Wondering how to get more users for a strategy game? You can learn a thing or two from a top-grossing strategy game Rise of Kingdoms by Lilith Games. More than 60 million users and $1.1 billion in revenue mean they’re doing something right.
Here’s what I cover in our Rise of Kingdoms analysis:
- Important KPIs
- User acquisitions strategies
- Dissection of top-performing creatives
- ASO strategies
- Tips & tricks
Let’s dive right in!
About Rise of Kingdoms
I’ll start this Rise of Kingdoms analysis with some basic info about the game. RoK is a real-time, multiplayer, 4x strategy game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) set in a fantasy world. This game also has some simulation elements. It has both strategy and adventure modes.
The players choose one out of 11 different civilizations to lead. They can also choose the playing style that suits them, which is an important USP. For some, the focus may be on war and conquering, for others it may be on exploration. It’s totally up to the players.
How Successful Is Rise of Kingdoms?
To see just how successful this game is, let’s look at some interesting data.
Data source: AppMagic. Get 3 days of free access to all AppMagic’s features, as well as 10% off, by clicking this link.
Rise of Kingdoms has been downloaded over 100 million times overall, which is a huge achievement. Interestingly, the game reached peak downloads in January 2022 (almost 6 million downloads), long after its release.
Rise of Kingoms’ revenue was the highest in 2020 and 2021. However, this strategy game is still making a lot of money in 2022 as well. For example, in September 2022, it earned $33 million in revenue. If we look at all-time revenue, Rise of Kingdoms earned more than $2 billion, which is exceptional!
At the moment of writing, this game is ranked #5 on the top-grossing chart of strategy games. It surpassed some great games like Clash of Clans, Lords Mobile, and Top War.
Who Is Playing Rise of Kingdoms?
Before I move on to dissecting Rise of Kingdom ads, it’s important to first talk about the target audience for this game.
Above, you can see the main reasons why players enjoy Rise of Kingdoms and how that corresponds to the 4X strategy genre. (GameRefinery)
The main motivational drivers are:
- Strategic planning
- Resource optimization
- Competing against others
- Working with other players
Below, you can see how important are those, along with other motivations for RoK players and 4X strategy gamers.
According to GameRefinery, Rise of Kingdoms appeals the most to these types of gamers – Strategist, Networker, and Treasure Hunter.
Here’s some info on each one.
Rise of Kingdoms Analysis: Paid User Acquisition
As with any user acquisition campaign, the tricky thing is to scale in terms of number of users but still achieve high ROI at the same time.
“Our user acquisition strategy at Lilith Games has always prioritized ROI, focusing on long-term sustainability instead of aggressive scale. It’s been difficult for us to strike a perfect balance between the two sides and acquire a large number of quality users with promising ROI.” – Yi Mengqiao (Head of User Acquisition at Lilith Games)
User acquisition is about that balance of quality and scale. As you can see, even top publishers struggle with that.
To get more insight into Rise of Kingdoms’ advertising strategy, I have analyzed its top-performing creatives.
Dissection of 10 Top-Performing Rise of Kingdoms Creatives
Let’s start with Unity ads.
In order to instantly capture the viewer’s attention, the first few seconds of a video ad need to be catchy and out of the ordinary.
This Unity ad for RoK accomplishes just that. We see the popular Rise of Kingdoms mascot having his mugshot taken.
Ok, I’m interested. It’s a great video hook.
The character tells us his story – he starts as a criminal. After he’s been left stranded on a desert island, he begins collecting resources, expanding the island, and building a city. In other words, he ends up extremely successful despite his initial hardship.
It’s a dramatic story about overcoming adversity.
There’s a couple of things I want to unpack here.
Notice that the ad tells a dramatized emotional story about this character. Moreover, he has a distinct personality. When I watch the ad, I feel connected to him and I want to see him win. That’s exactly the point of this ad – to get people invested in the story. It targets gamers who love narratives in games.
Furthermore, this ad is all about starting over and using your creativity to accomplish something outstanding. Thus, it speaks to gamers whose main motivations are creativity, resilience, being the odds, and building something from scratch.
Another thing I want to emphasize is that this ad, just like most other RoK ads, is all about cinematics and not gameplay scenes. I rarely saw any actual gameplay footage in RoK ads.
This is tricky.
Yes, cinematic scenes look infinitely cooler than gameplay footage. That can result in more users. However, by using cinematics, you’re misrepresenting the game. That can result in players being disappointed once they download the game.
In other words, it’s risky not to include gameplay footage.
