Skillz Blog

The Key To Monetization: Skill-Based, Fair Competition

By now, we know that competition has been a part of human civilization for centuries and that it appeals to gamers of both genders across a wide variety of demographics. But how important is competition in the current mobile market? After all, don’t mobile gamers just want to play a quick game of “Candy Crush Saga” in line at the coffee shop and to be otherwise left alone? Well, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.

The top grossing charts for iPhone games show a significant number of titles that include head-to-head competitive elements. As of March 2018, “Fortnite” from Epic Games is the top grossing game in the United States and Switzerland, and it’s also the 3rd, 4th, or 5th top grossing in 21 other countries. “Fortnite” is a battle royale game, in which 100 players paradrop into a continuously shrinking arena and fight to be the last person standing. It has experienced tremendous success as an eSport too; it’s currently the most watched game on Twitch, even nine months after its PC release.

One of the highest grossing games in the U.S. is “Golf Clash,” a PvP one-hole-and-done golf game built specifically for mobile by Playdemic (now a part of Warner Brothers). “Golf Clash” is a fantastic, three-minute competitive experience that’s fun both to play and to watch (though WB hasn’t yet made an eSports push for the game). Its compact play time lets mobile gamers work up their competitive juices in the few minutes it takes to wait for a train on the platform.

These are far from the only examples of competitive games that have dominated the top grossing charts. “Clash Royale” from Supercell, a real-time strategy game in which players send units across the battlefield to knock down their opponents’ towers, was an instant hit in the mobile market. The game that “Clash Royale” knocked out of the top-grossing slot was Machine Zone’s “Game of War: Fire Age,” a map-based massively multiplayer strategy game in which players form alliances to raid and conquer their rivals’ cities. “Game of War,” in turn, replaced “Clash of Clans,” another Supercell title in which players build up defenses for their villages then create troops to launch strikes against their enemies.

Two things are clear: 1) all of these top-grossing games are competitive, and 2) competition has been a huge factor in their success. However, most (if not all) of these games have been criticized as “pay-to-win” because they use long progression arcs where players slowly rack up currencies, which unlock more and more powerful tools to let them compete at higher levels. And of course, the games let players pay real money to acquire those tools sooner than they normally would, creating situations in which players win lopsided victories against their current opponents. It’s exactly the kind of design that has inspired the recent loot box controversies in console gaming.

At Skillz, we certainly understand where these objections to potentially unfair in-app purchases are coming from. We believe competition is most fun when it’s fair, meaning opponents are evenly matched and the game is decided on skill alone, rather than on who gets luckier or who pays more. That’s why you won’t find loot boxes in any of the games on our platform, nor will you ever lose to some player that opened a random legendary card that you haven’t found yet. Our vision of competition just doesn’t allow it.

Instead, we focus on building games of skill that cancel out all elements of chance or luck. You might wonder how this works with certain games on our platform like solitaire and bubble shooters that clearly involve random elements. We ensure that these games are fair and skill-based by integrating anti-cheating and anti-fraud technology to make all players in a given match see exactly the same random events in the same sequence (identical boards, hands, shuffles, etc.). Plus, we carefully monitor match results to ensure that player skill is absolutely the main determinant of tournament outcomes.

Skillz fairness technology allows developers to avoid relying on pay-to-win IAPs, loot boxes, and limited-edition items to monetize their games. Instead, we offer players the chance to compete in whatever way appeals to them, whether that’s playing for fun and pride at no cost, or playing for prizes if they want to increase the level of competition with player-funded tournaments. Our commitment to fun and fair competition has fostered a solid network of both hardcore and casual competitors that generate revenue per daily user metrics that are comparable to the top games in the app store.

Skillz design experts help a remarkable range of games transform into skill-based competitive eSports. If you think your game can’t support competitive play, take a look at our gem-matching games, “breakout-like” games, or even our solitaire card games.

The moral of the story is clear: competition drives top-tier monetization in the app store. More importantly, skill-based, fairly-matched competition for player-selected stakes drives that monetization without controversy. Plus, an astonishingly wide range of games can be built in a fair and competitive fashion. So, if you intend to climb the top grossing charts, it’s time to consider the benefits of injecting competition into your game, and how to implement it fairly and effectively.

If you’d like to learn more about how fair play and demographic targeting are key to driving the success of a game, then register for our free November 28th webinar!