Lords Mobile Monetization Explained: How Did It Hit $1,3B in Revenue?
What if you could have a game that stays on the top charts for years?
Lords Mobile publishers sure know the feeling.
And one of the game’s top-notch secrets is the way it’s monetized.
We’re bringing you a detailed insight into Lords Mobile monetization strategies — all to discover how this game makes the big bucks.
How Successful Is Lords Mobile?
To get you started, here are some basic facts about this popular game you should be aware of.
Fact #1: Lords Mobile: Kingdom Wars was released in 2016 by a Chinese developer, IGG.
Fact #2: The game is a free-to-play multiplayer strategy game.
Fact #3: It falls into a strategy subgenre called 4x (stands for explore, expand, exploit, exterminate). This subgenre includes both turn-based and real-time elements.
Now let’s run some numbers.
For years now, the game has been hitting the top charts. Up to this moment, the game got a total of 277,303,506 downloads.
When it comes to revenue, it successfully passed the big 1 billion mark. More precisely, it reached $1,30 billion in revenue.
About Lords Mobile Revenue
A huge chunk of Lords Mobile revenue, 40.8% of it came from the US and its homeland, China.
But, it’s interesting that other countries aren’t lagging behind too much. Instead, many different markets hold small revenue shares.
Here’s the deal.
Unlike some of its competitors, this game isn’t just west-focused, and this is what made it highly profitable around the world.
Another fascinating thing about the game is how steady its revenue is. Ever since 2017, there were no major revenue drops.
On the other hand, big spikes did occur. In fact, a big jump in revenue happened at the end of 2020, and it probably has to do something with the coronavirus pandemic.
The game stands at the 2nd place in the strategy genre. The only one that tops it is Supercell’s Clash of Clans.
One of the things that contributes to its success is the publisher’s user acquisition effort. We’ve seen those ads everywhere. In most cases, you will recognize Lords Mobile ads by their attractive 3D battles.
The bottom line is that gameplay is important, but it is not the only factor that drives a game’s success. So we analyzed two very important things that go hand in hand: user experience and Lords Mobile monetization.
So let’s start.
When I first installed and launched the game, I was immersed into a tale. A tale about how the whole story of the Kingdoms began.
It comes in the form of a skippable video and it also works as a game tutorial.
Here, you can see what a battle looks like, and get acquainted with some of the game’s characters.
If you skip the video, don’t feel bad about missing anything. You will get another game tutorial.
Here’s where the game’s Oracle, Bellena, appears. It guides and introduces you to the game, step by step.
I was introduced to the turf building and upgrading system, VIP points collection, troop training, quests, battles. Basically everything you have to know to start playing.
It may feel a bit overwhelming at the beginning, but the game really leads you through.
When it comes to graphics, IGG takes pride in animated army battles that come in 3D graphics. The clash of the blue and red army is a really exciting scene.
No wonder they always use them in their ads.
Other game elements come in a classic mid-core art style and in landscape orientation.
Lords Mobile is recognizable by its stylized graphics. This type of graphics is seen in many RPG and strategy games. It comes with cartoon-styled characters and environments.
What’s so great about it is that it helps accentuate non-realistic features and really immerses you into another world.
Just like in most strategy games, you see the world from a top perspective. This kind of bird view gives you a complete overview of everything that is going on in your turf.
The screen where the players spend most of their time is on their turf, building and upgrading it.
It is surrounded by many other features for players to explore.
And here are the most important ones.
In the top left, there are indicators for the amount of gems and stamina you have. In the upper right corner, the players can see how they stand in terms of building resources.
Right at your fingertips — in the lower right corner, there are a ton of features. This includes guild notifications, messages, different quests, game settings, a bag, and a hero collection.
They come with Facebook-type red notifications — and people like to check their notifications.
As it falls into the 4x strategy genre, Lords Mobile puts great focus on meta and player progression.
The effect? An almost non-existent core loop.
How it all works is that players build their own bases and train their army. This allows them to attack other players’ bases, tear them down, collect resources, and capture their leaders.
Here’s a more detailed analysis of the game’s mechanics to find out how it all works.
Building Mechanics/Wait Timers
As a player, one of your main focuses is building your turf.
