Remember when farming games were a big deal a couple of years ago?
Well, one of them remained quite successful to this day – Hay Day.
One of the things that makes this game profitable in the sea of other similar games is its well-thought-out monetization.
Developers behind Hay Day monetization set a great example for all game developers to follow, so let’s analyze it.
How Successful Is Hay Day?
Hay Day is brought to us from a factory of super successful games like Clash of Clans and Boom Beach – Supercell.
The game falls into the casual and simulation genres. It simulates a farm and comes with simple gameplay and a casual design. And it’s no secret – the market in these genres is very crowded and competitive.
Remember Farmville that you could only play on Facebook? Hay Day was Supercell’s successful answer to it in the form of a mobile game.
And here’s just how successful.
Unless stated otherwise, the data in this article comes from an internal source.
This game first appeared in 2012, and it didn’t take long for it to hit the top charts. For this game, 2014 was the year. This year alone brought $268.55 million to the game. For comparison’s sake, in 2020, the game generated ‘only’ $94.77 million.
However, Hay Day is not one of those games that got their 15 minutes of fame and then disappeared. Yes, after its tremendous success in 2014 and 2015, the numbers decreased. Yet, the game has been maintaining a really decent revenue stream over the years.
To this day, the game got 327.26 million worldwide downloads. The revenue numbers are equally impressive – it made a total of $1.15 billion over the past eight years!
The US players seem to be most into farming, as they make up for the biggest part of the game’s revenue – 37.1%.
One of the things that helped this game become so successful was its user acquisition strategy. Supercell created many memorable Hay Day ads. If you want to learn more about how the game advertises, make sure to read our Hay Day advertising dissection.
Wondering what is it about the game that drives all this revenue?
This is exactly the question we’ll answer. I played the game myself to analyze Hay Day’s user experience, gameplay, and monetization strategy.
When you first launch the game, you are given a backstory.
Your uncle has decided to retire and left you a farm. This means you will have to learn to take care of farm animals like chickens, pigs, and cows. You will also learn how to grow and harvest your own crops.
Ready to become a farmer?
If I had to explain Hay Day’s art style in a single expression it would be feel-good.
A farm is simply that kind of place, and Hay Day really successfully brought the experience. The game comes in casual art style and high-quality 2D graphics.
One of the first things you notice are the game’s detailed landscapes and warm and bright color palette. The whole simulation of the farm – from landscapes to characters, animals, and features comes in animation style.
This kind of cartoonish art style makes the game lightweight, attractive, and funny.
The controls in this game are just like the game itself logical, natural, and smooth.
Let’s say you want to harvest your wheat. All you have to do is tap and drag your fingers over your fields. The same gestures apply to most of the features such as collecting eggs or milk. These kinds of controls make the experience both quick and enjoyable.
As a player, you spend most of your time at your farm, and there’s plenty of things you can do around there.
The top right corner shows you how well you’re doing in terms of the games’ two currencies: coins and diamonds. At the top middle of the screen, you can see how many stars you collected. It works as a progress bar to let you know how much more it takes to level up.
The bottom right is where you can get social, connect with your Facebook friends or fellow farmers.
In the bottom left corner, you enter the game’s shop. This is where you will get everything you need to upgrade your farm – from animals to production buildings.
To help you with the basics, you get a helper, a scarecrow called Mr. Wicker.
This talkative helper guides you through a step-by-step tutorial. The tutorial is interactive and teaches you about farming as well as the basic game features. First, it shows you exactly how to make an action (e.g., harvesting) and then you get to try it out yourself.
For a newbie such as myself, this phase felt logical and easy to learn, just like it should be.
Main Game Mechanics
The farm works just like in real life. Your animals have to be fed, you grow and harvest crops, and make products out of them.
The game’s core loop consists of:
- Planting crops
- Harvesting, feeding animals, and producing
- Collecting the manufactured products
- Selling manufactured products for coins
- Buying new production equipment and animals
This is a never-ending process. If you repeatedly do all of this, you can level up to unlock new and exciting meta-features.
