Monopoly Go! core game play and LiveOps deconstruct (by Ashwin Sundar, Reliance Games)

Please welcome a new guest post by Ashwin Sundar, a game designer at Reliance Games. You will learn key core gameplay and LiveOps secrets behind the most sensational game of this summer – Monopoly Go!

Ashwin, a game designer with over 5 years of industry experience, boasts an impressive portfolio that includes contributions to renowned companies such as Reliance Games, Nukebox, and PopReach. A big gamer in the past, today he found his passion in deconstructing and creating game mechanics and features.

Monopoly Go! has taken the casual market by storm since its release in the month of April, surpassing 50 million by the time this article was written. The game continues to rack up impressive achievements, cementing its position as a popular choice among casual players.

What makes this game fun? Can it retain users after a while? Let’s deconstruct the game and learn more about it.

The amalgamation of genres

The game’s ability to combine casual, idle, and mid-core genres creates a unique and captivating experience. By blending these genres, the game appeals to a wide range of players with varying preferences and gaming styles. It offers the best of both worlds, catering to casual players who prefer simplicity and mid-core players who seek deeper gameplay mechanics.

To understand this better let’s look at the core loop of the game:

Dice-driven movement:

In Monopoly GO, players utilize dice to determine their movement on the game board. Each player rolls the dice, and the number they get determines how many steps their player token will move. This element of chance adds suspense and unpredictability to the game, as players must strategize based on the outcome of their dice roll.

Tile-based events:

As players move their tokens across the board, they encounter different tiles that trigger various events. For example, landing on a Jail tile may result in being captured and requiring the player to roll a double to escape or pay a fine to get out. Other tiles may involve paying rent for landing on an opponent’s property or initiating a Railroad event, which allows a player to raid another player’s landmark and temporarily shut it down. These events introduce strategic decision-making and create memorable moments during gameplay.

These tile-based events are greatly used in LiveOps events which will be covered later.

Cash management:

Cash is a vital resource in Monopoly GO. Players earn cash through various means, such as passing Go, collecting rent, or winning rewards. Conversely, they may have to spend cash to pay rent, fines, or upgrade their properties. Effectively managing cash is crucial for progressing in the game, acquiring valuable assets, and outwitting opponents.

Property upgrades and net worth:

One of the primary objectives of Monopoly Go! is to upgrade landmarks and increase net worth. Players can use their earned cash to upgrade properties, which distribute houses or building tiles on their owned locations. As players upgrade a certain number of buildings, their net worth increases, reaching milestones that unlock rewards and new opportunities. This progression system provides a sense of achievement and motivates players to strategize and accumulate wealth.

Landmark and Milestone screens.

Unlocking new locations:

Once players have successfully upgraded all the landmarks in a specific location, a new board and set of properties are introduced. This unlocks a fresh experience featuring new challenges, opportunities, and strategies. The introduction of new locations ensures that the game remains engaging and provides a sense of progression as players navigate through different settings.

The differentiating factor between a casual player and a mid-core player in Monopoly Go! lies in their engagement with the game mechanics and the level of involvement they seek.

Caters to Casual and Mid-core Players

For casual players:

The game offers simple mechanics that are easy to grasp and require minimal input. The focus is on rolling the dice and experiencing the events that unfold based on the dice outcome. Casual players can enjoy the game without delving into complex strategies or intense decision-making. The simplicity of the mechanics allows for a more relaxed and casual gameplay experience, suited for those who prefer a more laid-back approach to gaming.

For a mid-core player:

While the game retains its casual-friendly mechanics, mid-core players can engage with additional gameplay elements catering to their desire for deeper involvement. The live ops events, progression systems, and collection mechanics allow mid-core players to strategize, optimize their gameplay, and work towards specific goals. The need to manage cash effectively, make calculated upgrades, and unlock new locations adds a layer of complexity and depth to the game. Mid-core players enjoy the challenge of progressing and achieving milestones, which keeps them actively engaged and invested in the game.

Strong retention features

Short-term retention features:

Daily login rewards: Monopoly Go! encourages players to log in every day for a consecutive 7-day period. If a player misses a login in between, the streak resets. Daily logins provide players with various rewards such as dice rolls, cash shields, and milestone rewards. These rewards serve as immediate incentives for players to engage with the game on a daily basis.