Here, you will find out that the building mechanics rely on wait timers or the hard currency.
Wait timers are not reserved for building and upgrading the turf only. They appear for any kind of quest the players have to complete, for example, training the troops or doing research.
The players can team up with other players by creating a guild or by joining an existing one.
Guild allies get to help each other with building and researching, and they can have a friendly chat. There are even a number of guild-related events in the game.
The RPG characteristics of this game come in the form of heroes — over 45 of them.
After you finish your first battle, the Hero Collection button appears at the bottom right of the screen.
Every new player starts the game with the same two heroes: Oath Keeper and Death Archer. Some heroes can be unlocked through level progression, some are gained from events — and some can only be purchased.
Another important RPG layer of the game are its PvE modes. They include fighting against various monsters on the map, as well as hero missions. Some examples of the game’s PvE modes are Hero Stages, The Labyrinth, and Kingdom Tycoon.
The game includes exciting PvP battles, in the form of attack or defense. The battles are not directly controlled by players, but they happen in real-time. What the players can control is their troops’ lineup that’s picked before the battle occurs.
Recurring Live Events
The game features different recurring live events such as the Kingdom Clash, Guild Fest, Hell events, Battle Royal, etc.
What motivates the players to participate? Well, there is the thrill of live events, but also the rewards received for participating and being successful.
While playing, you don’t have to think much about what your next steps will be. There are quests for you to fulfill.
They are divided into five categories: daily quests, turf quests, admin quests, guild quests, and VIP quests.
Fulfilling quests gives you a feeling of achievement. After doing so, you can claim rewards that help you to progress.
All of these mechanics sound kind of familiar?
Separately, these mechanics are nothing new or mind-blowing. They can be seen in various strategy and RPG games. But together, they create an incredible synergy that makes the game so addictive. Especially combined with Lords Mobile monetization.
Lords Mobile Monetization Dissection
It’s no secret, strategy gamers are well known for their competitive spirits, high engagement rates, and LTVs.
These player characteristics naturally lead to the most effective monetization model for this genre: in-app purchases.
For this reason, 79% of strategy games monetize with IAPs (GameAnalytics). In fact, strategy games are among three genres where the players are most likely to make in-app purchases.
With this in mind, strategy developers have the difficult task of balancing out the game so it doesn’t become one of those dreaded “pay-to-win” games.
Some of the most common IAP features that appear in this genre are battle passes, purchasable characters, and gear.
On the other hand, the players prefer IAPs such as consumable boosts, time-limited bundle offers, pay to skip wait times, VIP systems, etc.
Does this game fulfill player expectations? Let’s analyze Lords Mobile monetization setup and find out.
Which Monetization Models Lords Mobile Uses?
Just like most strategy games, Lords Mobile monetizes its player base with in-app purchases, just like the app stores state.
In our analysis, we discovered a few subscription features as well.
Now let’s take a closer look at how Lords Mobile monetization is set up from scratch.
Lords Mobile In-App Purchases Strategy and Setup
For the most part, Lords Mobile monetization strategy is based on a pay-to-skip approach.
In this game, wait timers are everywhere. To complete any kind of quest in the game, the players have to wait a set amount of time. Wait times come in different ranges, most commonly between 1 and 30 minutes.
And waiting for 30 minutes sure doesn’t feel very exciting.
This is where the game’s hard currency (gems) comes to light. Its main purpose in the game is to skip these wait times.
In-Game Store Setup
You can access the in-game store by clicking a gift-bearing hero icon on the turf screen, or on the current state of gems.
It’s interesting that there is no typical store item that can be seen in most games.
Now, the first thing you will see by entering the store is a special offer — a First Purchase Bonus. What this means is that, on top of your first purchase, you will receive a generous bonus.
After that, you will get to see different one-time offers. These bundle deals offer different items, from gems to speed-ups, heroes, etc. Some of them come with timers, suggesting you to hurry up.
At every moment, there are eight one-time offers in the store. And you can’t miss them, since they come with a really distinguishable, colorful design.
The first few offers were obviously intended specifically for new players, with names such as Newbie Special, Winning Start, A New Adventure, etc.