The AdWords/AdMob ad above demonstrates some of the game features and shows how to play the game. However, note that this is not what the game looks like in reality.
In the ad, we see how to even out the terrain, build harbors, gain resources from trading, and upgrade houses.
It’s a simple loop that shows players how to advance in the game. If the goal is to grow your city and build better housing. This is one of the possible ways players can accomplish just that.
Creating ads based on game features is always a smart choice because it shows viewers what’s possible in the game.
Remember the prisoner guy from the Unity ad? Here he is again. You’ll notice he’s in many Rise of Kingdom ads as the mascot.
However, in each ad, he has a different role. In this one, he’s the guide/narrator.
In short, he explains how civilizations emerged and advanced, all the way from the earliest civilizations, Stone Age, Feudal Age, Steam Age, to the current technology-driven age.
It’s a unique concept for a video creative. It’s educational, which appeals to people who love history and war. But it also demonstrates different time periods available for play in Rise of Kingdoms.
The YouTube ad above is all about strategic planning. It shows players that even if they ended up in a bad spot on the map, they can still make it work with ingenious solutions to a problem.
That’s what strategy games are all about.
Once again, this is not what the actual game looks like. By watching the ad, you get the impression that the graphics are insanely good and detailed, which is not the case.
Above, you can see an interesting split-screen creative for YouTube. On the left side is “When other players play RoK” and on the left is “When I play RoK”.
It’s a funny comparison video that’s pretty much a meme in video form.
For example, “Other players raid cities when they play RoK, I raise a happy farmer when I play”.
It’s funny and entertaining.
But most importantly, it tells players there are many ways to play this game, which is emphasized in the second half of the video.
This appeals to me as someone who’s into gathering resources and building aspects of strategy games more than battles and raiding. It’s smart to show that diversity in ads because it allows Lilith Games to reach different gamer personas.
This 30-second Facebook ad is a list of the top 10 ancient infantry. Being able to choose between different commanders is one of the main USPs of the game. Furthermore, it’s an interesting approach to an ad creative – who doesn’t like a top 10 list?
There’s no classic CTA at the end of the video like “Play Now”. Instead, “Glory Awaits” is written. There’s also a phone screen, search bar, as well as Google Play and App Store icons superimposed on an image of troops.
Focusing on explaining one game feature per ad is always a good strategy. This RoK Facebook ad is all about trading.
Through a lighthearted and humorous story, this ad demonstrates how trading works in the game. For example, one village has gold but needs wood and the other has wood but needs gold. These are the perfect circumstances to establish a trading route and help each other out. It’s a win-win situation.
In some cases, players need to connect two towns. For example, with a bridge, just like the ad demonstrates.
This creative accomplishes two things. It showcases trading as a game feature, but it also serves as a tutorial for this aspect of the game. Furthermore, it speaks to specific gamer motivations – collaboration with other players, networking, and resource management.
The ad ends with a very simple, but direct call-to-action – “Explore!”.
This entertaining creative is told from a player’s perspective. The person narrating the video wants to get Rome because it has so many resources but ends up with desolate Siberia.
After deciding to make it work in Siberia, this player persona starts growing crops, building a city, and training the army. Quickly, he becomes the king of the north.
This Facebook ad is all about beating the odds and making the best of what you have by using strategic planning and creative skills. Thus, it speaks to very particular gamer motivations. In other words, it targets gamers who revel in strategy, enjoy challenging gameplay, and apply creative thinking to advance in the game.
What makes this Facebook ad interesting is that it’s a game tutorial that teaches players how to power up fast. Well-edited scenes of gameplay footage and cinematic scenes are accompanied by the narrator’s voice. He explains how to quickly advance in the game and offers viewers valuable tips and tricks.
I’m guessing the main purpose of this ad is not acquiring new players, but keeping existing ones engaged and moving them further down the monetization funnel.
I wanted to include this Facebook ad because it has a different concept than the rest – there are real people in it.
Basically, a woman is playing Rise of Kingdoms and explaining to her boyfriend what kind of game it is.
I’m assuming this ad is primarily targeting the female audience. After all, 36% of RoK players are women, which is not insignificant. It makes sense to advertise to this user demographic.
Rise of Kingdoms Localization
I also want to include two ads that are localized. Above is a video ad for the French audience and below is for the British. Both feature real gamers, speaking in their native language which helps people connect emotionally to the ads and thus to the game.
Rise of Kingdoms Analysis: Organic User Acquisition (ASO)
A good UA strategy consists of both paid and organic user acquisition. In this section, I’ll analyze some of the Rise of Kingdoms’ app store optimization efforts. More specifically, how this game is presented in the app stores.
