Rise of Kingdoms Monetization Strategy: How It Became a $1.15B Game

Rise of Kingdoms Monetization Strategy: How It Became a $1.15B Game

by Mihovil Grguric

Rome wasn’t built in a day, wise people say.

Great things take some time to shine. Rise of Kingdoms’ success story is a great example of this.

When it was released back in 2018, the numbers were good. The year after that, they were better. Then 2020 came, and they went through the roof. Who knows what we can expect in 2021. 

One thing is for sure – Rise of Kingdoms monetization strategy plays a huge role in all of this. 

We’re here to cover everything there is to know about the game’s monetization practices. Plus everything else that affects the game’s money-making process.

Let’s begin.

How Successful Is Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade?

This game was released in September 2018 by Lilith Games. I’m sure you’re familiar with some of their other successful titles such as AFK Arena, Art of Conquest, Soul Hunters, etc. 

Rise of Kingdoms is a real-time strategy game. It also falls into the 4x and build&battle strategy subgenres – a pretty competitive and crowded territory. 

Nevertheless, this game made it to the top of the genre. Here’s what Rise of Kingdoms has accomplished in less than three years of existence:

  • $1,15 billion all-time revenue
  • 67 million worldwide downloads 

(Unless stated otherwise, the data in this article comes from an internal source).

At the moment of writing, this game is ranked #5 on the top-grossing chart of strategy games. It surpassed some great games like Lords Mobile and Clash Royale.

One of the game’s success factors is its advertising strategy that helps attract new players every day. Once they start playing, all other game elements work together towards a common goal – generating revenue. 

Here’s how it all looks from a player’s point of view. 

first impressions

First Impressions

When you launch the game, you get to pick your favorite civilization

Rome, China, Britain, Japan…There are 8 of them to pick from. I decided on Rome and got a powerful commander character. 

After that, a skippable intro video begins. It tells you an inspiring story of how it all began and what you should do with your civilization. This really immerses you into the game. 

game tutorial

Game Tutorial

A beautiful Roman woman appears. She is here to guide you through the game. 

She tells you about the gameplay, features, and brings interesting backstories. You will learn how to train your troops, upgrade your buildings, scout for barbarians, etc.

The tutorial process is step by step, pretty long, and filled with a lot of information. If you ever played similar games, all of it feels quite familiar, so you can afford to speed up some parts. 

rok art style

Art Style

Rise of Kingdoms features a recognizable strategy game art style. 

It comes in landscape orientation and stylized graphics. The game’s characters are cartoonish with accentuated features. For example, your generals come with an unrealistically huge upper body. This signalizes how strong and battle-ready they are. 

This kind of graphic style helps players immerse themselves into the fantasy world. Another thing that helps with this is the player’s top perspective view. You can see and control everything from your heights. Or as some say, you get to play god

Another interesting art feature is that the game follows a night and day cycle. This way, you always know what time it is in your civilization. 

rise of kingdoms ui

UI/UX

The game is set on a huge map for you to explore. Just zoom in and out to explore different cities and areas.

You’ll be spending most of your time in your own city, making it a great one. Here, you will get to know about the game’s main features

  • Resources (top right)
  • Shop and events (top right)
  • Quests (top left)
  • World map (bottom left)

When there’s something new for you to check out, red notifications will appear next to the features. While playing this game, you will find it is filled with things to check and do.  

Rise of Kingdoms: Main Game Mechanics

Rise of Kingdoms comes with the usual mechanics for this type of strategy game. 

Here is a breakdown of the main elements the game consists of: 

  • eXploring, eXpanding, eXploiting, eXterminating (4x)
  • base building, collecting resources, troop training 
  • fighting against AI and other players 

All of these work together for achieving your ultimate goal – progress. There are a few main mechanics that make all of this possible, so let me guide you through them. 

world building mechanic

World-Building

City building, base building, civilization development, call it whatever you want. 