To make the whole system exciting for players, Hay Day uses many different mechanics, and these are some of them.
Timers have an important role in Hay Day: they bring players back to the game, but also drive its revenue.
For example, when you plant your crops, you will have to wait a while for them to grow. You even get to see them grow in real-time, which can feel satisfying. Product manufacturing also comes with wait times.
However, everything comes with its own wait times. It may take you 2 minutes to grow some crops and as much as 20+ hours to build production plants.
The only way you can skip wait times is by using diamonds. They work as the game’s hard currency so you get a small amount of them from the game.
In Hay Day, we can see idle mechanics in relation to the timers.
What this means is that you don’t have to actively play the game while the timers are counting. You can go offline to eat, sleep or do anything else really, and the countdown will continue.
Thanks to this mechanic, you can progress even when you’re not interacting with the game.
Almost every action you take in the game will bring you stars (experience points). Your stars collection is what tells you how far you are from reaching the next level.
Now, the only way for you to collect coins is by selling your products to other farmers.
You also collect diamonds, and they are almost nowhere to be found (except in the game’s store).
The game has an achievement system based on – well, achievements. Once you complete an achievement, you will be notified. If you tap your farmhouse, you can see a list of available achievements and how close you are to completing them.
For example, you will get an Egghead achievement once you collect 12 eggs. Each time you reach some kind of a goal, you can claim a reward for it.
Completing an achievement is a big deal because it brings you the rarest jewels of all – diamonds.
Hay Day always encourages you to get social. For this reason, it gives you one default friend, Greg, to teach you all about the value of in-game friendship.
You can visit your friends’ farms and trade crops with them. If you connect with Facebook, you get to do the same with your actual friends.
If you don’t want to do so, you can befriend random players in the newspapers or your neighborhood.
All of these are the good old casual game mechanics. So what is it then that makes the game stand out in the sea of farming games?
Here’s what one of the product leads at Supercell, Timur Haussila, (interviewed by Deconstructor of Fun) thinks on the subject:
“I believe the success can also be linked to our approach, as we avoid teaching players how to play the game. There are no forced tutorials, missions or quests in Hay Day. And there’s no ”right way to play” the game or punishment for playing the game in different way.”
And I couldn’t agree more on this one.
I was surprised to see the game doesn’t punish you for not logging in. If you don’t play the game for a while, your crops don’t dry out and your starving animals somehow stay alive. It really is a feel-good game.
Hay Day Monetization Strategy Dissection
It’s no secret – casual players just want a simple and enjoyable gameplay experience.
In this case, the audience consists of players who just want to kill some time, relax, and do some farm work.
The question is: how to monetize them?
Typically, casual games make more revenue from in-app purchases (71%) than in-game ads (29%) (Unity). However, there are a lot of games that combine these two models.
This way, the non-payers get to enjoy gameplay for free. On the other hand, the players that want to progress faster enjoy the convenience of making in-app purchases. Another key thing is to integrate in-app ads properly.
Which Monetization Models Hay Day Uses?
According to Supercell’s product lead, Timur Haussila, the game is extremely non-payer friendly.
“This might sound crazy, but we designed the game so that it could be truly played for free without ever having to pay in order to progress.”
“We wanted to give our non-paying players a chance to earn some hard currency and ads were the perfect solution.”
Is it really like that though? Keep reading to find out.
Hay Day In-App Purchases Strategy and Setup
Players that want to make in-app purchases in Hay Day have plenty of options to choose from.
At the heart of it, Hay Day monetization is set on a pay-to-skip approach.
Let me explain.
The thing is, a lot of features in the game revolve around diamonds. Their main purpose is to skip wait times. And as I mentioned before, wait times are all over the place. Other than skipping wait times, diamonds can get you almost anything.
Ran out of corn? Can’t find it anywhere? Use a diamond.
