The popularity of interactive narrative games in recent years is undeniable. These games tend to draw in a big, mostly female audience of mobile gamers, many of whom are ready to spend on in-game content.
One of the most downloaded and top-grossing narrative games is Choices: Stories You Play.
But how has this game become so popular? What strategies has its publisher been using to acquire so many users?
I answer all these questions and more in our Choices: Stories You Play analysis.
About Choices: Stories You Play
Published by Pixelberry, Choices: Stories You Play is one of the most successful interactive story games. In this visual novel game, players experience the story by advancing through text dialogues and static images.
The main appeal of such games is the ability to control how the story progresses by making choices that influence future outcomes. By following a choice-driven narrative, players can fall in love, solve crimes, or immerse themselves in fantasy adventures.
Furthermore, Choices has some basic customization features, i.e., the ability to name the character, choose an outfit, hair, etc. This allows players to tailor their experience to their own preferences.
The ever-growing library features stories in many different genres like romance, drama, fantasy, horror, thriller, mystery, etc.
For example, The Freshman is a college drama in which players get to make new friends and find true love. In The Crown and the Flame, players assume the role of a hero and try to reclaim their crown after the enemies have stolen their kingdom.
However, romance is by far the most prominent genre in Choices and other similar games. These types of storylines are often reminiscent of the so-called chick-lit books – light romance novels geared toward women.
But regardless of the genre, Choices offers players the ability to explore other lives and even worlds, just like they would by reading a book or watching a TV drama. This is the main appeal of such games.
How Successful Is Choices: Stories You Play?
Choices: Stories You Play is quite successful in terms of downloads and revenue, the two most important metrics for mobile games.
All Time Choices: Stories You Play Downloads by Country
According to GameRefinery’s iOS data, this game has been downloaded more than 32 million times so far. Most of the downloads (58%) came from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom (11%) and Canada (5%).
On Google Play, Choices has more than 10 million downloads. This puts the game’s download count for both Google and Apple at more than 42 million.
All Time Choices: Stories You Play Revenue by Country
According to GameRefinery’s revenue data for iOS, Choices: Stories You Play has earned more than $175 million in revenue.
As you might expect, the majority of the revenue comes from the United States (71%).
To find out how Pixelberry managed to earn that much money from this game, check out our Choices monetization analysis.
Who Is Playing Choices: Stories You Play?
Before we get into Choices’ advertising strategy, it’s important to understand who the target audience for this game is, and what are their motivations for playing it.
Interactive story games fall into the simulation category on the app stores and are geared mainly toward women. It’s no wonder that most Choices books feature a female protagonist.
Furthermore, it’s not a coincidence that Choices and similar games advertise a lot on Instagram and Tumblr, both of which have a large female audience.
Creating a mobile game that’s tailor-made for women makes sense. Just like the mobile game industry is growing, the number of women who play mobile games is growing as well. In fact, women are in the majority. According to Statista’s January 2021 survey, 55% of mobile gamers are female.
Contrary to popular belief, narrative games are not merely a vehicle for women to live out romantic fantasies of being swept off their feet by prince charming (although that’s perfectly fine too). Many stories in Choices: Stories You Play are about being empowered as a woman and finding self-worth.
So even though games like Choices are not exactly fighting for feminist ideals, a game made with women in mind is refreshing, considering there are thousands of games that pander only to men.
And, of course, an interactive story game like Choices will not appeal to all women, as this is a vast and diverse group of gamers. But it does appeal to a group of women who love immersing themselves in captivating stories and narratives.
Facebook Gaming has identified eight common player motivations.
If we consider the genre and features of Choices, we can conclude these are the main reasons people play this game.
Because Choices is a narrative-driven game, it allows players to immerse themselves in a different world. Whether it’s reliving their teen years in a high school drama or finding true love in a sexy vampire thriller, players get to escape from the real world.
Choices is based on, well, choices. This means players can influence a story’s progress. Furthermore, players get to experience stories as the main protagonist, as well as customize their appearance.
All of this appeals to gamers who want to express their identity through mobile games and customize their gaming experience.
For many players, interactive story games are the perfect way to relax because they provide entertainment but are not very challenging. Playing games like Choices is the ideal activity for winding down after work or passing the time while commuting.
Choices: Stories You Play Analysis: Advertising Strategy
According to Bidalgo, a company that did ad testing and research for Choices, Pixelberry’s goal is to reach high-value users.
In other words, the goal was not to acquire just any users but those that are most likely to make an in-app purchase.
This played a big role in how Pixelberry approached its ad creatives.