Fun fact: Rise of Kingdoms used to be called Rise of Civilizations. I’m guessing because Lilith Games wanted a name that reminds gamers of Civilization, a popular PC strategy game. But they decided to change it to Rise of Kingdoms.
What’s great about Rise of Kingdoms is that the name alone gives a lot of information about the game. I can deduce that different kingdoms/civilizations are battling each other and that I will probably lead one of them. Furthermore, Rise of Kingdoms just sounds like a name for a strategy game, so I can assume the genre as well.
Because of the word “kingdoms” in the title, it reminds me of Lords Mobile: Kingdom Wars, which makes me think Rise of Kingdoms is a similar game.
So even though Rise of Kingdoms might not seem like a very descriptive name at first glance, it tells gamers a lot about it. That’s what a good game title should do. It makes people who are interested in this type of strategy game click on it when browsing the app stores.
Rise of Kingdom’s icon has a semi-realistic cartoonish style, like many icons in the genre. It depicts the head of a mascot/character. More specifically, Cao Cao, commander of Northern China. This is another trend for strategy game icons.
This is a well-known icon formula for this genre and it makes sense to use it. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
However, while most icons for strategy games feature the character’s head turned to the right, this one is turned to the left and is more sideways, i.e., has more of a profile orientation.
The only thing that’s confusing is the letter “C” in the background. I’m guessing that’s because this game used to be called Rise of Civilizations. They should probably update that.
Rise of Kingdoms Promo Video Breakdown
The promo video for Rise of Kingdoms is a combination of animated and gameplay footage. It demonstrates what the game is all about – explore, prosper, expand, and unite.
The video is edited dynamically; animated scenes serve as an introduction to different gameplay scenes. Suspenseful music is playing throughout the video, which makes it more exciting.
This app promo video accomplishes its main goal – to explain what the game is all about and to demonstrate its main USPs.
What’s missing is a CTA at the end.
Just like the ads, most screenshots on RoK’s app store page are not a true representation of the game. It doesn’t look nearly as good as that.
However, there are a couple of screenshots that show us the real deal. But you need to scroll past the misleading graphics to view them, which I think is intentional.
Rise of Kingdoms Analysis: 3 Things You Can Learn From This Game
Let’s summarize! Here are Rise of Kingdoms advertising strategies you should implement right now and the ones you should avoid.
1. Avoid Misleading Advertising
It’s no secret that fake ads have become very prominent in mobile game advertising.
It’s a bit of a controversial topic, but let’s be real here.
Lilith Games are using 3D footage to depict a simple 4x build and battle strategy game. In other words, what you see in the ad is not at all how the game looks or plays.
Many gamers vehemently despise misleading mobile game ads. You’ll find them on Reddit and gaming forums.
However, it must be said that these misleading ads often perform well. That means some audiences respond well to them.
This is where it gets tricky.
On one hand, one can say that misleading ads are bad because they, well, mislead players. On the other hand, some of these ads have great conversion rates and bring a lot of users to the game. But then again, those acquired users might get disappointed and delete the game because it’s not what they expected.
My advice would be to avoid misleading advertising. It’s a smarter strategy for the long run. Even though it might initially result in more users, it ultimately causes player dissatisfaction and poor user retention.
2. Create Ads Around Gamer Motivations
The reason why Rise of Kingdoms ads are so effective is that they’re created based on specific player interests.
You can’t simply target strategy gamers as a whole. The key is to speak to different types of strategy gamers and their unique motivations for playing.
For example, a Rise of Kingdoms ad that depicts a thrilling battle scene targets players who are into training armies, tactical planning, and defeating other players.
An ad that demonstrates how to grow crops and expand cities will appeal to players who are into resource management and city-building. And so on.
This approach can be applied to any game, in any genre. Simply identify different elements of the game and corresponding gamer motivations. Use this as a starting point for creatives.
3. Implement Humor, Mascots/Characters, and Storylines in Creatives
Another useful tip to make creatives come to life is to feature game characters/mascots and tell stories that connect with people emotionally.
I find the casual and humorous narrative style of Rise of Kingdom ads quite charming and endearing. It hooks you in right from the start. And most importantly, it creates interest in the game.
Final Thoughts on Rise of Kingdoms User Acquisition Strategy
Even though many people criticize Rise of Kingdoms for misleading advertising and being a pay-to-win game, the success of this game is undeniable.
If you’re a mobile game developer, there’s a lot that can be learned from this strategy game and its user acquisition process.
For more articles like this Rise of Kingdoms analysis, check out our dissections category.