Unlike other in-game resources, diamonds aren’t easy to get from the game. And when you do get them (from achievements or level-ups), you mostly get just 1.
This is why the game’s store offers a variety of diamond packs for you to purchase.
Besides these, the diamond shop lists offers and weekly deals. When you first begin playing, they are locked. You will be able to access them once you level up a bit.
However, they are not the only item sold in the game. The game’s store also sells coins. You will use coins to buy items from the game’s shop. For example, for buying more animals or production buildings.
Unlike diamonds, coins are easier to earn in the game. You get them for each product from your farm that you can sell. But hey, there is no such thing as too much money, right?
Pricing Structure for In-App Purchases
The #1 rule of setting up prices for in-app purchases is to create a wide range of offers and price points.
Another good practice is that the minimal price point shouldn’t be below $2 (DeltaDNA). Besides, as the prices increase, the offers should get more and more valuable.
Hay Day is a textbook example of how to properly set an in-game store.
The offer of diamonds comes in six different sizes and prices. They range from $1.99 for a Pile of Diamonds to $99.99 for a Trunk of Diamonds.
When it comes to coins, the offer is diverse as well. There are six different offers: from $0.99 for a Pile of Coins to $79.99 for a Trunk of Coins.
Wondering which one of these the players are most likely to buy?
Diamonds are the game’s bestsellers. Here is a list of top in-app purchases among the Apple App Store users:
- Pile of Diamonds ($1.99)
- Bag of Diamonds ($4.99)
- Sack of Diamonds ($9.99)
How In-App Purchases Really Work in Hay Day
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let me take you through my farming experience.
I’ve played Hay Day for 7 days to figure out exactly how their money-making machine works.
Days 1, 2, and 3
When I started playing Hay Day I was awed.
The thing is, I’ve been playing the game for 3 days. In fact, I have already progressed to level 7. I unlocked a bunch of new features and enjoyed endless gameplay. But there were no clues of IAPs whatsoever.
I kept wondering, what’s the catch?
Only after I spent all the diamonds that I received at the beginning, mild hints of IAP monetization started appearing. I was taken to the game’s store, right to the diamond section.
When I reached level 8, I got the first special IAP offer in the game.
It didn’t come as a pop-up, but as a small notification next to the diamond store icon.
Apparently, I unlocked the offers segment in the store and got a special bundle offer.
The offer says it comes at a price of $1.99 and with a 24-hour timer. According to the offer, the discount is as high as 76%.
On the next day, the IAP offers continued. Another one appeared as a ticking timer placed underneath the store icons.
It is named the Farm Pack and brings a lot of resources at the price of $0.99. However, you only have 24 hours to make a purchase. This was the most generous offer I’ve seen in the game so far.
When I reached level 11 I unlocked the Farm Pass – Hay Day’s subscription feature.
Farm Pass runs every month for the whole month, for players at level 11 or higher. And there are two versions of it, free and paid.
The free version grants you rewards, but they are limited. On the other hand, the paid version gives you access to all the rewards during a month’s time.
Finally, I was offered to purchase the Farm Pass at the price of $4.99.
After that, the Farm Pass offer was included in the Diamond Shop’s offer section.
On Day 7, the Farm Pass offer was included in the game’s store.
It replaced the previous offer, so I learned that the offers here really are time-limited. Unlike other games, the timers in Hay Day are not just a cheap trick.
On this day, I finally unlocked the diamond shop’s last locked category, the Weekly Deals. There are three bundle deals – and you can only purchase them with diamonds.
And you already know how hard it is to get diamonds naturally, so your only choice is to purchase them.
Hay Day In-App Ads
When you have a lot of non-paying players, you have to find a way to monetize them as well.
And this is where in-app ads come to the rescue.
At the same time, including ads in your game means skating on thin ice. The main risk is obvious – they can ruin the gameplay experience. You don’t want a bunch of angry comments about this across the app stores.
