Shopkins World! is a mobile game available on Apple's App Store and Google Play. Released in September 2014 and now has over 24 million installs and 5 million active users every month. It is free to play, and is an official licensed product of the Shopkins toy brand.
The game supports and extends the collection and play experience of the physical toys. The overall play goal is to collect via a scoring system that unlocks random Shopkins in a virtual list within the game. Players engage in over 10 different play activities within the app to score points.
The main challenge is retaining customers in the play activities, which can be measured via analytics built into the game. The customer base for the toy brand is 6-8 years of age, which presents significant design challenges.
As a licensed product, Shopkins World! must adhere to the brand guidelines of a primarily physical toy product. The Shopkins characters (over 400 individual toys), have to be adapted to digital gameplay use, animating and moving in response to player inputs. This creates a significant design challenge to adapt characters that have no limbs to a digital model that walks, jumps and displays emotion.
Complex play activities and the overall unlock system have to be explained to young children in an entertaining way and not force them to read instructions.
Retaining and re-engaging customers is essential. The product is free to play, and revenue to be generated through advertising and opt-in purchases. Monetising the customer base without irritating parents and creating a negative association with the toy brand is vital. As is generating revenue to support frequent content updates and new play activities.
The game is designed around user engagement, based on the experience the user has with the app itself. New users are given 'FTU' training (First Time User) via both written and visual cues on how to play an activity, as well as score and collect points. The issue with the age of the customer is a disinterest in reading, so information must be conveyed through symbols and animation as well as dialogue from characters within the game.
Returning or inactive customers must be engaged with fresh content updates, new gameplay modes, and other frequent design changes to attract them back into the game. None of this would work without revenue , and the app is built around opt-in spending via cash purchases and incentivised advertisement.
The user experience is tiered, and responds to the state of the user (first time, returning, inactive). Prompts trigger in several areas based on the player's previous activity, and data is scraped and fed back into an analytics system to identify gameplay trends and provide the designers with information on most popular and least popular interactions across our 5 million monthly users in 150 countries.
Importantly, analytics comply with standards for privacy specific to younger children.
The net result is a thriving customer base and substantial revenue return. Shopkins World! has remarkable longevity (2 years as a top 50 game in age market), and revenue supports a full time production team of 15+.
Apple has featured Shopkins World! in the Kids 6-8 category both here and in North America hundreds of times. This is exceptional for a small development team in any region, moreso for Australia. This has attracted the attention of several large toy companies, and led directly to Mighty Kingdom entering into a production agreement with LEGO to deliver a game for holiday 2017.
Mighty Kingdom has grown it's FTE team from 12 to over 34 based on the revenue from Shopkins. We are scaling aggressively now, and have plans to grow to 200 as we attract more and more top-tier brand partners from Billund to Singapore.
And our relationship with Moose Enterprises, now a billion-dollar company, is better than ever. We plan to continue to support Shopkins well into 2018 and have over 7 games now in release based on our license. They frequently promote us as a major marketing component of the brand.