Welcome to the second article of our ‘How to set up LiveOps’ series deconstructing genre-defining games. Here we unlock elements that allow popular games to successfully combine playability with monetization. And the most exciting part: we imagine how the LiveOps of these games would look in Balancy.
This time, we delve into the Merge Mansion game to see “what Grandma is hiding”* in Metacore’s LiveOps strategy. If you missed our previous article about Roal Match, be sure to check it out.
* “What is Grandma hiding?” – the question that runs like a red thread through the entire narrative of Merge Mansion.
Why Merge Mansion?
This game has gained fantastic fame thanks to its viral marketing campaigns featuring Pedro Pascal and Kathy Bates. While these campaigns have attracted broad audiences (going beyond traditional merge game lovers), the game’s commercial success ultimately relies on its exceptional monetization strategy. Attracting players is one thing, but making them stay and invest their money into it – a completely different story.
To date (April 2023), the game earns around 10 mln $ every month, according to AppMagic. Although the number of times Merge Mansion has been downloaded fluctuated from month to month, the amount of money it makes from its players has been consistently increasing since it was first released.
Top-grossing chart ranking of Merge Mansion
So, what sets Merge Mansion’s monetization apart and makes it a standout in the mobile gaming market? Let’s find out.
Gameplay and story overview
If you are familiar with the gameplay and story, go straight to the next section about LiveOps.
The main character Maddie inherits a mansion from her Grandma Ursula, who appears to hide many secrets about this place. The idea is nothing new for the puzzle genre: players help Maddie restore Grandma’s mansion, which involves merging items on the merge board from the Grandma’s garage.
It is a merge-2 game, which means you merge two items to create a new item of a higher rank. For example, by merging two knives, you get a fork, and by merging two forks, you get pruning shears, and so on:
In order to bring the mansion back to its former beauty, you have to finish certain tasks such as planting flowers, cleaning and repairing things. However, to accomplish these tasks, you must possess specific tools and materials that are obtained by merging items on the board.
Why is this a great design solution? Instead of using currency or points to complete tasks, players use items from the merge board. This creates a seamless connection between core gameplay and meta narrative.
Merge Mansion’s merge board.
Merge Mansion LiveOps in Balancy
Merge Mansion monetizes exclusively via in-app purchases to provide a high-quality game experience. To keep the game profitable, players are navigated to the in-game shop to buy energy, gems, coins, boxes, and other items they need to continue playing and progress faster.
To encourage players to spend money, the game utilizes a matrix of personalized, time-limited offers. Additionally, Merge Mansion features a variety of events that keep players engaged and work on the retention of loyal player base. Let’s look closely at these tactics that provide an enjoyable gaming experience while positively impacting metrics.
The first time-limited offer (a starter pack) comes quite early in the player experience and appears both as a pop-up banner and a section inside the shop. A player clearly sees the value of this deal (the discount is specified – 50%) and scarcity (time limit and the number of packs left).
As for the pricing – I got this offer for 3.49 euros. But I saw examples on the internet when users got it for a higher price with a bit more currency given. So I dare to suppose that this could be developers changing this offer periodically, or it may involve a personalized pricing strategy that depends on players’ paying capacity.
The latter scenario means you can define various segments of users based on their previous purchases in the game or predictions about the likelihood to pay and show different combinations of offers and discounts to different groups of players.
This is how the implementation of such a mechanism can look in Balancy. In this visual script, we segment audience by the size of their previous payments and show a descending discount from 70% for non-payers to 30% for whales:
When writing this article, the Merge Mansion was running a special Easter promotion. The price of the Easter offer was slightly cheaper than the previous offer (starter pack). It is possible that the lower price is given, because I haven’t purchased the previous offer – and, thus, the developers are offering a discounted price to encourage me to make a purchase. This is a hypothesis, but it can be a plausible explanation of the lower price.
