Overall Revenue of Gardenscapes Has Exceeded 3 Billion Dollars. Do Exaggerated and False Advertisements Really Work?

“According to the data from Sensor Tower, since its launch in August 2016, global App Store and Google Play players have paid more than 3 billion dollars in Playrix “Gardenscapes”.”

In the first half year of 2021, “Gardenscapes” has an in-app purchase revenue of 405 million dollars, ranking the second in the Top Grossing Puzzle & Decorate Games Worldwide H1 2021. Homescapes, the first in the list, Fishdom, the third in the list and Gardenscapes are all from the well-known casual game manufacturer Playrix.

Judging From the advertising data from App Growing Global, all three games are in long-term media buying, and their advertisements cover most parts of the world with a lot of popularity. Most people have viewed the relevant advertisements even if they haven’t played the game before.

People think that these are puzzle & unriddle games after seeing the advertisements for the first time. Actually these games are Match 3-focused games even though there is nothing relative with March-3 games in the ad.

This misunderstanding comes from Playrix’s creative “puzzle solving” advertising strategy. A series of its games have used a lot of content such as “survival in danger” and “difficulty solving” as advertising materials. The most representative of these is to pull the needle to solve the puzzle.

In a puzzle consisting of several poles crossing each other, the poles need to be drawn in order to save the game character or get rewards. This is the most typical plot of “pull the needle to solve the puzzle”.

Actually the puzzle isn’t difficult, but the hand in videos always make mistakes in order to arouse users’ curiosity. Only after download, they realized it is not the gameplay in the ad at all.

Such a trickery in advertising is naturally indispensable for the player’s complaints and even attracted the attention of supervision department.

On Sep.30 last year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) made its ruling that some of the ads for the two games “Homescapes” and “Gardenscapes” were misleading ads and required Playrix not to display such ads.

Even with precedents for punishment, there are more and more manufacturers adopt these advertising strategies because they fail to beat them. They use the gameplay unrelated to the game to make advertising materials, misleading users to download the game.

In fact, Even Playrix is not the first manufacturer to start using misleading advertising strategies. The card RPG “Hero Wars” launched in 2016 also used similar creative “puzzle solving” ads to break into the top of the category rankings, and even reaped tens of millions of turnover. It is completely invisible in the advertisement that this is a game of breaking through levels.

Manufacturers of misleading advertising should be very clear that the quality and retention rate of misled users will not be high. However, judging from the revenue of 3 billion dollars in “Gardenscapes”, this way seems to be effective. What’s the trick among them? What kind of game can adopt this method?

01

Casual Game Expand Users

For casual games, an important task for the UA team is to attract more users with the lowest possible bids, and to complete the monetization before the retention rate drops rapidly over time.

The user barriers between the various categories of casual games are not deep. A user who is interested in puzzle ads will not necessarily quit immediately when faced with a game that is actually a Match-3 game, but may make a try instead. They will even be successfully converted.

Therefore, the use of misleading advertisements is likely to face the problem of lower retention rate or user qualities, but it is also a way to expand users.

Through App Growing Global, it can be seen that some puzzle materials of “Gardenscapes” can be released for more than 200 days. Such a long time of release indicates that the ROI of this model is profitable.

02

Collaboration Between Media Buying and Product Development

In the face of ASA’s allegations, Playrix also explained that “the content displayed in the advertisement is not a false advertisement, but a part of the gameplay”, which is the so-called Minigames mechanism.

Playrix will extract the gameplay from the popular ad materials, add it to the product as Minigames and display it on the app store. It will let users who are attracted by the advertisements believe that they can actually play the game in the advertisements after downloading it, even though in fact Minigames only occupies a small part of the game.

This kind of mechanism is relatively rare. With the support of the product development end, the addition of Minigames can better attracts users, offsets part of the sense of loss of “the wrong product” after users open the game, and cleverly avoids part of the regulatory risk.

03

Playable Advertisements in Further Operation

For misleading advertisements that rely on novel gameplay to attract users, video-type materials can vividly and comprehensively display interesting gameplay, which is a good material form.

According to data from App Growing Global, video materials of various sizes of “Gardenscapes” accounted for more than 70% in the ads on Google Play in the past three months.

Apart from these ads, we also saw some playable ads. Playable ads have a higher degree of immersion and a better user experience. Because the “advertising feeling” is lower, it has a better conversion rate.

By making the gameplay in the video into a playable form, it adds a little sense of reality to the advertisement, and it also fits the characteristics of misleading advertising more. It’s a potential advertising form. But, due to the production costs and other restrictions, there are only some head manufacturers such as Playrix are actively trying.

04

Game Quality Is The Ultimate Core

For a game to achieve long-term operations, a high-quality gaming experience is essential. As far as “Gardenscapes” is concerned, despite its trickeries in media buying, the game itself is also of high quality.

“Gardenscapes” is one of the first works that combine Match-3 gameplay with narrative elements. The exquisite decoration design, precise level balance, and fascinating storytelling greatly enrich the gameplay and make the game possess longer life cycle.

Users who have been misled into the game can quickly find a new attraction, and the sense of loss is quickly filled, and then a conversion is formed.

With the foundation laid by multiple aspects such as gameplay design and game operation, coupled with the originality of the advertising materials, this game finally become an iconic product.

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