The release of Dawn of Titans embarked on a new era for Zynga as their big 2015 acquisition Natural Motion game finally released. In over 21 months of beta testing and millions of dollars invested, Dawn of Titans experienced a rather successful release garnering a buzz across the mobile gaming landscape experiencing millions of download as their promotional engine hummed to the tune of, Top 50 grossing game in the US.
But many industry veterans know that this space is not a sprint but a marathon and this post takes a look at the state of Dawn of Titans several months after its Worldwide Launch.
At first glance, the resistance line for DoT is looking at around a 20 degrees slope in a 4 month span. From a top 40 – 50 moving avg, DoT seems to currently be sitting around the 100 – 120 grossing ranking avg. This is especially concerning as the steep slope is extremely bearish and at current there seems to be no sign of ranking stability the rate this moving avg. is declining.
The decline in gross ranking has a lot of different variables but for the purpose of this post i would like to delve into the problems why, DoT is having issues staying relevant in the top grossing chart.
Natural Motion’s first RPG Mobile game.
Natural Motion is well known for the CSR series. But the truth is that Natural motion didn’t develop the series. A studio out in UK called Boss Alien are responsible for the design and massive success of CSR series. Natural Motion were involved in the development of Clumsy Ninja or My Horse that are more focused toward in-game simulation and the realism around it. Although a viral success, Clumsy Ninja did so poorly on the monetization side that the game disappeared before it even started. A mere blip in the history of Mobile innovation. Game looked great btw.
DSources have it that, Natural Motions initial approach in development was to make the most aesthetically pleasing game experience and paid minimal attention to game balance or scaling of the game. They worked diligently to hit the visual target in the pre pro stage in development as they neglected many aspects of running a social freemium game, inadvertently leading to their delay in release. Zynga’s $527 million acquisition also, didn’t really help Natural Motion as well, building unnecessary pressure for this game to succeed as the team remained Client heavy and lacked freemium knowledge, RPG design knowledge, back end authentication knowledge and many more to succeed in this rapidly changing space. All these factors play a role in the plausible means in why DoT struggles to remain relevant in the top gross ranking list.
There’s nothing really beneficial in the mobile space to be in beta period for 21 months. The mobile landscape changes too fast to be lingering and mulling innovative ideas to make your game better. Keeping a product alive because you hope to get back your initial returns is no different than opening up a market position without accepting how much you are willing to risk / lose. Taking the loss and moving onto a new project with a brand new perspective on the market situation is a much better position than being married to a project hoping that your position pays off.
DoT’s game design is modeled around the Clash of Clans system where players are required to upgrade their buildings and produce infantry and take them to battle. The game progression is relatively smooth and i personally haven’t had much friction with the gameplay but my issue with the game was the outdated-ness of it and their fundamental approach in UX. Below are notable points on the their outdated approach to game design.
No auto play.
I’ve created a post regarding “The death of game play” in mobile apps and this is the current trend in mobile game design where players, ‘just’ don’t have the time to go through the battle system and its has become a prerequisite for you game or you’ll have a hard time retaining a bulk of your players. The lack of auto play in DoT is currently chipping away at their retention numbers.
Outdated City Builder System.
City builder system is a page out of Game of War, and the lack of customization makes the game feel like a spreadsheet game. Games like Hay Day and Clash of Clans innovated the city builder model by allowing players to create a customizable cities or have direct interaction with your actual building Making it feel like you were ‘actually’ developing your city. DoT seems like they took the easy road and had the city get built through the UI
Affinity with your Titans / Units.
The product offering can be quite confusing at times as the game provides 2 product offering with respects to setting up your war party.
Disposable Units: Units you create
Titans: The one Character you bring into battle that stands out in the game.
The confusion lies in where players should spend their money, what infantry they should prioritize in upgrading and what would be most beneficial to upgrade. Monetizing disposable units vs. Unique characters required its own in depth progression system and everything feels a bit too bare bones and the idea wasn’t completely fleshed out. It feels like going to a fusion restaurant with the chef not completely understanding the different palettes and spices that make up the specific regions dishes. Perfecting one style of cooking is hard enough, fusing 2 regions is difficult task to master.
Due to Natural Motion branding themselves as an aesthetic dev studio. It seems like they prioritize visual over game play, which at times might not be the best approach.
There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to do what you want to do on the battlefield. DoT’s camera is positioned at a very low angle that emphasizes the beauty of the environment but the interaction with your units and micro managing them during battle maybe one of the most frustrating battle play experience i’ve had in awhile. Due to the low camera angle, miss clicking on where you actually want your units to go is difficult and selecting specific units is another headache all in itself. If this is a ‘get better’ moment, i understand but i must say, my units at one point in the battle feel like they are always taking a detour route when trying to get from A to B.
City Builder Buildings
Although, again, the city looking very nice, i have no idea where things are leading me to click a lot of building to check what they are before realizing what i actually want to do in the game. This learning curve slows down player progression and is a more of a take away from UX even though aesthetically the game looks beautiful.
City Builder Zoom Function
Is this even necessary. Giving players too many options is never a good thing, because what usually happens is that they dig too deep into functionality that they forget how to get back to the default. The zoom function seems to emphasize the beautiful-ness of the game but at this point it feels like it’s over kill.
Dawn of Titans struggles
DoT’s inability to maintain a gross rank range is a cause for concern as it seems that their UA team can only support the organic growth to a certain degree. Without a proper product positioning plan, DoT’s will have trouble finding a firm support line where they can continue to operate their game as they have currently slid down to the 130- 150 range. With the acquisition of the studio, i’m sure there exist executive level pressure for this game to perform as Zynga would like to receive some returns from their acquisition. DoT needs to start turning more events in order to see some more spikes in their ranking list.
The pressure is real imo.