Hay Day’s developers are aware of this, so they carefully approached ad monetization.
Which Ad Format Is Used in Hay Day
Hay Day uses the players’ favorite ad format – rewarded video ads.
Unlike interstitials and banners, this ad format is hardly going to hurt the gameplay experience for anyone. In fact, let’s go over some statistics that tell us about how players perceive rewarded video:
- 68% of players say they like this ad format (TechCrunch)
- 32% of players think they are useful, 27% find them interesting, and 12% think they are enjoyable (Facebook Audience Network)
- They are seen as the least disruptive ad format – only 24% of players find them disruptive (Facebook Audience Network)
Bonus: the players who watch them are 6x more likely to make in-app purchases! (ironSource)
Now let’s get into more details on how Hay Day included rewarded video ads in the game.
How Frequently Ads Appear
The craziest thing about ads in Hay Day is – they don’t chase you, you have to look for them yourself.
Here’s a worried player’s comment from Supercell’s forum: “Why does HayDay have optional advertisements? Are they not earning as much income as the other games?”
Yes, they are that unobtrusive.
The possibility to watch rewarded video ads opened up when I reached level 10. I wasn’t even introduced to the possibility, but had to find it myself.
Here’s how it works.
It comes in the form of a cinema ticket that is placed right by your farm’s mailbox. It takes you to the Night at the Movies and you watch a Trailer to get a random daily reward. The trailers are actually ads for other games.
There were two ads for the same match 3 puzzle game, one for an adventure game and one for a strategy game. All of them were 30 seconds long, so I had to wait that long to claim my rewards.
However, you can’t watch endless ads. I watched four ads and reached my daily limit. If you want more daily rewards, you have to return tomorrow.
It is also interesting that paying players don’t have to watch ads. After you make your first purchase, you won’t be able to see ads. Instead, you can just come to the movies to claim your daily rewards.
I would dare to say that the game could afford to be a bit more obtrusive with ads. For example, at least by presenting the rewarded video ad option once in a while.
User Retention in Hay Day
For a monetization strategy to work, the game has to be able to retain players. It is well known that players naturally tend to lose interest in games early on.
According to Benchmarks+ platform by GameAnalytics, even the top 2% of casual games lose roughly half of the players on the very first day. After 7 days’ time, only about 23.5% of them keep playing.
Average casual games have it even worse. On the first day, they keep an average of 23% of players. After a week, they are left with only 4% of players
This is why the first-time user experience has to be flawless.
To keep the players from churning, there must be something new and exciting to keep them coming back all the time. This is why Hay Day never stops upgrading the game and its user retention techniques.
The first contact with the game, the tutorial, is done well. It doesn’t overwhelm you with unnecessary information but provides an easy-to-learn experience. It is interactive, simple, and logical.
Another thing important for user retention is always keeping the player busy. And even though wait timers are all over the game, that doesn’t mean you have nothing to do.
Exactly the opposite. You can catch up with the newspaper, buy products you might need, put your products up for sale, visit your friends’ farms, go to the movies, etc.
However, these activities are not as exciting as upgrading your farm and progressing. For this reason, you will probably exit the session at one point and return once the timers do their thing.
You get to unlock events at level 9. At this point you’ve proven – you’re an engaged player.
And to engage you even more, they let you participate in different in-game events. If you participate, you can get bonuses, boosts, or rewards.
For example, I participated in a global Truck Deliveries event that encouraged me to make as many truck orders in a short amount of time as possible.
The social features in the game like neighbours, friends, and Facebook friends give players a sense of community.
Besides, the social media features can boost word-of-mouth and organic growth.
Not everything is revealed to you at once, so you are curious to see what your next level up will bring you.
This is one of the things that motivates you to continue coming back to the game and progress.
Once you leave the game and go back to real life, push notifications will be there to remind you about your farm.
And here’s my experience with push notifications in Hay Day.
In the first few days, there were only a few messages per day.