According to Bidalgo, “After examining Pixelberry’s ad components for ‘Choices’ – Bidalgo’s AI technology found that ads featuring specific storylines within the game exposing user-driven decision making drove higher engagement and conversion. For example, ads that enabled players to make a choice in helping someone stand up directly to a bully, or making a seemingly real-life romantic choice (“Which guy should I date?”) drove superior performance.”
Choices: Stories You Play Analysis – Facebook Creatives
To give you an even better idea of what type of creatives work for Choices, I’ve analyzed some of its top Facebook video ads.
Just like Bidalgo’s research has shown, featuring an interesting storyline and choices that drive it seems to be the winning formula for advertising this narrative game.
The creative above features The Nanny Affair story. As the name implies, it’s about a secret romance between a nanny and her boss.
Here’s the gist of the story.
The nanny’s boss, and her love interest, gives her the night off and goes to the engagement party with his fiancé. Then, the nanny is presented with a choice – go to bed or crash their party.
As you might expect, she chooses the latter. After a quick makeover, she shows up at the party, and her boss notices her instantly. However, she decides to make him jealous by kissing his brother.
And it works.
Just like one would expect from an interactive story game, the creative is infused with drama and scandals – it’s what draws people in.
In its essence, this story is about a forbidden romance.
The ad viewer is put in the shoes of the nanny, who desperately wants to win over her boss, even if that means making him jealous. This is a situation many women have encountered in one way or another, which makes it relatable.
This is another creative that features The Nanny Affair story. Once again, it’s about seducing a man who’s not only taken but also your boss.
This time, the focus is on how to make him notice you.
That creates the opportunity to showcase a makeover. Choosing outfits, hair, and makeup is an important aspect of this game. It appeals to players who love customization and expressing their identity through games.
Furthermore, this Choices creative, like many others, is all about escapism.
People get the chance to escape to another world and fantasize about a steamy romance with their boss.
Once again, we see a forbidden romance story featured in a Choices ad. This time, it’s a professor/student romance.
Basically, the professor shuts down their secret relationship, fearing he could lose his job because of it. The student then gets a choice – beg him to reconsider or make him jealous.
Just like in previous ads, making him jealous is chosen.
After she dresses up, she shows up at school and kisses another guy as the teacher walks by. That, of course, makes him jealous, and he requests that they speak privately.
The last choices are – let him speak or say you’ve moved on.
The decision is left to the viewers – it’s what makes it enticing. After all, the users are the ones who choose how the story will evolve. But only if they download the game.
Additionally, the voiceover at the end emphasizes this – “You choose what happens next!”
This is important not just for making people download the game, but for preparing them to make in-app purchases later in the game. The main way narrative games like Choices are monetized is by offering premium choices that players need to pay for with in-game currency.
The storyline featured in the ad above is a bit different – it’s not a forbidden romance story. Instead, it takes viewers into a fantasy world.
We see a nurse save the life of what looks like a homeless man.
But here’s the twist.
Turns out he’s the prince of Futonia and wants her to be his queen.
Her scrubs are transformed into a gorgeous princess gown. It’s a romantic Cinderella-type story.
But there’s one problem.
She has a husband and a child who are begging her to come home.
The choice she has to make is – stay with the prince or go back to normal life.
Ending on such a cliffhanger is a smart strategy. It makes the viewer want to find out what happens next – does she stay with her family or go away with a beautiful prince?
The only way to find out is to play the game and choose what happens next.
Forbidden romance storylines seem to drive engagement for Choices’ creatives. Above, you can see another one of such ads.
This time, a young girl meets an older man – they’re both attracted to each other.
But here’s the kicker.
She finds out the man she met is her boss’s husband.
The next day, he sends her a present at work with the message “Meet me tonight.”
However, her boss notices she’s got a secret admirer. That makes the situation very tense.
There are two choices – tell her it’s from her husband or lie and meet him later.
Once again, user-driven choices are highlighted and also serve as a call-to-action.
This creative is a bit different. It doesn’t feature a drama-filled forbidden romance story but rather a storyline that gives players the experience of becoming a mother.
The story in question is titled Baby Bump 2 and follows a character who just got pregnant with twins. It goes through pregnancy, baby shower, pregnancy classes, birth, wedding planning, and all the challenges that come along with it.
The creative is quite simple – there’s no storyline or choices, but an animation of a happy couple with their twin babies.
The mood and atmosphere of this creative are quite relaxing. That certainly attracts gamers who are driven by relaxation and want to get their minds off other things while playing.