💡By the way, did you know that you can add daily rewards to your game with Balancy? Look at this neat and simple interface, where you can set up and change rewards and choose conditions for daily bonus feature activation:

Weekly prize feature: The game offers a weekly quest system where players must complete daily quests to fill up a progress bar. Each completed daily quest earns players a “tick” mark, which is added to the weekly quest milestone bar. As players fill up the bar, they unlock milestone rewards, including stickers, additional dice rolls, and cash rewards. The weekly prize feature provides players with a continuous sense of progression and rewards for their regular engagement.

💡Need to manage quests and rewards in your game? Check out Balancy’s CMS (Content Management System) to operate your live game without burdening the dev team:

Long-Term Retention Features:

Sticker collection: This long-term retention feature spans over a period of two months. Players are tasked with collecting stickers, primarily available through special events. By completing the sticker collection, players can earn extremely generous rewards, such as a significant amount of cash (e.g., 120 million) or a substantial number of dice rolls (e.g., 15,000). The sticker collection serves as a long-term goal for players, motivating them to participate in events and engage with the game consistently over an extended period.

LiveOps events: These events occur in short bursts, lasting for a few days or even just a few hours. LiveOps events introduce simple objectives that players must complete within the given time frame. These events provide players with additional opportunities to earn rewards and experience new content. 

By offering regular and time-limited events, Monopoly Go! keeps the game dynamic and fresh, encouraging players to log in and actively participate. The live events provide both short-term excitement and long-term engagement opportunities.

By incorporating these short-term and long-term retention features, Monopoly Go! aims to keep players engaged and motivated to return to the game regularly. The combination of daily login rewards, weekly quest progression, long-term sticker collection, and time-limited live events ensures that players have various incentives to continue their gameplay journey over both short and long periods of time.

💡When the game grows, so does the list of events in it. Therefore, every team needs a convenient LiveOps calendar to have an overview of game events, offers, and A/B tests. Balancy Dashboard does exactly that – it allows you to plan, launch, and monitor the performance of all LiveOps events in your game:

Liveops Events Breakdown: LiveOps events in Monopoly Go! are designed to be simple and easy to develop, utilizing the existing mechanics of rolling the dice and landing on tiles. The events leverage the actions associated with each tile on the game board, making the rules straightforward and intuitive for players to understand. There are two types of LiveOps events: milestone-based events and leaderboard events.

Milestone-based events require players to land on specific tiles to earn points. By accumulating a certain amount of points, players can reach milestones and receive rewards. This format ensures that players actively engage with the game board, strategizing their moves to maximize their point earnings. The simplicity of the event mechanics makes it easy for developers to implement, as they primarily need to package the user interface for the event.

Leaderboard events, on the other hand, focus on players earning points before the event ends. The goal is to accumulate as many points as possible within a given timeframe and compete with other players on the leaderboard. This adds a competitive element to the game, encouraging players to strategize and optimize their gameplay to climb the ranks. The leaderboard format provides a sense of urgency and fosters player engagement during the event duration.

How is this effective for players and developers?

The effectiveness of LiveOps events lies in their simplicity and alignment with the core mechanics of Monopoly Go! For developers, these events are relatively easy to develop since they leverage existing gameplay elements. There is no need for complex additional mechanics, reducing development time and resources required. This allows developers to focus on creating engaging event visuals and user interfaces to enhance the player experience.

For players, LiveOps events offer a seamless onboarding experience. Since the events revolve around the core mechanics of the game, players are already familiar with the actions required to participate. This eliminates the need for excessive tutorials or explanations, ensuring that players can quickly jump into the event and start earning points. The simplicity of the events also ensures that players can easily understand the objectives and rules, allowing them to focus on enjoying the event and striving for rewards.

The Social Aspect

The social aspect of Monopoly Go! plays a significant role in enhancing the gameplay experience and creating engaging interactions among players. Here’s an expanded description:

Collecting rent: One of the vital social interactions in Monopoly Go! is the ability to collect rent from other players who land on your properties. This interaction creates a dynamic economic system within the game, where players strategize to acquire valuable properties and charge higher rent to their opponents. Collecting rent adds an element of negotiation, competition, and player interaction, as players must balance paying rent and building their own wealth.

