Puzzle and Dragons is a match-three puzzle video game developed by Japanese video game corporation GungHo Online Entertainment. It was released on iOS in February 2012. It became very popular in Japan where it generated 32 million downloads by November 2014, and a total of 41 million worldwide downloads by January 2015.
- Puzzle and Dragons was launched in February 2012 in Japan by GungHo Entertainment
- It generated 32 million downloads by November 2014 in Japan
- Worldwide, downloads stood at 41 million in January 2015
- It contributed 91% of GungHo’s $1.5 billion in revenue, making it the first game with a $1 billion in revenue
- The game helped GungHo score the top spot as Android and iOS games publisher in 2013
- Users spend an average $11.89 on in-app purchases of the game
Puzzle and Dragons is GungHo’s most popular release
In February 2014, Pocketgamer reported that it was the first game to generate $1 billion in revenue, with GungHo’s revenue up 530% to $1.5 billion, of which 91% could be attributed to Puzzle and Dragons. Later, GungHo confirmed that the game had generated $650 million through the Apple App Store and $775 million on Google Play. In December 2014, GungHo announced it would join Tencent Holdings to release Puzzle and Dragons in China.
$16 billion were spent on games in 2014 and Japan counts as one of the top spending countries worldwide on mobile. Smartphone penetration in the country caught up to the US by 2013, to grow to 65% in 2014, compared to 50% in the US.
iOS and Google Play monthly app revenue between 2012-2013
Further, Japan’s console and handheld market has shrunk from $4.8 billion in 2012 to $4 billion in 2013. The spurt in smartphone user growth can be attributed to the success of Puzzle and Dragons catching on in the market at the right time. In fact, App Annie research shows that the game’s success helped GungHo rank as the top iOS publisher in 2013. The same was the case for Google Play.
GungHo ranked top among iOS game publishers in January 2013
A comparison by SuperData, consisting of data collected over 12 months to March 2014, found that Puzzle & Dragons earned an average of $11.89 per user. It’s biggest competitor, Big Fish Casino, only earned $2.07 per user. SuperData reckons that the success of the game may be due to its committed social fabrics, allowing for multiplayer gaming as well as exchanges between users.
SuperData research compares average revenue per user of dominant game titles worldwide
App Annie’s December 2013 report also highlighted that Puzzles and Dragon’s success could be attributed to TV commercials, resulting in 10 million downloads within six months.
Research from Serkan Toto confirms the important role that TV advertising played in the success of the game. GungHo released its first Japan TV ad in October 2012, followed by a second round in November. Within 19 days of the October promotion, downloads shot up from three million to four million, a growth factor of five, which the game maker managed to sustain over the following months.
GungHo’s first national Japanese TV ad generated one million downloads within 19 days
In February 2013, the same source revealed financial information from GungHo. In a document, only available in Japanese, the company revealed that in January 2013 it had generated 8.5 billion yen (US$92 million) in sales year-on-year (a 1,022.4％increase).
The success of Puzzle and Dragons
Stats by App Annie in January 2014 showed that the game had kept up momentum from the year before and overall performed consistently in the Google Play Store.
Puzzle and Dragons performed fairly consistently between 2013-2014 in the Google Play Store
However, consistency wasn’t as strong in the Apple iOS store, breaking into the top 10 more often, but also falling more sharply below the top 50 during mid-2013.
US chart of the game’s performance on the iOS App Store
The same research also found that the game had little impact in Germany, France, Italy and Spain, but broke into the top 200 in the UK and later frequently into the top 100.
Puzzle and Dragons will be released for Nintendo in May 2015. When questioned at the 2013 Tokyo Game Show on why the game had become such a hit, Kazuki Morishita, President and CEO, GungHo Online Entertainment, remained humble and said it was a combination of luck and his team’s efforts.
It remains to be seen how well the game will perform over the next 12 months and whether it can keep up momentum.