Some offers are also focused on collecting certain heroes and gaining resources for base building, on war gear, etc. However, each offer contains a certain amount of gems.
After a lot of scrolling, I finally got to the standard offers.
They all include gems and there are 6 different options to choose from, with different sized packs: ranging from 280 to 22,000 gems.
Inside the store, there is also a mysterious castle icon. It stands for the Breakthrough Bonus. This is not something everyone can purchase, as it says: VIP 7 and above only.
Pricing Structure for In-App Purchases
Where there are many different offers, there are different price points as well.
The one-time offers come at a range of $0.99 to $9.99. However, most of them are somewhere in the middle — at $4.99.
The standard offer of gems starts at a minimum price point of $1.99 (280 gems) and goes up to $99.99 (22,000 gems).
Just one look at the prices is enough to conclude that the one-time offers really pay off.
Here’s what I mean by that.
For comparison’s sake, let’s look at two offers of the same price — $4.99. One of them is a standard offer of gems, while the other one is a one-time offer.
The standard offer brings the player 800 gems and 1 Green Bonus. On the other hand, a one-time offer named Adventure of a Lifetime brings the player 2,000 gems, as well as additional resources (6 Braveheart and 50,000 gold).
The conclusion — the Adventure of a Lifetime offer brings over 2x more gems, including extra resources, all for the same price.
Additional In-Store Offers
There is one in-store offer that is based on a special approach.
Named the 30-Day Supply Chest, this offer includes gems, along with plenty of additional resources, and it comes at a cost of $9.99.
But you don’t get it all at once.
How it works is it releases all of these resources — but over thirty days. For players, this means coming back to the game every day to claim them. Missed one day? You just lost 1/30 of your purchase.
Exploring the game store, I stumbled on another different offer — a Breakthrough Bonus. This offer doesn’t release items right away either. It offers 200,000 Gems at $19.99, which is pretty generous.
What’s the catch?
Logging in every day will not be enough to claim these gems. You can only collect them by unlocking castle levels, which means having to actively play and progress in the game.
How In-App Purchases Really Work in Lords Mobile
When it comes to in-app purchases, they are much more than just the store and different-priced items.
What separates the successful ones from those less successful is the way they integrate the IAP offers with the gameplay itself. And this is a process that includes a lot of thinking, planning, upgrading, and of course — hearing the players out.
To get an idea of how the whole thing works in Lords Mobile, I played the game for 7 days.
Since this is a strategy game, my sessions were long — an hour a day or even more. And I have an analysis for you.
The game tutorial did not have any kind of intro to in-app purchases.
The first sign of in-app purchases appeared on the turf screen. Among the buildings, a female character in pink carrying a gift sure stands out. It also comes with a red notification, a real eye-catcher.
It worked for me, so I checked what it stands for.
This was a First Purchase Bonus that brings additional value to the first purchase. The pink character is actually a hero, Almighty Rose King.
After exiting this offer, the game took me to the in-game store with the special offers. The Almighty Rose King icon stands by every offer to remind me that I will get even more on top of these offers.
I discovered an important in-game store feature, a free chest. Positioned next to all the offers, it gives players free rewards on a daily basis.
Back to the base screen, the icon remains on the screen but loses the exclamation mark — it stood there to remind me of the free chest.
When I started my new session, one of the one-time offers appeared right away. It was the Winning Start.
As I discovered later on, these offers appear each time a new session begins. And they rotate, so it’s not always the same offer.
More precisely, my first few sessions started with either the First Purchase Bonus, the Winning Start, and New Adventure offers — all carefully crafted for new players like me.
In this session, I played my first PvE battles and progressed quite a bit. After I unlocked a new hero, I was invited to like the game’s Facebook page.
Right after, another Winning Start one-time offer appeared.
This is the first time I got an offer that was not at the beginning of the session but during gameplay.
At this point, I went to visit the store to claim my daily chest and check if any of the one-time offers really vanished. I found out that the offer was replaced by a new one — Research Reports ($4.99).
This is where I learned the one-time offers with timers are just a good old trick to lure the players into buying them. Also, I found out the offers change as you play.
This time, the offer I got when I launched the game was the 30 Day Supply Chest.
Since this is an offer intended for active players, I assume I was put into this group after playing the game every day for a decent amount of time.