Event tiles: Event tiles, such as the bank heist event, introduce social interactions that add excitement and unpredictability to the game. The bank heist event, for example, creates a situation where a player can steal money from another player. This not only adds a thrilling element to the gameplay but also encourages social dynamics, as players strategize to protect their assets and outwit their opponents. Such events can lead to memorable moments of surprise, tension, and strategizing, fostering a lively and interactive gaming experience.

The social aspect in Monopoly Go! is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it encourages player engagement and interaction, transforming the game from a solitary experience to a shared and social one. Interacting with other players through rent collection, tile occupation, and event outcomes adds depth and excitement to the gameplay, creating a sense of camaraderie or competition among players.

Lastly, the social aspect fosters memorable experiences and creates lasting impressions. Moments of negotiation, rivalry, or unexpected events become topics of conversation and shared memories among players. These experiences enhance the game’s replay value, as players are motivated to return for more interactive and social gameplay sessions.

Economy Design of Monopoly Go!

Monopoly Go! utilizes a monetization strategy primarily based on dice rolls and cash. The design draws inspiration from games like Coin Master, where dice rolls function as spins and are subject to limits. These dice rolls are tied to player engagement through daily rewards and events, creating a sense of anticipation and scarcity. The game’s economy revolves around the interaction between dice rolls and cash, offering players opportunities to earn and spend in-game currency.

Let’s look at how the game sets up the economy in the beginning and how the dice rolls play a significant part in it.

Cash earnings in Monopoly Go are obtained by landing on cash tiles after passing the “Go” tile. The amount of cash earned in the first board starts at 18 and gradually increases by 2, ranging up to 32 just before reaching the “Go” tile. On average, players can earn 25 cash per roll. For example, if a player completes a full rotation around the board, accumulating four rolls, they would earn a total of 100 cash.

The table is based on my gameplay.

Players can invest their earned cash in upgrading buildings. The average price for Upgrade 1 is 293. To fully upgrade all buildings at this level, players would require an average of 12 rolls. Upgrading buildings provides players with benefits such as increased earnings or special abilities, enhancing their overall gameplay experience.

Upgrade prices on the second board.

At the start of the game, players are granted 20 dice rolls. These rolls serve as an initial resource to kickstart their progress. Additionally, players can achieve milestones by reaching specific goals or completing designated tasks. For instance, upgrading four buildings may unlock Milestone 2, which rewards players with 20 additional dice rolls. These milestones provide players with a sense of achievement and progression, encouraging them to further engage with the game.

Since cash tiles aren’t the only types of tiles, I gathered a list of occurrences of tiles since there was a doubt of probabilities came around because rolling dice in real life can sometimes draw the desired result if one knows how to roll, but not in randomized scenarios, so here’s what I found out. Note that these events are only from dice rolled 100 times, so few events didn’t occur.

Cash Earnings: The most common event appears to be earning cash, which occurs frequently throughout the data sequence.

Railroads: Landing on railroad tiles also occurs multiple times throughout the sequence.

Chance and Community Chest: There are instances where the player encounters chance or community chest cards, which can have various effects, including cash rewards or penalties.

Jail: The player visits or lands in jail on multiple occasions.

Taxes: There are events related to taxes, where the player needs to pay a specified amount.

Other Events: The data also includes events such as bank heist, shield, parking free, jail visit, and GO.

As players progress to subsequent boards in Monopoly Go!, both cash earnings and building upgrade prices increase. For example, the cash tiles after “Go” start at 90 and rise to 160, with an increment of 10. The average price for Upgrade 1 at this stage becomes 2640. Completing all the building upgrades at this level would require an average of 21 rolls, nearly double the amount required for a single building upgrade. This demonstrates the game’s increasing difficulty and the need for players to strategize their resources effectively.

Throughout the game, players may encounter a crunch in dice rolls, creating a situation where acquiring additional rolls becomes challenging. This serves as a monetization opportunity for Monopoly Go!. The game can offer players the option to purchase additional dice rolls through in-app purchases or other monetization strategies, ensuring a continuous revenue stream while providing players with a means to overcome the scarcity of rolls and progress further.

In conclusion, Monopoly Go! has made a significant impact on the casual gaming market, attracting millions of players and generating substantial revenue. Its success can be attributed to a combination of factors stated above that make the game enjoyable and capable of retaining users over time.

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