Call of Duty Analysis: How It Shot to the Top and Stayed There
From consoles and PC to mobile — the Call of Duty franchise is still going strong. Activision managed to achieve incredible success with Call of Duty: Mobile, breaking records during the first week of release.
However, making a successful game for mobile devices comes with unique challenges. The mobile game market is competitive and user acquisition is everything but easy.
In our Call of Duty analysis, I dissect this game’s road to success and provide a detailed overview of its user acquisition strategy.
But first, here’s some quick info on this mega-popular mobile action game.
About Call of Duty: Mobile
As you probably know, Call of Duty: Mobile is a mobile version of the popular Call of Duty franchise.
It’s an action game in the first-person shooter subgenre. It includes challenging and competitive single-player and multiplayer missions gamers need to complete to move forward in the game, level up, and upgrade.
There are different modes and maps from Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare that are available. Players can try a 100 player battle royale, 5v5 team deathmatches, sniper vs. sniper battles, etc.
Furthermore, the game has different customization options. Players can acquire famous characters, gear, skins, and thus customize loadouts. This is also the basis of Call of Duty: Mobile’s monetization strategy.
How Successful Is Call of Duty: Mobile?
One might think that creating a mobile version of a popular PC game is a guarantee for success. However, it’s not as easy as it seems.
There were a couple of mobile Call of Duty flops before this version of the game that ended up being a huge success.
Released in October 2019, Call of Duty Mobile by Activision (in partnership with Tencent’s Timi Studio) broke records in the first week. It got more than a whopping 100 million downloads in just one week of release, which became the best mobile game launch in history.
Just to put it in perspective, massively popular games like Fortnite and PUBG Mobile got “only” 22 and 28 million downloads in the first week respectively.
Furthermore, Call of Duty Mobile shot past competitors in terms of revenue in the first week as well, acquiring more than $17 million.
Below, you can see a detailed overview of Call of Duty downloads, revenue, as well as other important KPIs like DAU, MAU, user retention, session count, and average session length.
All Time Call of Duty Downloads by Country
Right when it was released globally, in October 2019, millions of people started downloading Call of Duty: Mobile. So much so that downloads reached a whopping 140 million downloads that month. What an impressive release!
After that spike, the downloads may seem low on the charts, however, they’re everything but that.
From November 2019, all the way up until now, the downloads were pretty steady each month, between 10 and 15 million.
At the time of writing this article, Call of Duty: Mobile was downloaded more than 320 million times in total. This alone speaks to the incredible popularity of this mobile game.
As you might expect, the majority of downloads come from the US. However, Brazil, India, Mexico, China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan are also very important markets for this game.
All Time Call of Duty Revenue by Country
So far, Call of Duty has accumulated more than $550 million in net revenue. What’s even more impressive is that revenue keeps growing month over month.
In January 2021, it peaked at $53 million.
While the majority of revenue comes from the US (42%), it was in January 2021 when a lot of downloads came from China. It’s what caused that big spike.
Furthermore, a significant portion of Call of Duty’s revenue also comes from Japan, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Great Britain, the Philippines, and Singapore.
Daily Active Users (DAU)
Another thing that speaks to the success of Call of Duty: Mobile is the number of daily active users and how consistent this metric has been since the release.
Since 2019 up until now, Call of Duty has had between 10 and 13 million daily active users.
Talk about impressive.
Monthly Active Users (MAU)
Call of Duty also had a very consistent number of monthly active users. From March 2020 up until now, the number of users stayed above 70 million.
Call of Duty User Retention
This metric shows you how many users remain after certain time periods — most commonly, after days 1, 7, and 30.
Call of Duty has day 1 retention of 54%. In other words, more than half of CoD players keep playing after the first day of downloading the game. This is outstanding, considering that the top 2% of action games retain about 46% of users. (GameAnalytics)
Furthermore, 29% of CoD players remain after a week. Once again, it’s much better than the average for the top 2% of action games (17% day 7 retention).
After 30 days, 14% of users keep playing Call of Duty. This is excellent considering that the average day 30 retention for the top 2% of action games is only 7%
This is another important reason why Call of Duty: Mobile is thriving — players not only download the game but keep playing it.
The session count metric will tell us more about how engaged CoD players are.
32% of users play Call of Duty once a day, while 23% play twice a day on average. This is pretty standard for most mobile games.
However, there’s a group of hardcore CoD players (8%) who have 9–14 sessions a day.
Average Session Duration
27% of CoD users play for 3 to 10 minutes per average session, and another 27% play for 10 to 30 minutes. That’s pretty decent for a mobile game.
Less than 4% of Call of Duty players have sessions that last 30 to 60 minutes.
Finally, this metric shows how much time users spend playing per day. Here are some quick stats.
