LiveOps Breakdown: Mob Control x Transformers

Mob Control started life as a hypercasual game in 2021, but the addition of new features over the years, such as a base-building meta, PvP and social elements, and a growing focus on IAPs and offers, means it now proudly sits in the hybrid-casual category. 

The easiest way to think of Mob Control today is a unique blend of casual action, strategy and tower defense gameplay. With more than 130 million lifetime downloads generating $30 million in revenue, Mob Control is one of the most popular games on mobile, but you can also pick it up on PC and console. 

At first glance, Mob Control might seem like your typical hypercasual game – especially from the ads you see on your mobile feeds. It’s easy to pick up and understand, the art style is reminiscent of other hypercasual games, and you’ll often be getting mobbed by in-game ads (unless you’re willing to part with some cash to skip them). But one of Mob Control’s biggest points differentiating it from other games in the hypercasual and hybrid-casual categories is its LiveOps strategy. 

Yes, Mob Control has a LiveOps strategy, which has played an important part in the game’s move to hybrid-casual by significantly improving its retention rates. With that in mind, perhaps it’s no surprise that Mob Control recently launched its first IP integration: a month-long limited-time event with Hasbro’s Transformers franchise. 

Was this a victory for Voodoo and the Autobots? Or did players get stung by the Bumblebee mob and upgrade cards? 

Autobots roll out 

The Transformers and Mob Control collaboration ran March 11–1 May and introduced two main features to the game: a special Transformers battle pass with some Transformers-themed rewards including Bumblebee as a champion, and a special limited-time event, Echoes from Cybertron, with a heavy focus on narrative elements.  

Credit: Hasbro / Mob Control 

Game Mechanics

Echoes from Cybertron is a standalone event with a special arena, ‘Ep.1 Bumblebee to the Rescue’ that sits outside of the game’s main modes and contains six levels with three-round boss fights. While the core gameplay mechanics haven’t changed, the narrative elements tell the story of Bumblebee joining forces with the player to prevent a Decepticon invasion. 

To unlock the Transformers event, players had to collect large quantities of the special event currency, ‘Energon’, hidden in the game’s main levels. This meant players had to spend some time engaging with the core game modes before they had enough Energon to unlock the first of six levels, which may have been a way to get new players (such as Transformers fans checking out the game for the first time) familiar with the gameplay mechanics. 

Credit: Hasbro / Mob Control

How the IP was integrated and monetized 

Energon chests are rare, and players had to open a lot of them to get the quantity that was needed to unlock the collaboration levels. If players wanted to speed things up, they could purchase Energon booster packs to double the amount of Energon found in chests. 

Transformers Season Battle Pass ($6.99) 

Outside of the Energon gathering, the main form of monetization came from the special Transformers Season Battle Pass. The free version of the battle pass included unlockables such as card packs and base shields (support items) as well as the special Bumblebee mob and Bumblebee player cards. The premium (paid) version of the battle pass included larger quantities of unlockables but perhaps more importantly, the removal of forced ads. 

Given the heavy presence of ads in the game, the option to remove these for the duration of the season would incentivize players who spend a lot of time in the game, while the special Transformers items and additional quantities of unlockables would appeal to both Transformers fans and players who don’t have the time to find Energon chests by playing through the game normally. 

The biggest lure of the event was the option to unlock Bumblebee as a champion for 1000 blueprints (a special in-game currency). The pricing point for Bumblebee means players really need to purchase the Transformers Season battle pass and complete the special event missions to gather enough blueprints, as the Transformer Season battle pass only rewards players with 900 blueprints - 100 short of what they’d need. 

Another way of obtaining blueprints is through booster packs, which are unlocked by winning battles. While it makes the most sense (and is certainly much quicker) for players to purchase the Season Pass to unlock Bumblebee, Voodoo seems to be encouraging engagement time rather than providing a shortcut to unlock Bumblee as an IAP. 

The end goal here could be to convert new players into fans, ultimately improving player retention. This aligns with retention being one of Vodoo’s KPIs during Mob Control’s move from hypercasual to hybrid-casual. 

Event gameplay (Credit: M.S. Askas - YouTube) 

Audience and Thematic Fit 

According to Sensor Tower data, the average age of Mob Control players on mobile is 32, with a 69% male / 31% female split, and 23% of the user base being under 25. The Transformers fandom shares a similar average age, with analysis of the Transformers YouTube and Instagram pages revealing nearly 50% of its audience is aged between 25–34. The only difference is 86% of these fans are male, compared to 69% for Mob Control players. 

