The iconic board game Monopoly has been the theme of many games. But none of them made such a big splash as Monopoly GO, the new casual entrant from Scopely. It instantly caught the attention of both players and mobile game industry professionals.
Because of its early success, it became a big contender in the casual and casino space and a fierce rival to Coin Master, the current social casino king.
How did Scopely achieve all that with Monopoly GO in such a short time?
To find out, I dissect the addictive game mechanics and money-making monetization strategies behind its dazzling success.
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Making Waves in the Casual Market
Monopoly GO was released worldwide in April 2023 by Scopely, in partnership with Hasbro, the current owner of the Monopoly brand. In April, Scopely was acquired by Savvy Games Group for $4.9 billion
Just on the first day of its release, Monopoly GO surpassed 500 thousand downloads. In its first month, more than 20 million players downloaded it and earned the game almost $17 million.
That made Monopoly GO quickly climb the top charts. It is the most downloaded and top-grossing game on the board game top charts. It’s also among the top 10 casual games.
There are good reasons for that.
Monopoly IP – The Secret Ingredient?
The fact that Monopoly GO is based on a popular IP that holds a special place in everyone’s hearts certainly plays a role in its success.
The thing is, Monopoly GO is pretty much a copy of the mobile game Board Kings from Playtika. They not only have almost identical gameplay but even look similar. The only difference is, Playtika didn’t use the Monopoly brand but rather made a game that reminds people of Monopoly without getting into copyright trouble.
So yes, having Hasbro as a partner certainly helps Scopely. In fact, this is Scopely’s third game with a Hasbro IP, the first one being Yahtzee With Buddies and the second one Scrabble Go.
But don’t be fooled – a popular brand is not enough for a hit game.
The proof for that are other F2P Monopoly-based games.
Monopoly Tycoon by Nvizzio has only 4 million lifetime downloads despite being released back in 2021. Similarly, Monopoly Poker by Youda has been released in 2019, but it has less than 4 million downloads. Monopoly Slots by SciPlay has 10 million all-time downloads.
Monopoly GO surpassed all of these games in less than one month of its release.
So what is it then? What’s the recipe for a hit game?
Well, it’s a combination of many different things.
Mixing Genres to Create a Successful Game
Partnering with a mega-popular brand helps, especially with user acquisition. But mainly, Monopoly GO nailed the casual and social casino genres – it’s right up there with genre leaders.
What’s more, Monopoly GO successfully mixes several genres – casual, casino, and board games. It even has some light mid-core mechanics. In that sense, it’s also a hybrid game.
Let’s explore these addictive game mechanics and how they work together to create a hit game.
Casual Core Gameplay in Monopoly GO
The main target audience for Monopoly GO is casual players. Therefore, the core gameplay needs to be simple and accessible to everyone.
Scopely achieved that. No skill is required to play this game – the only thing players need to do is tap. And sometimes not even that because there’s the auto-roll option.
The core gameplay loop in Monopoly GO is: rolling the dice to move across the board – earning cash – building monuments to complete the map.
Rinse and repeat.
However, Monopoly GO is everything but repetitive.
This game expertly combines simple casual and casino core mechanics with additional features and progression systems that make it endlessly fun.
Also, it’s hard not to be impressed by the game’s eye-catching graphics.
An Exciting Experience
One of the first things I noticed when playing Monopoly GO is how good it looks and feels. The overall presentation is exceptional – it looks polished and well put together.
Bright colors and 3D cartoonish style make it visually stunning and the animations make the gameplay experience incredibly exciting. The sound effects are everything you expect from a casino game – cash, people cheering, dice rolling, coins, fireworks.
All of it is very satisfying and works together to engage all of the senses and give players that dopamine rush.
Elements of Classic Monopoly
As you’d expect, the core gameplay features elements of classic Monopoly. After all, that’s one of its main USPs.
But keep in mind that this game is not a mobile version of Monopoly, but rather uses its IP and borrows some of the game’s features.
Players will recognize the game pieces and many board elements like properties, chance, free parking, go to jail, etc.
Just like in Monopoly, players can buy houses and place them on the map to collect rent from other players. But unlike in the board game Monopoly, that’s done automatically and there’s no strategy to it.
It’s all about nostalgia and making the game feel familiar.
There are also railroads on the board, but when players land on them in Monopoly Go, they’re taken on a Bank Heist. With this feature, players can steal valuables from other players. There’s also the option to attack other players’ buildings – this feature is called Shut Down.
This might seem ruthless at first, but just remember that playing old-school Monopoly with our families always ended up with someone in tears.
Coin Master-like Social Casino Elements
The heist and attack game mechanics are luck-based and resemble Coin Master’s raids and attacks.
Even though Monopoly GO doesn’t have as many casino elements and doesn’t feature the slot mechanic, the two games are very similar and both have that social casino feel. Coin Master also has a similar game loop: spin the slot machine – collect coins from spins/raids – build and upgrade villages.
As you probably know, Coin Master has dominated the social casino genre for years.
But all of that might change.
Because of the many similarities and the additional features it offers, I think Monopoly GO will give Coin Master a run for its money.
In addition to Coin Master-like heist and attack elements, this game offers a plethora of other social features.
One of the first things players are met with is the option to connect to Facebook and add their contacts. This is incentivized with free rolls.
To enhance competition among players, the game incorporates a timeline where players can track who stole from them or attacked their buildings. There’s also a comprehensive leaderboard featuring three distinct categories (global, local, and friends).
Mid-Core Features and Progression Systems in Monopoly GO
If Monopoly GO offered only the core casual and casino gameplay, it would be one-dimensional and get boring quickly.