- 25% play for 10 to 30 minutes a day
- 20% play for as much as 1 to 10 hours a day
- 19% of users play for 3 to 10 minutes a day
- 13% play for 30 to 60 minutes a day
Call of Duty: Mobile Category Rankings
During the first half of 2020, Call of Duty was among the top five free games in the action category on Google Play. From July to September, it went down in rankings, hanging out somewhere between the 15th and 20th place. After that, Call of Duty went up in rankings for a while, and down again at the end of 2020.
At the beginning of 2020, Call of Duty was the top free game in the App Store. After that, the rankings went down and stabilized at the end of the year, when CoD was between the 5th and the 15th place on iPhone. On iPad, the rankings were lower overall.
Who Is Playing Call of Duty: Mobile?
Before we get into Call of Duty’s user acquisition strategy, it’s important to first figure out who is playing this game and who’s the target audience.
Later in the Call of Duty analysis, you’ll see how this ties in with the advertising strategy.
Call of Duty Demographics
Even though the majority of players are men, there’s a significant number of female gamers who enjoy this game. More specifically, 65% of Call of Duty players are men, 35% are women.
31% of Call of Duty players are aged between 25 and 34. 25% are younger than 25. However, there’s also a significant number of ‘older’ players. 23% are in the 35–44 age bracket, and 21% are older than 44.
Even though Millennials are the main target audience for Call of Duty, this game also attracts both younger and older audiences. In other words, the target audience for this game is quite broad age-wise.
According to gamer motivations, we can categorize Call of Duty players into three distinct mobile game groups. GameRefinery identified these player archetypes as Thrill Seeker, King of the Hill, and Skill Master.
Here’s some info on each one and how it relates to the game.
If you ever played Call of Duty, you know this game is all about skill. Plus, the game can be quite difficult and challenging. That’s why Skill Masters enjoy Call of Duty — steep learning curves appeal to them.
Furthermore, Skill Masters don’t like the randomness factor in games, they want new game mechanics introduced as the game progresses, and like a player level progression system.
All of this can be found in CoD.
CoD is an exciting action game so it’s no wonder it attracts Thrill Seekers.
This group of gamers enjoys games that require speed and reaction. Furthermore, they’re into 3D graphics, achievement systems, and task/quest systems. Call of Duty: Mobile has all of that.
King of the Hill
King of the Hill players are all about competing. PvP modes are what they enjoy the most. This group also likes an achievement system, leaderboards, and competitive events.
Because Call of Duty has different multiplayer and PvP modes, and it’s highly competitive, it’s the perfect game for King of the Hill players.
Call of Duty Analysis: App Store Optimization
App store optimization plays a big role in organic user acquisition. Google Play and App Store are the two main places where gamers browse and discover new games to download.
Additionally, a well-optimized app store page can also aid paid user acquisition because users are sent there after clicking on an ad.
A good app promo video or a screenshot might be just the thing that seals the deal and convinces a user to download the game.
For that reason, I have also analyzed Call of Duty app store pages and main ASO elements.
This is the full game title: Call of Duty®: Mobile — Day of Reckoning. We have, of course, the “Call of Duty” brand name, then “Mobile”, which signifies to players that this is the mobile version of the popular Call of Duty games.
Naturally, for many players, the name Call of Duty alone is a good enough reason to download this game.
Like all Call of Duty games, each one has a distinct title, like Black Ops or Modern Warfare. For the mobile version of the game, it’s “Day of Reckoning”. Players can distinguish between different Call of Duty games by these titles.
The Call of Duty: Mobile game icon features Simon “Ghost” Riley, a popular character that appears in many CoD titles.
It’s a smart idea to depict such a well-known character in the icon because it speaks to many CoD fans. Plus, he looks really cool and I can see why this icon would appeal to gamers who never played CoD as well.
Above, you can see icons for other mobile first-person shooter games. Most feature game characters, just like in the CoD’s icon. Oftentimes, the character is holding a weapon.
App Promo Video Breakdown
What’s instantly clear is that the Call of Duty’s app promo video is well-edited, fast-paced, and fun to watch. It imparts the game experience quite well.
Viewers get a 30-second overview of the game’s most important features that are highlighted with titles. Another great thing about this app promo video is that it contains a lot of gameplay footage, as per Google and Apple recommendations. There are only a couple of cinematic scenes. In other words, the game is presented genuinely — players know what to expect if they download it.
After all, Call of Duty: Mobile has nothing to hide — it makes sense to show off the stunning 3D graphics.
The only thing that’s missing in this app promo video is a call to action.
While CoD’s app promo video is truthful to how the game looks, that can’t be said for images. They look much better than the game, which makes them slightly misleading.
However, they’re well-designed, illustrate Call of Duty’s best features, and make the game look interesting. That’s what matters the most.
