Those who pay close attention to the overall rankings in the United States may have noticed that a new high performer entered the top ten last month. What’s interesting is that this game was launched in January 2021. Before it suddenly skyrocketed in early September 2021, it barely received attention in more than 200 rankings. This game is Cookie Run. “The Kingdom” was developed by South Korean developer Devsisters.
Let’s take a closer look at the game itself, the revenue spike, and what factors contributed to it.
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What is Cookie Run: Kingdom?
Cookie Run: Kingdom is another addition to the Cookie Run game brand. The earlier additions are Cookie Run: Ovenbreak (an Endless Runner game released in October 2016) and Cookie Run: Puzzle World (a Match3 game released in January 2020).
Cookie Run: Kingdom does its main progression through an auto-battle core. The player puts together a team of 5 cookies that run through stages while stopping to beat the enemies. The cookies use their regular attacks automatically, but the player controls their special attacks. The stages occasionally have jumping/sliding sequences similar to the core gameplay of Cookie Run: Ovenbreak. Players can get extra coins by performing well in those parts.
To perform well in the matches, players need to train their cookies and equip them with good toppings (equipment items). The whole party can also be equipped with 3 Treasures (another kind of equipment item) that give boosts to stats or act as extra skills that can turn the tide of the battle. All of these characters and equipment items can be upgraded in some way. At the time of the writing, the game has 61 characters to collect.
The Kingdom part of the game’s name comes from the town that players get to rebuild from ruins and decorate to their liking. There are buildings that generate material items that can be used in other buildings to create new items. Items crafted in the Kingdom can be used to trade for new materials and coins. Special Landmark buildings provide stat boosts to battling teams (e.g., All cookies HP +15%), and basic houses generate EXP items but other than those, there is not much impact on the core gameplay from the Kingdom side.
Monetization is diverse, seemingly fair for collector-type players, and focuses mostly on smaller purchases.
Gachas are used for obtaining characters and Treasures. The gachas for the two are separate, so you can choose which you want to go for. Character gachas can give either shards of the character or the full character. If a player accumulates 20 shards of a character, they can unlock the character regardless of its rarity, making shards of rarest characters feel like a win even if you didn’t get the full character. Once a character is maxed, any shards will be converted to Mileage Points that can be used in a shop to purchase shards for almost any character (not the rarest ones or the latest additions).
There are event gachas players can’t really prepare for as they use special event currencies. To make up for it, you can get the currency for them by clearing tasks. Of course, you can also purchase the currency during the event. Nether Gachas, which are reserved for max rarity characters, offer guaranteed pull of the featured character after 250 pulls. The tasks get you close to the needed amount.
The other event gachas have an emptying gacha pool (mix of consumable boosts, stamina, character shards, and character) that can be refreshed after you pull the main prize.
Other than gachas, the game features a variety of things to spend on. Item bundles offer a mixture of useful items, Battle Pass plan includes boosts for farming and PvP attempts, and Paid Progression Plans can be purchased for good value gems. Limited-time IAP offers also strike when you might want them as unlocking or promoting a featured character often gives a pop-up for an offer that helps you upgrade the character.
This covers the basics of the game. For a more detailed breakdown of the game’s features, be sure to check the game in the GameRefinery service.
But what is this recent revenue spike we talked about at the beginning? Let’s dive into that next.
What revenue spike?
During the first half of September 2021, Cookie Run: Kingdom suddenly started rising in revenues and downloads. The grossing rank used to stay around 200, but in about half a month, the game was suddenly around rank 10. The daily revenue estimate jumped from daily $20k to daily $200k on iOS in the US. Downloads rose hand in hand with the revenues, but as the downloads started dropping again, the revenues stayed up.
Since the rise began, the game has been able to establish a new revenue baseline that is approximately 10x what it used to be. When a new event launched on October 8th (v.2.2.001), the revenues jumped another $100k on iOS in the US before returning to the new baseline.
