Crossy Road makes $10 million: 5 free-to-play app success stories

From Candy Crush to Game of War

In their Game Developers Conference session last week, Andy Sum and Matt Hall, developers of popular game Crossy Road, said how they “wanted to make the next Flappy Bird”.

“Our goal”, Hall says, “wasn’t to make money.”

Yet, in its first 90 days on iOS, Android and Amazon platforms, the game made $10 million from 50 million downloads. Not only this but, unlike in games like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, players aren’t encouraged to spend money.

So how does the game generate a profit? Primarily, the duo says, through video advertisement and giving players the option to buy in-game characters.

“We thought engagement was the most important thing” Hall adds. “Someone on the free-to-play business would look at those numbers and think we could make a lot more per user. But, if we changed it… if we sold coins and had a ‘save-me’ button and it felt like the other games, would anyone have cared?”

Instead of encouraging players to spend money or watch videos, players opt into doing so only if they need a coin boost. It should also be noted that each character in the game is exactly the same except for in design, so you can’t buy your way to the top of the leader board.

At the end of their session the duo said how they hoped others would be encouraged by their success and follow in their innovative footsteps.

Even though, by most people’s standards, Crossy Roads' success is huge, in comparison to many free-to-play games $10 million is throw-away money. For instance, a game like Game of War, which recently had Kate Upton feature in its Super Bowl advert, is estimated to gross upwards of $1 million a day.

So, how exactly are the biggest apps making their money? Let’s have a quick look at five high grossing mobile games.

Clash of Clans

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In Clash of Clans the player builds and takes care of a community of Barbarians who go on to attack other clans around the world. Eventually, your clan expands and you end up having to wait around for troops to be trained and defences to be built. It’s at this stage you can spend gold or elixir to expedite the process. As you may have guessed, you may buy the gold and elixir for real cash, thus leading to a game that reportedly makes almost $3 million a day.

Flappy Bird

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We all know Flappy Bird, but is it really a top grossing game? Well, not really. As a free to play game with no in-app purchases originally, the game managed to make $50,000 a day purely in banner revenue. Of course, the game was infamously taken down soon after going live leading to iPhones reportedly selling for hundreds of pounds.

Game of War – Fire Age

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As mentioned earlier, according to Think Gaming, Game of War makes over $1 million a day. Much like Clash of Clans, the game makes money through testing your patience. If you don’t want to wait for your city to build then you simply make a payment. It’s a popular method, and one that has been heavily criticised for its lack of innovation. As pointed out by the Crossy Road developers, most games make money this way, including other top grossing games Hay Day, Simpsons: Tapped Out and The Hobbit: Kingdom of Middle Earth.

Candy Crush

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Another game everyone including your Gran has played. In Candy Crush you proceed through puzzles until you lose all your lives. At this point, you can either wait for them to replenish or buy more. Candy Crush also makes an estimated million dollars each day.

Temple Run

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Lastly, the endless running game. It is unknown how much the Temple Run series makes, yet with over a billion downloads, the game's popularity is enough to guarantee its position among the high earners. As you play the game you can pay to upgrade your character and gain benefits such as extra lives. This gives you an advantage over your friends for a couple of pounds.

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