In the US, CoD was featured on the Non-stop action and In everyone’s hands lists in 10th place. That resulted in 48.5 thousand and 34 thousand downloads respectively.
Call of Duty was also featured on the Non-stop action list in India, Brazil, and Japan in 10th place. Furthermore, more than 20 thousand downloads came from being featured on the Recommended for you list in the US.
Call of Duty Analysis: Advertising Strategy
Call of Duty’s advertising strategy is based primarily on video creatives, since video is the ad format with the highest conversion rates for mobile games.
In general, CoD ads are quite simple and to-the-point. They’re full of exciting and action-filled gameplay scenes that demonstrate the game’s best features. Furthermore, the creatives are very true to the game and avoid being misleading, which is commendable.
They target players who love the thrill of action games, mastering different skills, as well as acquiring and customizing gear.
Below, you can see some great examples of that.
Dissection of Top-Performing Call of Duty: Mobile Ads
These are the top-performing CoD video creatives.
This 13-second CoD ad couldn’t be more simple and straightforward. We see exciting first-person shooter action, along with suspenseful music and adrenaline-fueled sound effects.
There’s a “Download free now” call-to-action at the end of the video.
The CoD creative you can see above is very immersive. When you watch it, it feels as if you’re playing the game. Because this game is a first-person shooter, viewers can see everything from their perspective.
We get a glimpse of the map, battles, and cool weapons. High-energy electronic music is playing in the background, along with sound effects, which adds to the excitement.
The ad above focuses solely on a battle royale Blitz mode. This mode is characterized by a smaller map, randomized locations, fewer players, third-person perspective, and it’s for a limited time only.
It’s always a good idea to present new updates, modes, and events in ads, even if they’re for a limited time only.
They target both new and existing players, which can increase engagement.
PvP and multiplayer modes are a big part of Call of Duty: Mobile. It makes sense to highlight these features in video ads.
It’s very obvious that this creative targets gamers who love playing with friends and against other players. It’s always a good idea to create ads that speak to specific gamer motivations, rather than ads with a bunch of different features that target a very broad audience.
Defeating enemies is the main goal of every Call of Duty game, including the mobile version. This ad is all about that satisfying moment when you get the perfect shot and obliterate the enemies.
More specifically, it features scenes from the final killcam. According to Call of Duty Wiki, “The KillCam is useful for identifying how the player was killed, identifying possible hackers, or to locate enemy positions.”
One of the final scenes of this creative features a caption — “Man and weapon in perfect harmony”, which works as a slogan.
What’s interesting about this top-performing CoD ad is that it includes a choice — go for him or hold back. After “go after him” is chosen, it ends up being the wrong move.
Choice-based creatives that end up with a fail are very popular among mobile games in many different genres.
The psychology behind it is simple — it makes the viewer think they can do better and makes them determined to try it.
As you might expect, considering we’re talking about a first-person shooter, weapons are the focal point of the game.
For many gamers, getting better weapons, upgrading, and customizing them is the primary driver for playing shooting games. This creative speaks to that and targets this group of gamers.
It also showcases a new functional weapon — we see it in action, as well as its stats.
Call of Duty Analysis: 3 Things You Can Learn From This Game
1. Represent the Game in a Truthful Way
This one is quite simple but important. What it means is — include as much gameplay footage as you can and avoid misleading cinematic scenes.
That way, what people see in the ads is what they get once they install the game.
2. Demonstrate the Game’s Best Features and Appeal to Specific Gamer Motivations
Activision succeeds in this with its Call of Duty creatives. All of them demonstrate different game features, each of them appealing to different gamer motivations.
For example, some ads focus primarily on customization. They appeal to gamers who enjoy expressing themselves in mobile games. Others are just full of adrenaline-pumping action scenes. These creatives appeal to gamers who love the action game genre and are thrill-seekers.
3. Edit Creatives in an Attention-Grabbing Way
It’s not enough to just include gameplay footage and demonstrate the game’s best features. You need to make it interesting to watch.
Notice that all Call of Duty ads are edited in a dynamic way, which is very important. One continuous shot of gameplay footage would be quite boring to watch, no matter how exciting the game is.
Furthermore, you can add different effects, titles, captions, sound effects, and music to make the creatives more fun.
Final Thoughts on Our Call of Duty Analysis
We have come to the very end of our Call of Duty analysis. Hopefully, you’ve learned about the different mechanisms that made this game so successful and can use these tips to get your game to the top charts.
If you need any help with advertising your mobile game and acquiring more users, reach out, it’s what we do best!
For more mobile game analysis, go to our mobile game dissections blog category.
Since 2018 until today, Udonis Inc. has acquired over 150 million users for mobile apps & games. We’re recognized as a leading mobile marketing agency by 5 major marketing review firms. We helped over 20 mobile apps & games reach the top charts. Want to know how we make it look so effortless? Meet us to find out!