Coin Master Deconstructing the game from a KPIbased lens

Disclaimer: (1) The ideal way to go over this post is to first play the game, get comfortable with the game a bit, and that will help you relate better to some of the points mentioned here (2) This post intentionally stays away from a design-led or a UX-led deconstruct of the game, because.. well, that could be a topic for another day.

So what is this post about? This is basically about a game that I really enjoyed playing, and my attempt at deconstructing the game from a KPI based lens i.e., what metric is a particular feature driving.

About the game

At the core of it, Coin Master is a slots game with a fresh art style, and a very clean UX

  • Most slots games are notorious for their seemingly spammy & confusing UX — that´s where this game stands out from the rest.
  • The slots core is wrapped up with a build & battle meta, that ties in very closely and strengthens the core.
  • The other big win for this game is the freshness of content.. There is always some timed-event or the other which is live, and keeps players engaged!

Core loop & the META

Let´s start with the game´s core loop. The primary loop of the game is to spin the machine, win coins, and use the coins to build your village and level up.

While this is a simple loop, there are 2 layers of meta, which sits on top of this. The role of the meta is to give you a “purpose” as to why you should work with the core loop. So, what are these –

PvP gameplay: Your villages get raided (which means your coins are stolen by others). How do you protect your village? By collecting shields. How do you own shields? They come from slot machines.. So keep those machines spinning!

Pet collection: A pet helps you progress faster in the game (typically gets you more coins from a raid). There are different kinds of pets, and each pet is a collection of a certain type of cards. How do you win cards? By raiding other villages.

These 2 meta systems sit on top of the slots core loop, and incentivizes players to engage more with the loop.

Let´s now do a complete feature by feature breakdown of the game, and look at what is the purpose of each component, and what metric does it drive

Spins drive the core loop, and every other system sits on top of this to push for more interactions with the core loop

  • Its natural cycle is 5 spins every 60 minutes, so it takes 10 hours to go from empty(0 spins) to 100% (50 spins)
  • The energy mechanic serves as a natural exit point of the session (close the app when you run out of spins)
  • This is a core system that drives all key metrics., as we will see subsequently how it is closely tied to other systems

Bets offer a chance for player to get rewards by sinking more spins. So 2x bet gives out 2x rewards by sinking 2 spins in 1 turn.

What metric does it drive?

It primarily serves to reduce the spins(wallet) faster, so we could expect the mechanic to drive

  • More spins per session, and hence Spins per DAU

Since it drives the core spins metric by sinking the spins wallet faster, we can also see this translate to an upside in revenue.

This is the primary progression system in the game.

For the player -> Villages have levels, and there are a bunch of quests that need to completed to climb up levels.

For the game -> It is primarily a way to sink coins, and incentivizes core loop engagement.

What metric does it drive? Again, it´s the spins, because more upgrades requires coins, more coins requires spins. Hence it would drive –

  • More spins per session, and hence Spins per DAU

The PvP gameplay has two aspects to it –

Attacking a village to loot coins -> happens through more spins (attacks or raids are a slot machine output)

and, defending a village -> also, happens through more spins (shields help you defend & they come from slot machine spins)

What metric does it drive? Since we see that both attacks & defend are a by-product of slot machine spins, we can expect it to drive

  • More spins per session, and hence Spins per DAU

In addition, defend drives more session/day as well, because you can hold only 3 shields and shields expire when you get attacked.

So there is an added incentive to come to the game frequently to always have 3 shields active in your game. This leads to more sessions per DAU, and hence a further increase in Spins per DAU.

Pets is the card collection meta on top of the PvP loop. Basically attacking more villages drops random chests & cards. By completing a set of cards, it unlocks a pet.

How does a Pet impact the game? By giving out more rewards in attacks.

What metric does it drive? Again, it drives the core spins metric, because it is one layer on top of the PvP meta. Hence,

  • More spins per session, and hence Spins per DAU

The game has a very rich Events structure, which keeps it fresh, and there is always new content to look forward to.

Some of them play out as mini games (eg., burst a balloon), while others are more direct and plays out as a timed quest (perform X within a set time)

What metric does it drive? Again, it drives the core spins metric. Hence,

  • More spins per session, and hence Spins per DAU

In addition these events are usually short-timed (typically just a few days), and the rewards are usually very lucrative and “too-stupid-to-not-engage” kind. Hence we can expect it to drive higher sessions per DAU, and hence a further increase in Spins per DAU.