Here’s an example of another creative that’s similar in style to the previous one. We see a couple in a loving embrace on the bed. The music is sensual and makes the scene feel hot and steamy.
Sam, the male character, whispers, “Oh, Anna.”
As with most Choices ads, there’s a twist.
We find out he was actually in bed with his wife, Sophia, and accidentally uttered the name of another woman.
Naturally, she’s fuming and asks, “What did you just call me?”.
Realizing he just made a huge mistake, there are two answers to choose from – I misspoke or I’m cheating on you.
We hear the Choices’ slogan – “You choose what happens next.” There’s also a “Play now free” CTA at the end.
This ad works for several reasons.
First, it’s very unexpected and dramatic. It starts off very relaxing and sensual. But when the character says the wrong name, there’s an abrupt change in atmosphere. Suddenly, everything becomes tense and dramatic. Plus, there’s a cliffhanger at the end of the ad.
All of that grabs the viewer’s attention and keeps them engaged throughout the ad.
This creative is full of unexpected twists and turns that keep viewers glued to their screens.
We see a young couple – everything seems fine until he gets a weird message from another girl and leaves immediately. Naturally, his girlfriend gets suspicious and follows him.
The scene she encounters shocks her. The boyfriend is meeting another woman in an alleyway. He receives a letter, kisses the other woman on the cheek, and disappears.
The girlfriend confronts the mysterious woman, who claims she’s an undercover agent. But that’s not all. Turns out her boyfriend is a member of a crime ring.
This is an unexpected turn of events.
However, the girlfriend is not sure if that’s the truth. We see the final two choices – you’re lying and prove it.
The ad ends with a cliffhanger.
Is her boyfriend really in a crime ring, or is he cheating on her with this woman? What’s going on?
Once again, the only way to find out is to play the game. This is a smart strategy because the viewers are dying to find out what happens next, which is a powerful motivator for downloading Choices.
The final Choices ad example focuses a bit more on dressing up. For players motivated by self-expression, this is very appealing.
However, there’s also a dramatic storyline, just like in other Choices’ creatives.
The main character’s boyfriend didn’t notice her new outfit.
So what does she do about it?
You’ve guessed it – she makes him jealous by kissing another man. Now she has to choose whether to apologize to her boyfriend or break up with him and go off with this new guy.
The decision, of course, is up to the players.
Overall, this is another successful creative that uses dramatic and unexpected storylines to capture attention and get users to download this game.
Choices: Stories You Play Analysis: App Store Optimization
Game publishers can also acquire a significant number of users organically through app store optimization.
For that reason, it’s important to optimize each ASO element like the game title, icon, app promo video, description, etc.
Here’s how Choices did it.
Choices: Stories You Play is a great title for several reasons.
The “Stories You Play” makes it obvious that this is an interactive story game. But most importantly, the “Choices” in the title emphasizes that players’ choices are the core of the game experience. It’s not simply a visual novel that players passively consume. Players’ choices influence the story’s outcome, which is an essential game feature.
However, the title not only relates to what the game is about, but it also contains important keywords for the app stores like “choices” and “stories”. This helps to improve the game’s visibility.
Another important aspect of ASO, and one of the first things users see besides the game title, is the game icon.
First impressions are important, which is why the icon should be nicely designed. It can create interest in your game and make users want to find out more about it.
Choices’ icon does a good job of both relaying what the game is about and grabbing attention. We see a hurt girl spying on a man, presumably her love interest, and another woman. It’s all about romance and drama, which is an accurate description of the game experience.
Furthermore, it makes users want to find out the background of this story and what will happen next.
This game doesn’t have an app promo video, which is a missed opportunity as it tends to boost organic conversions. However, there are screenshots that visually portray and explain the main game features.
Each graphic describes one thing players can choose – romance, love, scandal, magic, and fantasy. With these visuals, the Pixelberry shows off the variety of story genres this game has to offer. Some players might be interested in romance novels, while others prefer fantasy stories – it’s important to let them know there is something for everybody.
Furthermore, the visuals show some of the choices players can make in the game, which is another incentive for downloading it.
Final Thoughts on Choices: Stories You Play Analysis
The popularity of interactive narrative games is undeniable. More and more developers are taking a shot at this genre, hoping to reach the top charts.
What our Choices: Stories You Play analysis shows is that, firstly, the game needs to be good, and secondly, you need to advertise it correctly.
We recommend that you feature dramatic storylines in ad creatives to grab attention, as well as entice users with different choices.
This strategy seems to work well for Choices: Stories You Play.