Thematically, this collaboration worked well. One of the challenges with integrating non-gaming IP into a video game is ensuring the collaboration ‘makes sense’ and fits within the world of the game both stylistically, demographically and mechanically. 

The Transformers collaboration ticks all of those boxes. The addition of cutscenes and a unique six-part story explaining why these two worlds are coming together gives players and the collaboration important context. Characters such as Bumblebee who are introduced into the world got a makeover so they appeared in the familiar ‘Mob Control style,’ while sticking to the game’s traditional gameplay mechanics meant the collaboration was easy for players to jump into and didn’t introduce any hard-to-grasp concepts. 

How the event was promoted 

Surprisingly, this collaboration didn’t have a launch video, but it was heavily promoted with PR activity through video game, mobile, licensing, and entertainment news publications, as well as Hasbro and Voodoo’s owned channels. While this editorial provided players with the key information they needed, it would have been beneficial for both Hasbro and Mob Control to showcase gameplay footage from the collaboration in longer videos. 

Credit: Hasbro / Mob Control

How the event performed 

The Transformers collaboration marks the first time Mob Control has integrated external IP into the game, and it's been a huge success. While revenue and downloads have been on a mostly uphill trajectory since last year, there’s a notable spike in downloads and revenue around the launch of the event on March 11. 

The revenue spikes for Mob Control mainly occur on weekends when people have more free time to play video games, which isn’t unusual for mobile games. However, the revenue spikes across March were much higher than in February. As an example, Mob Control made just under $82k on March 23 compared to $61k on February 23, which could be attributed to the additional spend on card pack IAPs for the Transformers items or the Transformers Season battle pass. 

Revenue for Mob Control May 2023-May 2024 (Sensor Tower) 

While there are no other campaigns in Mob Control to compare this to, it’s interesting to note the revenue drop-off mid-April, where weekly revenue falls from $575k the week of Apr 15 to $456k the week after. If the Transformers battle pass and the IAPs to generate additional cards did contribute to increased revenues throughout March and April, most players may have completed the battle pass or gathered the amount of cards they need to unlock the Bumblebee champion card, which would explain the drop-off in revenue earned. 

Game downloads followed a similar pattern as daily revenue moves throughout the length of the collaboration. Daily downloads peaked on Saturday Apr 29 at 319k, the highest they’ve been since March 2023. This could be down to increased awareness of the collaboration as word spread, or it could have coincided with a new UA campaign. 

Downloads for Mob Control May 2023-May 2024 (Sensor Tower)

Key takeaways 

Mob Control proves that IP integrations as part of LiveOps can be a great way for hypercasual game studios to move into the hybrid casual category, or for hybrid-casual games to expand their gameplay mechanics by incorporating new ones that support the IP which is being integrated. 

That said, the success of Mob Control’s collaboration with Transformers highlights the importance of ensuring that any IP integration is a natural fit with the game and, perhaps more importantly, a stand-out unlockable such as the Bumblebee unlock. 

Lessons for game studios 

  • It’s not unusual for mobile game studios to run several battle passes at once, as long as they offer something different for players. Studios should strongly consider implementing IP-based battle passes alongside any regularly occurring battle passes if they can incorporate IP-based cosmetic items and currencies into reward tracks. 
  • IP integrations offer opportunities to introduce new IAPs and gameplay mechanics if you wish, but Mob Control’s Echoes from Cybertron event built on existing gameplay mechanics rather than detract from them. That said, the narrative focus of the event did provide important context for players and naturally embedded the Transformers IP into the game. 
  • Improving retention may be a better long-term goal than increasing revenue in the short-time. Improving player retention, especially as part of onboarding new players, could generate more revenue in the long-term if they convert from free players to regular spenders. 

Lessons for licensors 

  • Don’t write off potential partners because they don’t have experience working with licensed IP. Mob Control’s collaboration with Transformers was a huge success despite Voodoo having never integrated IP before. 
  • Research the audience of any potential gaming partners to ensure they’re the right fit thematically and demographically. Often, the ‘right fit’ will depend on your campaign goals and KPIs!