In this session, I reached level 10. As I progressed, I was expecting to see some updates in the game’s store.
And that is exactly what I found.
Two completely new one-time offers were introduced to the store — called the Clockwork Red and World Domination.
On this day, I leveled up my turf’s castle to level 3. Doing this unlocked an important new feature — login gifts.
It works exactly as it sounds — if I log in daily, I will receive rewards.
In this section, I found more IAP features — Log in Hires and Login Bonus. Instead of waiting for days to get them, you can get 3 heroes and a Login Bonus at once.
And all you have to do is make a $1.99 purchase.
This day brought another new one-time offer to the store.
Since this was my last session, I got a little curious. For this reason, I purposely spent all my gems to skip wait times to see what happens.
Once I didn’t have enough gems to use, a pop-up message appeared. The pop-up message was an opt-in offer that asked, “Do you want to buy more from the store?”. It led straight to the store. However, not towards the special offers, but the standard offer of gems.
As the offers didn’t pop all the time, I did some more exploring.
And I found two subscription options placed in the Turf Boost section.
One of them was a monthly subscription called the Turf Club. At a price of $9.99, subscribers get one month of Turf Club benefits.
The other subscription offer was a 7-Day Dash Bundle. It comes at a $1.99 cost and allows subscribers to claim items once a day for a week after subscribing.
Other Lords Mobile Monetization Features
There are some monetization features in this game I was not able to experience during my journey as a new player, but they are important to mention.
Event Bundle Deals
Events are extremely important for all those competitive players. For this reason, when events occur, special event bundles appear in the game’s store.
For example, if the Kingdom Clash event is taking place, a special Kingdom Clash bundle offer appears. And then remains there as long as the event lasts.
Except for in-game events, the game also keeps up with real-world events, holidays, and seasons.
For example, there are deals like Spring Returns!, Summer Sunshine, April Fools’ and others.
Making Purchases in Diamonds Instead of Local Currency
In 2019, IGG embraced the trend of using virtual currencies and integrated a special billing system. They introduced AppCoins, a billing system developed by Catappult.
Here’s how it works.
The players have to make two downloads: a Diamond store extension for the game itself and the Aptoide App Store.
Once the players purchase Appcoins, their in-app purchase offers will appear in the virtual currency — diamonds! Instead of local currencies like dollars or euros, they then become the official payment currency.
But what’s in it for players? Just the cool fact they are buying things in diamonds?
Of course not. This payment option brings players bonuses on their in-game purchases. The bonuses range from 5% to 25%. Also, the bonuses become bigger as the player buys AppCoins (it takes about $450 to get a 25% bonus).
User Retention in Lords Mobile
Strategy games typically do well in user retention and lifetime values.
As Lords Mobile is at the top of its genre, let’s go over user retention numbers for the top 2% of strategy games.
This data comes from GameAnalytics’ Benchmarks+ platform and covers the average values for 2020.
- The average day-1 player retention is 51.8%
- After 7 days, 25.2% of players still play the game
- After 28 days, about 16.1% of players stay around
On one hand, this is due to the nature of these games, on the other hand, this is also because of the efforts they take in retaining players.
It is all about what happens after the user installs the game. The most important thing is not to lose players in the first few sessions, get them to play, and really enjoy the game.
For this reason, the onboarding process should be as unobtrusive as possible. This means no aggressive IAP offers, but putting the focus on educating the players.
This is just one of the factors that contribute to user retention. Naturally, all of it impacts monetization as well.
So let’s go over the methods Lords Mobile uses to retain new players.
When the gameplay begins, you get a generic ID name that you are encouraged to change. You can also change the name that appears to your guildmates.
These personalization features are even included in the quest section. This means that changing your name will earn you rewards!
Talk about an easy way to get rewards.
When players start the game, they are rewarded with an abundance of hard currency (gems) and other resources. I got 200 gems for starters and another 400 for joining a guild.
It would be a disaster to run out of these items early in the game and be forced to make a purchase. If that happened, almost anyone would feel discouraged to even continue playing the game.
The game motivates you to interact with your guildmates. You can send them help on a daily basis and it even encourages participation in the guild chat.