You will be able to build two types of buildings, economic and military. The first ones are here to keep the city alive (farms, storage, lumber mills). Military buildings are made for your troops (barracks, archery range, hospital…)

Once you build them, you will constantly upgrade your buildings. Upgrades come with wait timers that range from seconds to hours. These timers are one of the game’s main monetization points. 

There is one building that symbolizes your overall progress – the City Hall. What I mean is, when your City Hall is at level 2, you are a level 2 player. When it reaches level 7, so do you. 

Resource Management

Without resources, there is no progression. The game’s main three resources are gems, food, wood, and stone. You will receive plenty of food, wood, and stone as rewards for completing quests. 

Gems are the game’s premium currency, so the game is a bit less generous with them. 

Troop resources are equally important. The most valuable people you have in your troops are your commanders. Their main role is to lead your troops to victories. All of them come with unique skill sets which should be upgraded. 

rise of kingdoms combat

Real-Time Combat 

If there is one thing that makes Rise of Kingdoms stand out from the rest of the genre, this is it. First of all, troop movements are unrestricted. You can redirect or intercept your troops in the middle of the route. 

Second, the battles are not instantly finished. Instead, they are resolved in alternating turns that last for one second. Besides this, you can recall your army at any time. All of this brings a whole new layer of action and dynamic to the game. 

Besides other players, you will also battle barbarians wandering around the map. 

Rise of Kingdoms Monetization Strategy Dissection

Strategy players are an interesting group of mobile gamers. They typically play competitively, frequently, and have long sessions. 

The result? Strategy games have higher LTV and revenue per install in comparison to other genres. 

In fact, strategy games are among three genres where players are most likely to complete in-app purchases (Facebook Gaming). However, to successfully monetize them, you have to have the right approach. 

Does Rise of Kingdoms monetization strategy pass the test? It’s time to analyze. 

Which Monetization Models Rise Of Kingdoms Uses?

In-app purchases are Rise Of Kingdoms’ bread and butter. 

Additionally, this game’s monetization mix includes a few subscription features as well. 

How about we cover them all?  

Rise of Kingdoms In-App Purchases Strategy and Setup

Speaking of monetization, the only logical place to start is the game’s store

Particularly in the case of Rise of Kingdoms, where the in-game store is really rich. It comes with A LOT of sections and offers. 

Here they are. 

first recharge gift package rise of kingdoms monetization

First Recharge Gift Package

The first thing you’ll see in the game’s store here is that they try to turn new players into payers. 

For this reason, the initial offer comes at a low price, $0.99. At this price, it gives you a new commander, VIP privileges, gems, and plenty of other items. It even features an intro video that lets you get to know the commander better. 

super value bundle

Super-Value Bundle

In this section, the prices go a little higher, but the offer value is equally attractive. These offers get updated depending on player progress and current events

In the initial setting, there are 8 different offers, all at the same price – $4.99. One of them is a one-time opportunity, while the others come with timers. 

daily special offer

Daily Special Offer

You will probably visit this section every single day, even as a free-to-play player. This is where you come to claim your free daily chest

Just underneath, there are three tempting offers. How tempting? Well, these three offers are the game’s best sellers

The offers come at low prices, $0.99, $1.99, and $2.99. They bring speed-ups, VIP points, loot box keys, gems, etc. A perfect combo of big quantity and small pricing. 

gem store rise of kingdoms monetization

Gem Store

This section is what you would typically expect from an in-game store. Six different sized packs of gems, at six different prices. The prices start at $0.99 and go all the way up to $99.99. 

These offers don’t offer as much value for money as the previous ones. However, the first purchase definitely pays off. Only that one time, you will get everything double! 

supply depot subscription

Supply Depot

Here, you can find six different subscription plans with six different resources, from gems to gold. 

The gem subscription is the top-seller among these plans. After all, you will be running out of gems all the time. This subscription plan stretches over a month’s time and comes at $9.99. It gives you 2,200 gems instantly and 650 per day if you log in each day. This is a total of 19,500 gems! 