One gripe though- I suspect some of these events would end up cannibalizing revenue due to the very nature of the super-awesome-rewards. It´s either badly designed in terms of rewards, or perhaps this was a conscious call to treat these events as a purely retention mechanic with a lesser focus on monetization.

In summary, as we have seen above, every single system seems to drive that 1 core metric, which is the North-star metric for Coin Master, and that is the Spins per DAU

Now, onto the million dollar question (pun intended) — What is the slot machine tuned for?

  • Given that spins per DAU is the north-star metric for this game, and every single system seems to drive more spins, success or failure of this game HUGELY depends on the tuning of the slot machine itself.. Basically, how should the machine grant rewards?
  • The slot machine grants (1) Coins (2) Attacks/Shields (3) Free spins
  • Something to note is that every spin is actually rewarding to the player in some sense (there is no failed spin for the player.. Some amount of coins is anyways granted)
  • So the crux of the issue is how much coins can be granted overall in a session, how many attacks/raids, how many free spins
  • This directly boils down to how can the game create pinches for these resources, which basically translates to how can the game sink the spins and coins wallet faster.

In my opinion, there is very clearly a cycle of artificial abundance and artificial scarcity, which is the foundation for its monetization

The challenge here is not simply creating the scarcity, that´s pretty easy because there are enough levers to pull which can result in the scarcity. The real challenge is to create the scarcity without making it seem unfair, or giving the notion that the machine is rigged.

In my opinion, there are a few non-explicit ways of doing this, one of which is to adjust the drop-rates of the attacks or raids based on player´s wallets. This is completely invisible to the player, so the experience for a player with infated spin wallets is to delay the “attack” by a few more spins, but the payoffs can also be adjusted accordingly. It is basically more rewards, but delayed by more spins.

There are several other ways in which we could approach this problem, but I hope this example drives home the point.

Few things that would be interesting to analyze through data

New payer conversion

1. What is the typical first purchase?

  • Is it spins or coins? (My guess is that it is spins, because that´s what typically energy based mechanics rely on.. That the primary monetization resource is energy, and not the other resources)
  • Do they convert from starter pack or from the out-of-resource popup?

2. What is the inflexion point i.e., how much does someone grind and then decide to pay?

  • After how many days since install do they convert? Does the first purchase typically happen by D3/ D7/ D14 etc.,?
  • At what village level did they reach when they converted?
  • At what level of engagement — how many spins per day, sessions per day do they go through and then convert to a payer?

3. Are there any characteristics of people who converted vs. those who did not

  • In terms of engagement
  • In terms of how they spend their resources
  • In terms of how many friends they have

Retention analysis

1. Why do players churn? Is there any pattern In terms of

  • Number of friends they have
  • Engagement with a specific system (what was their last point of interaction before they churned?)
  • Did we annoy them with push notifications?

2. How does retention pan out for

  • Early players (D1, D7)
  • Medium to longer term players (D14, D30)
  • Within the long term retained players — Is there any specific system that they are typically fond of (for eg., do they interact with village upgrades more vs. events)

Player behaviour

1. As players progress in levels, how do their core metrics look like

  • Level vs. spins per session- eg., level 5 player does X spins per session, but level 20 player does 3X spins per session, and so on.. How does the graph look?
  • Level vs. ARPDAU- this should ideally be a linear curve and perhaps flatten out at some level. The expectation is that higher level players will gradually spend more, but if there is any inflexion point and an abnormal increase in ARPDAU at a certain level, that would be interesting to analyze.
  • Level vs. session duration

2. Playing pattern

  • The 10-hour refill energy mechanic implies that it is built to regenerate over the night.. So the 1st session in the morning is typically played with full energy. But what happens in intermediate sessions? How are the sessions spaced out?
  • How many times in a week do they typically play?
  • How does this data look for payers vs. non payers

3. Wallets

  • How does the coin and spin wallet look like for different kinds of players
  • Payers vs. non payers, Low engaged vs. Medium vs. High engaged players
  • Ideally we should look at different percentile of players.. For eg., top 1% payers vs. top 5% payers, and so on..

So that´s it folks! I am sure there are several other things that I have missed in this deconstruct (for eg., the Invite friend flow, the finer aspects of the Pet collection meta etc., ). But I believe this covers the crux of what this game is about.

I had a lot of fun playing this and deconstructing it, and I hope this was useful and you guys had fun reading it!

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