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Monopoly Magic: How Scopely turned a beloved IP into one of the biggest mobile games of the year

Industry Commentary
Image: Scopely

There is no escaping Monopoly. This is a board game that’s so world-renowned it’s now a mainstay of international culture. There are so many different themed versions of the game that experts have lost count of how many are out there, although some suspect it’s over 1500. Like any popular franchise, there are plenty of video game adaptations of Monopoly – over 30, in fact – but none have been as successful as Scopely’s mobile version of the game, Monopoly Go!, which continues to go from strength to strength after dominating the download charts in April. At the time of writing, Monopoly Go! is sitting at the top of the iOS download charts and in the top-20 highest grossing mobile games.

The core gameplay loop of Monopoly Go! shares a lot of similarities with the top-grossing casual game Coin Master, according to GameRefinery analysts, but replaces slot machines with the Monopoly board. As a free-to-play mobile game, players have a limited number of dice rolls to move around the map. Once these are depleted, you can wait for them to refresh or purchase additional rolls using real money.

Rather than playing directly against other players on the map, the aim of Monopoly Go! is to purchase every property on the map and place five houses on them to turn them into a hotel. As any Monopoly player knows, building up an empire of properties costs a lot of money. If you don’t have the patience to accumulate money in-game, you can spend real money to build those stacks. Once the board is completed, you move on to the next map.

And players don’t seem to mind spending a little extra. Basic bundles start at $2.99 for 70 dice rolls, $600k in Monopoly money and four property cards, but there are also progressive bundles you can unlock with higher rewards, some for free once you reach a certain level, and others at $9.99. At the time of writing, Monopoly Go! is closing in on a top-20 grossing position on iOS, and has made over $4 million in the last 30 days through iOS devices in the US alone, according to GameRefinery data.

With Monopoly GO! showing no signs of slowing down, there are some valuable lessons from its success that game studios and license holders can apply to their IP-based games or integrations.

Embrace competitive elements – Monopoly GO! is a competitive game by nature, but Scopely builds on this by introducing competitive leaderboards for limited-time events. These work the same way as in-game tournaments – players are told about the specific milestones they need to hit and their progress can be compared with other players across the world.

Collectable elements that track progress – There’s a reason Xbox and PlayStation introduced trophy and achievement systems into their games. These digital trophies and achievements mark a player’s progress and give them something to work towards when they’re playing. In Monopoly GO!, this is done through a stickers album (similar to Roblox’s badges or Animal Crossing’s badges), with badges having specific requirements to unlock. Progression is incentivized, as players earn rewards such as dice rolls and Monopoly money for completing albums.

Live events – Scopely has strong LiveOps calendars for all of its mobile games that refresh with new weekly and monthly events, and Monopoly GO! is no different. This means players are encouraged to revisit the game to check out new events regularly. Monopoly GO! uses ‘flash events’ to encourage longer play times, which active for an hour shortly after the player logs in. Completing the event unlocks rewards.

Daily tasks / log-in bonuses – Monopoly GO! also rewards players for logging in daily and providing them with daily tasks to complete. These daily tasks allow players to unlock dice rolls and Monopoly money without spending any money in-game.

June 1, 2023

Read the episode transcript here

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