For comparison’s sake, if you spent $49.99 in the gem store, you would only get 12,000 gems. This is 30 dollars less and 8,500 gems more. Yes, the subscription value is that good. 

growth fund rise of kingdoms monetization

Growth Fund

Sorry, VIP only. Really, you have to reach at least VIP level 5 to be able to purchase it. It costs $14.99 and you can only purchase it once. Once you buy the Growth Fund, it is permanent and all yours. 

Here’s the deal. 

The Growth Fund follows progress. Every time your City Hall reaches certain levels, you will get a gem bonus. As you level up, the bonuses get bigger and bigger. 

How In-App Purchases Really Work in Rise of Kingdoms

The key to successful game monetization goes beyond the game store. 

One of the main things is – how does it blend with the player’s journey? 

I played Rise of Kingdoms for 7 days to figure this out. 

Over a week’s time, my City Hall reached level 7. This means I only got to experience a small section of Rise of Kingdoms monetization. 

Here’s what I found out.

Day 1

On my first day of playing, I didn’t notice a lot of monetization dynamics.

daily free chest rise of kingdoms

The only monetization feature that caught my attention was a red (1) notification next to the store icon. It was notifying me that I can claim a free daily chest inside the store, so I did. 

Day 2

On the second day, there were two notifications next to the store icon. 

notification store

One was another daily chest, and the second one was, well, fake. As I found out later, these fake notifications appear every day. Sneaky, Lilith Games!

Day 3 

On day 3, I discovered the game’s VIP section. 

vip rise of kingdoms monetization

Basically, if you want to level up your VIP status, you have to log in daily and claim a chest. When you do that, it will bring you VIP points. 

There are two more chests in this section. They are called VIP exclusive chests and bring different rewards. One is free and claimable daily, while the other brings “special privileges” and costs $0.99.

Day 4

Once I reached City Hall level 5, I could build a Shop.

rise of kingdoms shop

The shop offers resources, speedups, boosts, and other items. Here, you pay with gems – the almighty currency. 

The shop also comes with a VIP shop. Naturally, the VIP shop is less expensive than the regular one. However, it’s restricted. The higher your VIP level is, the  more offers you get to choose from. At my VIP level 2, I only saw a few offers. 

Day 5

If you like chests, you will love this game.

rok loot boxes

I found even more of them in my tavern: Silver and Golden chest. You can open them for free (limited) or by using keys. 

These chests are the game’s loot boxes and bring 4 random rewards. I got hooked to the excitement so I hit the limit in a few minutes. If you want to open more chests – buy keys with gems. But first, buy some gems.

mysterious merchant

Next, I reached level 6, and a Mysterious Merchant visited my city. From time to time, this merchant visits your town’s Courier Station. 

On each visit, she offers a bunch of items at a big fat discount. The discounts in the Mysterious Merchant’s shop go from 30% to 90%! Depending on the item, you can pay with food, wood, or gems.

Day 6

When I reached level 7, the game’s store got an update. Congratulations on getting a 30-Day Gem Supply (50%) off! 

pop up 30 day gem supply

The message came as a pop-up, and this discounted offer appeared in the store right away. Obviously, this level up brought me a title of an engaged player that is likely to make the discounted purchase. Hence the 50% off. 

Day 7

On my last day of playing, a notification led me to the store. Only this time, it wasn’t fake.

lantern festival iap offer

A new offer appeared in the store’s Super Value bundle section. It is called the Lantern Festival Reunion and lasts for a week. The price? Only $0.99. This price is really appealing, as it is significantly cheaper than all other bundles in the store. 

Day x: Battle Pass

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to unlock this feature during my 7-day player journey. Your City Hall has to reach level 10 for this, while I only reached level 7.

rise of kingdoms battle pass lucerne scrolls

The battle pass comes in the form of Lucerne Scrolls placed in the Trading Post building. Here, you can play different missions across 80 levels. The missions are divided into weekly and seasonal challenges. 

There is one free and two optional paid packages. One comes at $4.99 and the other at $19.99. It works on the same principle as most battle passes – the more expensive a package is, the more exclusive the rewards are. 

User Retention in Rise of Kingdoms

Every game publisher knows it, player retention is an ongoing challenge. This is the bridge between acquiring and monetizing players.