Two of the offer examples above are single-bundle offers. Sometimes in Merge Mansion, you can come across group offers, such as the one below:
Let’s recreate this group offer in Balancy:
The shop display depends on which part of the interface you open it from. It’s a great technique to show players relevant offers first. For instance, if players click on the currency icons located at the top of the screen, they will see sections of the shop displaying coins and gems. Conversely, clicking the dedicated shop button will display a wider range of items for sale: special offers, daily deals, flash sale, energy, etc.
Different ways to display in-game shop based on from which part of the game players enter it.
You may have noticed that Merge Mansion offers daily gifts (in the screenshot above). This is a great way to motivate players to visit a shop daily to claim a free reward and scroll through other offers in the meantime!
Additionally, you can adjust the shop’s display for different segments of users. This tactic can greatly improve your conversions and increase average check. For instance, you can show different limited-time offers for whales and non-payers at the top of the store page.
Here is how to implement it in Balancy. In this shop scheme, the top part of the shop is dedicated to special offers (which are shown to non-paying users and whales), while gem and gold packs follow below:
Merge Mansion features timed events that occur periodically to keep players more engaged with new fresh content and tasks. Players are introduced to events only after reaching level 12 when they have understood the game’s mechanics very well. Each event consists of new tasks for players, a time limit of availability, and rewards.
There are several types of events to be found in Merge Mansion:
- Story events, become available after a player activates the task to complete a specific item. For example, the Ignatius Boulton event opens once you activate the ‘Fix missing item’ task and the player’s goal is to acquire a stone can within 72 hours.
Story events in Merge Mansion. Source: Fandom.com
Ignatius Boulton event. Source: Sportskeeda
- Seasonal events are tied to calendar dates and appear in the game during celebrations (these are Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Spring Holiday, 4th of July, Ursula’s birthday party, etc.). As a rule, these events reward players with some unique decorations.
Examples of seasonal events in Merge Mansion. Source: Fandom.com
The most recent seasonal event was the Amazing Egg Hunt, devoted to Easter. In this event, players helped Mason find Easter eggs by merging items. Players were getting beautiful Easter decorations as a reward:
- Generic events activate randomly during the game. These are Butterfly Event, Flowers Everywhere!, Terrace Triumphs and other, which reward players with various boosters and chests.
- Progression events have a slightly different mechanic than others, as they do not include tasks. During these events, special event items are randomly generated when merging items. Examples of progression events are Maddie’s Spa Getaway, Christmas Season, and New Year’s Resolutions.
Here is how Merge Mansion’s event calendar could look like in Balancy:
Merge games contain a lot of objects with various qualities. For example, in Merge Mansion, there are hundreds of items for merging (divided into categories: gardening tools, brick mason tools, broom cabinet, etc.), chests, boxes, piggy bank, energy, coins, gems – the list may go on and on. Game designers need to store and manage this game balance remotely.
Usual spreadsheets will work fine initially for this purpose, but you will quickly notice how they slow down your workflow, lack flexibility, and make it almost impossible to navigate hundreds or thousands of items. Besides, spreadsheets entail lots of risks related to human error – app crashes and broken game logic will be your companions when you scale LiveOps and launch several updates per week.
Balancy provides a solution to manage your complex game content remotely and connect it directly to your LiveOps system (where you launch special offers and events). Here is how Merge Mansion content could look like in Balancy. All item qualities have a neat visual display and can be adjusted remotely:
Later on, without leaving the Balancy interface, you can arrange this content into special offers or give as rewards for players that complete events in your game. This way, you can control your game balance with resources inflow and sinks at the highest speed your team has ever seen.
It goes without saying that the success of Merge Mansion is due to a quality game experience with a good dose of mystery that keeps players engaged and coming for more content. However, LiveOps play a crucial role in their commercial success too. New events with fresh content and personalized offers effectively address the needs of various players – new and old, paying and non-paying, active and churning.
If you want to run LiveOps like top market players, Balancy has solutions to cover all your needs. Explore our LiveOps platform to run personalized events and special offers to maximize the lifetime value of your game.