For example, sending emotes to the guild chat can earn you rewards. It may sound silly, but it’s actually quite clever.
Lords Mobile gives out a lot of daily rewards: log-in gifts, in-store daily rewards, mystery boxes, and the VIP system.
They really put in the effort to get the players to come back to the game every day.
For example, to become a high-level VIP, all you have to do is log in a few times a day. By logging in, you collect VIP points. Moreover, consecutive daily log-ins bring you even more daily points.
Daily rewards are one of the most common strategy games’ features. They motivate the players to play every day and provide them with a sense of accomplishment.
To remind you to play the game every day, most games utilize the power of push notifications.
However, they have to be implemented carefully. Their content has to be relevant, and they should be timed so they don’t end up annoying players.
Since Lords Mobile is a strategy game with many real-time activities, it notifies the players as they occur.
On my first day of playing, I received several of them. One of them was resource-related, while the other one was about guild gifts.
The guild gift notifications continued the following day. On the next one, there was a notification about a special PvP event taking place — The War of Wonders.
Next, there was a notification that one of my guildmates began a 10-minute rally to attack an enemy turf.
Over the next few days, the only push notifications I got were about guild gifts, 3–4 per day.
Therefore, we can see that Lords Mobile focuses its push notifications on the gameplay and real-time events, rather than IAP offers.
5 Things You Can Learn From Lords Mobile Monetization Strategy
Now that we got you through the game’s main features and a real-time player journey, let’s sum it all up.
Here are some best practices that Lords Mobile monetization strategy has taught us.
In-App Purchases Offers Shouldn’t Be Pushy
Oftentimes, game developers fall into the trap of trying to sell too much. As a result, players start to perceive those games as aggressive and pushy.
IGG avoided making this costly mistake and made the IAP placements as unobtrusive as possible.
In-app purchase offers only appear when a player starts a new session, after a big accomplishment in the game, and if the player runs out of the hard currency. Except for new sessions, these occasions are pretty rare.
This way, the gameplay remains as clean as possible, with minimal distractions.
Lure the Players Into the Store
Since the game doesn’t have an aggressive approach with a bunch of pop-ups, they have to have another strategy to get the players to check the IAP offers.
And this strategy is — enter the store to claim daily rewards.
This is a really clever strategy since non-paying players are hardly ever going to visit the in-game store. This way, the players are enticed to check out the game’s store on a daily basis.
And who knows, maybe some of the newly added offers will catch their attention.
Diversify Special Deals
The game’s store always includes eight one-time offers. Of course, they are not always the same (this would be really bad).
Instead, these offers are constantly updated and refreshed. The offers change based on different factors:
- The player’s in-game progress
- In-game events
- Real-world events
The game clearly separates IAP offers for new players. As a new player, you will receive offers tailored for you such as the First Purchase Bonus, and deals like Newbie Special, Winning Start, A New Adventure, etc.
Also, new offers appear as the players progress and play the game for a while. Of course, as an experienced player, you will not get a Newbie Special.
And did you happen to notice how different all these offers look? They all have visuals designed to steal attention.
Nevertheless, the offers differentiate in the offer itself, as well as prices, so all players can make purchase decisions based on their needs and their wallet.
Include IAPs That Encourage Daily Logins
The principle these offers work on is simple: you paid for it, so don’t waste it.
The game’s 30-Day Supply Chest is the best example of this kind of IAP offer.
To get everything they paid for, the players just have to log in daily. With the assumption that loyal players are probably going to make this purchase, this comes as no problem.
Basically, it prevents them from missing even a day of playing.
Include Subscription Features
All big players in the mobile gaming environment know the potential value of subscriptions.
In this game, the subscription features aren’t being directly sold to the player. They don’t come as pop-ups or special offers.
Instead, to even find them, the players have to dig a little deeper. Obviously, they are intended for those players that are engaged enough to look for solutions outside the store itself.
Subscription features are the final touch that makes Lords Mobile monetization so interesting and successful.
Final Thoughts on Lords Mobile Monetization
That’s it, this is all you need to know about the way Lords Mobile makes money!
As you can see, Lords Mobile monetization is much more than a traditional in-game store and special offers.
Finally, the revenue numbers speak for themselves.
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