So what happened in the update where the rise began? Reviewing the update (v2.0.101) in the GameRefinery service shows that the update included a new max rarity cookie, a new server named after the new cookie, a tower, where players can review the story so far and Japanese voice acting.
What contributed to the rise?
The new max rarity cookie, Hollyberry Cookie, was not really anything the game hadn’t seen before. A similar kind of max rarity character and special gacha were first introduced in v1.3.101 with Pure Vanilla Cookie and later in v1.6.001 with Sea Fairy Cookie. The new server would come in handy with an influx of new players but releasing a new server is not really that impactful news. The Tower of Records gives gems for reviewing the story, which is nice and generous, but that too is hardly a game-changer.
So what about the voice acting? Up until v2.0.101, after which the rise began, the voice acting had only been available in Korean. Now it was available in Japanese as well. But what about the English voices? That is where the key to this rise lies.
Main cause: Voice Actor marketing campaign
Cookie Run: Kingdom started a marketing campaign for English voice acting in early September. Their official YouTube page has the first announcement trailer dated September 2nd, which happens to be the date when the downloads began their rise. The voice actors were used heavily in the marketing. Their names and faces were featured in the videos, some reviewed fan arts of the characters they voice, and some content just included interviews of the voice actors. Many voice actors (e.g., Ray Chase, Christian Banas, Kellen Goff, just to list a few) also posted content related to their characters on their social media pages. One of the voice actors, Jimmy Chau, is also a mobile game YouTuber.
They haven’t put all their eggs in the voice acting basket but are also making other kinds of content. This recent ad video is gaining more views than the Voice Actors announcement, plus they have a fan art contest going on. Moreover, they occasionally post content related to ongoing trends (e.g., Squid Game needle meme, October spookiness).
Assists: Approachable for everyone
The game is really approachable to everyone. The characters are fun, the art style is sweet, and the game mechanics are easy to approach but offer depth for the most intense players. The character collectors have plenty of characters to collect at player-friendly rates. Story-lovers have a fun and exciting tale to unfold with plenty of delicious puns. Decorators have plenty of decorative buildings to use in the customization of their Kingdom grounds. Social gamers have guild co-op battles, gift sending, and asynchronous PvP league.
Assists: Sonic the Hedgehog collaboration event
Sonic the Hedgehog collaboration began around the peak of the initial climb in ranks, so it is not really the cause, but it surely helped keep the numbers up. The collaboration cleverly makes better use of the jumping/sliding sequences in the core gameplay by adding obstacles that can hurt you and making this small part of core gameplay the main source of the event currency. The event also surprised us by having the collaboration characters (Sonic and Tails) obtainable through playing instead of regular gacha systems. The gacha is still present, but essentially you just gather enough event currency to unlock all rewards of the pool, so the random element doesn’t have relevance in the larger picture. Being able to unlock collaboration characters by playing is yet another factor that makes the player feel like the game is fair and for them.
Assists: IAP Offers
Battle Passes are The Trend in all genres, and Cookie Run: Kingdom also features one. It is one of the cheapest ones out there with a 4,99€ price point. For that amount of money, you get a month-long subscription with a unique Landmark that generates EXP items, various helpful items, two extra attempts at upgrading material farming per day, and a faster PvP refresh timer (10min as opposed to the regular 30min).
There is also a wide range of Bundles available to help you get through whatever wall you might hit. The events feature their own special bundles that give a variety of items for various price points. For more details, check out the Implementation Examples in our service.
The game began adding progression elements to some of the cheaper offers. For example, for 3,99€, you can get 800 event currency (almost one event gacha pull), 50 event stamina (2 attempts of the hardest stage in the event), and 500 gems. Depending on how far you are in the offer, you also get 400 event currency, 30 event stamina, or 200 gems. These offers are limited to twice per day.
Cookie Run: Kingdom managed to pull a successful marketing campaign using English voice actors to reach a wider audience. The downloads and revenues rose hand in hand, so the game had a good variety of IAP Offers, and it managed to convert a decent amount of those new players to players. The game has managed to secure its place around the Top 10 Grossing ranks instead of just visiting there.