What gives this casual game depth is additional content and progression systems borrowed from mid-core games.
The two main progression systems in this casual game are building and upgrading.
Building and Upgrading
To complete a level/map, players buy and upgrade various buildings and monuments. Each map features a different city and represents one level.
This progression system gives players a sense of accomplishment and gives purpose to casual core mechanics.
Building and upgrading in Monopoly GO are simplified, but these are traditionally mid-core features. Casual publishers oftentimes borrow certain mid-core features to add depth to their games and boost engagement and retention. But they strip away the complexity to make it accessible to a casual audience.
For example, in a mid-core game, players usually have to decide which building to buy first, where to place it, how to maximize its capacity, when to upgrade it, etc.
In Monopoly GO, on the other hand, players don’t need to make any strategic decisions. The types of buildings and their placements are already decided. The only thing players need to do is earn enough cash and simply tap to buy a building or upgrade it.
Once the map is completed, players can complete that level and unlock the next map and get a new board. What keeps it fun is that buildings and upgrades get more and more expensive so it takes more time to unlock new maps.
This brings us to the next key progression system in Monopoly GO – unlocking new content.
Unlocking Additional Content
Besides unlocking new maps (levels), players can also unlock tons of items and upgrades by leveling up (i.e., increasing net worth).
All that additional content and goals players can strive for are designed to increase sessions and retention.
In the game’s menu, players can access a list of all items and upgrades they have unlocked so far and items they are yet to unlock. For example, auto roll, albums, daily treats, roll capacity, etc.
Players can also see which level they need to reach to unlock each item. This is key because it gives players a taste of what’s to come and the motivation to keep playing and leveling up.
Similarly, players also get a preview of new maps they can unlock.
For example, when they unlock a new map, they see which cities are locked but are coming next. But they also get to see what these locked maps look like when attacking other players who reached higher levels.
This is what drives players to keep up.
But what happens when progress slows down and completing levels gets a bit more difficult?
This is where the game’s monetization strategy comes in.
Monopoly GO Monetization
Instead of going with a hybrid monetization strategy like many other successful casual games on the market, Scopely went all in on in-app purchases.
Let’s take a closer look at how it all works.
Dice Rolls and Cash
Rolls and cash are the basis of Monopoly GO’s monetization setup.
Rolls are required to move around the board and earn money. Money is required to buy and upgrade buildings, complete the map, and move to the next level.
It comes as no surprise that the game’s shop is segmented into offers with rolls and money.
Both are based on how patient players are and how quickly they want to make progress.
They can get a decent amount of money by going around the board. But as everything gets more expensive, it takes more time to complete levels.
Players who are impatient and want to progress more quickly might purchase more cash. This is why an IAP offer for cash is triggered every time players try to buy or upgrade a building, but don’t have enough cash.
Running out of rolls is much trickier because it’s the main way to make progress in the game. The game makes players wait to get free rolls.
This is also about patience. Players who don’t want to wait for free rolls will purchase them and keep making progress.
However, the game is set up in a way that players get plenty of free rolls, especially in the beginning. That way, game publishers can target only the most engaged and loyal players with these offers.
Bundles and Packs
To make them more enticing, offers often come in the form of time-limited bundles and packs. That creates a sense of urgency and getting a better deal.
One of the first IAP offers players get is a starter pack (rolls + money). Other bundles and packs include additional items like stickers.
Overall, IAP offers are not aggressive. They don’t appear often, but time-limited offers and other deals are always present on the screen as small icons if players change their minds.
Can Monopoly GO Retain Its Users Long-Term?
Monopoly GO is a young game so it’s too early to talk about long-term retention. But it has all the necessary ingredients to achieve that.
One of the main reasons to come back is tied to the core gameplay. If players don’t log in often, they have to fix the attacked buildings. Other players also steal money from them.
There are also daily rewards and prizes players can collect for logging in.
All that creates an incentive for players to come back to the game often.
Frequent push notifications also contribute to players returning. Monopoly GO’s notifications are successful because they give players clear reasons to come back. For example, another player is attacking them or new bonuses or rewards are ready.
On top of that, there are additional game features that promote engagement and long-term retention, mainly collection albums and live ops.
Collection systems are another game feature that increases the sense of accomplishment and progression. Most importantly, it gives players long-term goals, which is necessary to keep them coming back for more.
In Monopoly GO, players collect stickers for albums and get rewards for completing them. Players can also ask for stickers they’re missing in FB groups, which adds a social component to it.
Collection mechanics are a great fit for a game like this one because they enrich the game experience without throwing the core game out of balance.
Another great feature that doesn’t disrupt core gameplay is live events.
According to research by SensorTower, mobile games that regularly introduce live events experienced a notable boost in both user engagement and retention, which are crucial KPIs for mobile games. Typically, this translates to a corresponding rise in revenue.
Scopely took advantage of this mobile game trend and included weekly live events and tournaments in this Monopoly-based game. Players get valuable prizes and perks for participating in these events.
This is key for long-term retention – publishers need to add fresh content regularly.
Monopoly GO: The Verdict
It seems this feature-rich board game has all the necessary ingredients to keep the engagement up and keep players long-term.
Monopoly GO skillfully combines ideas and elements from various games, resulting in a satisfying game experience. While I wouldn’t consider it groundbreaking in terms of innovation, the game’s strength lies in its ability to blend familiar concepts in a way that resonates with players.
Judging by its early success, Monopoly GO has the potential to quickly become a top-grossing game that will dominate the top charts for years to come.