Strategy games typically come with good retention rates. Is Rise of Kingdoms one of those games? Here are the numbers.

  • After day 1, the game keeps about 41% of players
  • After 7 days, 20% keep playing
  • 30 days later, 9% of players are retained

These numbers bring the game close to the very top of its genre. The top 2% of strategy games keep an average of 52% players after the first day, 25% after seven, and 17% after 28 days (Benchmarks+ platform). 

Here are some methods this strategy game uses to retain its players. 

push notifications rise of kingdoms user retention

Push Notifications

Hey, come back to the game! Push notifications are here to tell you this, just in a less pushy way. 

Rise of Kingdoms sends out quite a lot of reminders. Particularly if you actively play the game

In most cases, notifications appear when you leave the timers to do their thing. Then you get notifications like “Governor, Horseman training is complete” or “Governor, the upgrade of the Wall is complete”. 

If you haven’t played for a while, you might get something like “Governor, our people require your leadership”. 

Sometimes, instead of “Governor”, you can see your name in the notifications. This is good because it adds a personal touch. 

It is also good that it’s not included in every single notification, as this might feel too pushy. 

events rise of kingdoms

Events

Live events are always a great way to bring new content and excitement to the game. This is a proven way of always giving players something new to strive towards. 

Rise of Kingdoms’ event section is filled with different events – and you can see them all on a calendar. Next, there is an overview of new server events, regular ones, and upcoming ones. 

Alliance/Social Features

If you play this game, you should get social. The game always encourages you to join an alliance. The motivation? Allies always help and support each other. You even get 300 gems as a reward for joining one. 

There are other social features as well. The first is a live chat on your home screen. Second, a ROK icon appears in your city from time to time. This leads you to the game’s community platform – something like a ROK Reddit

I’ve previously mentioned some monetization features such as the VIP System, loot boxes, and daily chests. All of these also work great for the game’s retention rates.

rise of kingdoms monetization strategy

5 Things You Can Learn From Rise of Kingdoms Monetization

You made it all the way here, so let’s sum it all up. Here are all the good things about Rise of Kingdoms Monetization in one place. 

Draw Players Into the Store

There are two main ways the game attracts players to the game’s store. 

The first ones are daily chests the players know where to claim. The second ones are notifications. Sometimes fake, sometimes real, they are not too intrusive, but certainly catch attention. 

Don’t Use Frequent Pop-Ups

I don’t like pop-ups, you don’t like them, almost nobody does. 

For this reason, it is refreshing to see a game that doesn’t rely on IAP pop-ups. During seven days of playing, I only got to see one, and it was worthwhile. 

Not every special offer is worthy enough to come as a pop-up, and Rise of Kingdoms developers definitely know this.

Diversify Offers

The Rise of Kingdoms’ in-game store makes the real heart of monetization.

It has six different sections, each of which is different. First recharge bonus, bundle deals, daily offers, standard offers, subscriptions, and a growth fund. 

It is not only about the number of offers, but their types. Someone prefers bundles, others prefer subscriptions, so why not offer them all? 

Focus on Premium Currency

In this game, if you have gems, you can buy and do almost anything. Speed things up, buy VIP points, and purchase all kinds of resources. 

For this reason, they are the #1 thing players want to purchase. As such, gems are present in every single IAP offer. On the other hand, all other resources come as a nice addition to gems. 

Include Subscription Offers

In this game, there are two quite different subscription options. The first one is found in the game’s store. It brings gems and encourages daily logins. 

The second one is the game’s battle pass – Lucerne Scrolls. Battle passes are getting more and more popular in the strategy genre, and for a good reason. This kind of progression system incentivizes players to come back daily and engage with the game. 

rise of kingdoms meme

Wrapping up on Rise of Kingdoms Monetization 

That’s it, you’ve got the basics of Rise of Kingdoms monetization covered. One thing is for sure, it works wonders for the game’s revenues. 

Want to read more dissections like this one? Check them out here. Also, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter! 

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