Later on, as I played more, they got a bit more frequent. Basically, I was notified when the timers have done their job.
Over the course of 7 days, the content was pretty much the same. I got messages like Milk is ready to be collected, Dairy construction finished, and All crops are ready to be harvested.
As you can see, they were all related to my farm’s progress, nothing else. There were no IAP offers or even event notifications.
5 Things You Can Learn From Hay Day Monetization Strategy
If Hay Day created a manual called How to Monetize, I assume it would look something like this.
Let’s sum up all the best practices we’ve learned from Hay Day monetization.
1. Use the Winning Monetization Combination
If you’re in search of a promising monetization formula for your game, here’s one.
In-App Purchases + Rewarded Video Ads + Subscriptions
In-app purchases have been the #1 monetization model for a long, long time. Even after all this time, they are still the most popular one – 79% of games use them. (Business of Apps).
Then there are rewarded video ads. This ad format is an excellent fit with in-app purchases, and can even increase them. If that doesn’t happen, you still monetize your non-payers.
It’s interesting that subscriptions were added to Hay Day after 8 years of existence. Why now? Well, the word in the industry is that subscriptions are the future of monetization, and Supercell recognized this.
Finally, best practices are no guarantee that you will successfully monetize your game. What makes Hay Day monetization so successful are constant upgrades and listening to their players.
2. In-App Purchases Shouldn’t Be Annoying
This is the most shocking thing about Hay Day Monetization – it’s not pushy at all. When you start playing, you already expect some pop-ups and beginner packs.
However, Hay Day has a different approach. First, they get you hooked on the gameplay. So when you’re hooked to the point where you might want to make IAPs, you will know where to find them.
The offers never come in the form of pop-ups and discount signs jumping all over the place. Instead, they come as small marks or timers – enticing you to check them out.
Hay Day could even make their IAP strategy a bit more aggressive, and it probably wouldn’t hurt the game.
3. Make Special Offers Valuable and Time-Limited
In Hay Day, special offers pay off significantly more than standard offers. Another great practice they use is combining different items and putting them into bundles.
When these valuable offers are time-limited, this makes them even more attractive. But only when they’re not fake. The players are not naive – they will figure out when they are deceived.
For this reason, Hay Day’s timers are real. If the players miss the offers, their only choice is to wait for the next ones.
4. Subtly Integrate Rewarded Video Ads
Getting casual gamers to make in-app purchases is not an easy task. A vast majority of players are never going to pay for anything in-game.
But they will look for free ways to progress faster, and they will discover rewarded video ads.
Hay Day made a smart move and saved rewarded video ads for higher-level players. But only for those who make the effort to find them. There is not a single pop-up that directs players to watch the ads.
When the players find the ads and watch through them, they receive a random reward.
It is important to mention that the ads are limited. After the players hit the daily limit, they will strive for more rewards. This is the thing that will make them come back tomorrow and the day after that.
5. Add a Subscription Feature
“It’s a way to get really cool stuff in the game just by playing.”, this is how Hay Day describes their subscription feature – the Farm Pass.
And if you want the coolest stuff – purchase the subscription. The Farm Pass comes in the form of seasons that last for one month. They don’t even call it a subscription, but it definitely is. More precisely, it is a non-renewing subscription.
Wondering what makes a player want to purchase the next season’s Farm Pass?
Hay Day took care of this by designing special rewards – perks. These rewards only last until the end of a season. If the players don’t want to lose their privileged in-game life, they will purchase another subscription.
Finally, the option of even getting the Farm Pass opens up to players at level 11 and above. Therefore, the subscription is targeted at semi-experienced and experienced players.
Wrapping It All Up
As you can see, money doesn’t grow on trees (or farms), even for high-quality games such as Hay Day.
Monetization can be a tricky and complicated process. Even Hay Day monetization is still getting regular upgrades, just like the gameplay itself.
If you feel like you could use a hand in finding the ideal monetization strategy for your game, feel free to contact us.
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