourages players to head to the store and buy big packs of rubies.
Ever since it appeared, this merge game has been rapidly growing.
Here are some of the reasons for that.
The main things that make Merge Mansion different from other merge games are its meta layers.
Yet, they make it similar to another popular puzzle game – Homescapes.
Just like this game, Merge Mansion also includes a narrative and renovation meta layer. But instead of the match-3 core, it comes with a merge core.
Unlike most merge games, Merge Mansion has single-level gameplay.
In it, the players need to merge tools or items to turn them into upgraded ones. With them, they can fix the mansion and progress through the story. As players progress, they crave more materials and space on the merge board.
This is where they either need to spend some cash or get super creative.
Merge Mansion In-App Purchases
Merge Mansion relies on a single monetization strategy – in-app purchases.
In the game’s store, players can find gems (hard currency) and coins (soft currency).
Gems can be used for numerous purposes. This includes unlocking items, skipping wait times, and buying energy.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the gems are the game’s bestseller. U.S. players prefer getting them in the smallest packs – at $1.99 and 4.99 (Sensor Tower, iOS data). Obviously, most spending players in this game are the low-spenders.
Players can also use real money to buy coins. With them, they can get different items from the game’s shop. This is not a very popular purchase because coins are easier to get from gameplay.
Sometimes, the two come bundled together. For example, in the form of a time-limited starter pack offer. Later on, the game tracks the players’ progress and occasionally brings them other appropriate offers.
The game also utilizes an energy system.
Players need energy to spawn items on the board. Once they run out of it, they face wait times.
Naturally, players are not thrilled about this.
Hence, the game allows them to skip these wait times by buying some gems, and then some energy.
All in all, the game doesn’t have an aggressive monetization approach. Pop-ups are rare but worth looking into.
Instead, the game allows players to make things easier for themselves if they want to. After all, since players face inventory limitations and wait timers, free-to-play gameplay can get frustrating.
Merge Dragons by Gram Games is the pioneer of merge games.
The game not only comes with the original core mechanic but also with an interesting monetization strategy.
The game allows players to play two different modes – camp and world map. If players feel stuck in one mode, they can switch to the other. As players progress, the levels get more challenging, and the camp mode can keep them occupied for hours.
In both modes, players need to merge items and then their dragons harvest them. This way, players earn stars and get to level up.
If they want to make things simpler and faster, they can always make purchases.
Merge Dragons is a completely IAP-based game. It used to contain rewarded video ads as well, but the developers decided to focus on in-app purchase monetization.
Let’s take a closer look into it.
In this game, everything revolves around its premium currency – Dragon Gems.
And as per usual with premium currencies, this one can also be used for many different purposes.
For example, when dragons harvest items, they get tired and go to sleep.
This starts a wait timer. If players don’t feel like waiting, they can wake up their dragons by using gems.
Players can also use them to buy items from the shop, double down rewards, unlock chests, skip Camp quests, etc.
They can also use gems to purchase Chalices. Players need them to start levels, so Chalices work as the game’s energy currency.
Hence, the buying decision is pretty simple.
The only thing players need to decide on is which pack of gems to buy and how to use them. In the game’s store, they can find a huge offer of 11 different packs.
This is almost double what we usually see in puzzle games.
Nevertheless, this strategy works for them.
Here comes the real kicker.
The game’s best-selling offer on iOS among U.S. players is a $19.99 pack (Sensor Tower). Not the game’s cheapest offer like in a lot of puzzle games.
This tells us that most Merge Dragons’ paying players are committed and ready to spend more on individual purchases.
One of the game’s 11 store offers is quite different from the others.
It is called the 30 Day Dragon Gem Payout, and it works like a subscription. For $3.99, players can get gems at a better price than in the other offers.
But there is a catch.
If they want to earn all of the gems, they need to log in to the game every day. If they don’t do this, they miss out.
Since this system encourages logins, it boosts player engagement and retention rates. And as far as players are concerned, they get great value for money.
Merge Town is another successful merge game from Gram Games’ portfolio.
Yet, it’s wildly different from Merge Dragons.
This game falls into the hyper-casual category. Its simple gameplay consists of merge and idle mechanics.
In this game, players need to merge two buildings to upgrade them. As they progress, they create more land space and get new items.
Merge Town’s gameplay experience isn’t super challenging and limiting like in many other puzzle games. It is casual and approachable, and the merging mechanic brings players a feeling of satisfaction.
Now, how do you monetize such a game?
Let’s jump right into it.
Just like most hyper-casual games, this game makes a living from in-app ads.
For the most part, these are rewarded video ads.
In Merge Town, rewarded video ads appear in a few placements.
One of them is the game’s welcome back bonus. Every time players return to the game, they can watch an ad to double the soft currency they earned while they were away.
This is a valuable, to-the-point offer. If players reject it, they know they are missing out. For this reason, this placement is great for driving high adoption. However, it is limited by player actions, so it does not bring in a big number of views.
Next, the game allows players to purchase buildings by watching a rewarded video ad. This placement is not restricted by nature, so it can bring a considerable number of ad views.
Moreover, by watching an ad, players can also double up coin production for two hours. This ad placement is also limited, so it can’t bring high view quantity.
However, it’s great for another purpose – session pacing. Since it’s time-dependent, this placement gives players a reason to return to the game every two hours.
Not all ads in the game are opt-in, though.
As players progress through the game, they start seeing occasional interstitial ads.
This happens when they complete certain actions. For example, when they enter the game’s shop and when they move between zones.
It’s good that these placements appear after users complete actions. It’s also good that they appear outside of gameplay.
The game also utilizes banner ads. The whole time during gameplay, players can see a single banner ad in the upper part of the screen.
You might be wondering – why not rewarded video ads only?
The answer is pretty simple. The game is simple, casual, and repetitive. Hence, Merge Town players don’t have high retention rates and lifetime values.
For this reason, the developer needs to earn something off all players while they are still around.
Besides in-app ads, the game also brings one in-app purchase offer.
This is the most common IAP offer we see in hyper-casual games – a “no ads” offer.
When players buy it, this permanently removes ads from the game, making the game more enjoyable.
Summing Up on Merge Games Monetization
There you have it, this is how merge games earn the big bucks.
As you can see, merge game monetization follows tried and true techniques from the rest of the puzzle genre.
If you can apply these to your game, make sure to do the same.