Hidden object games are a huge hit among mature, predominantly female, audiences.
One such game is June’s Journey from Wooga – it grew into a very successful adventure game.
In our June’s Journey analysis, I go deep into this game’s paid and organic user acquisition strategies to uncover what it takes to stand out in the hidden object game market.
About June’s Journey
June’s Journey is a top-performing adventure game from the German developer Wooga. Besides this game, Wooga has also published Pearl’s Peril, another adventure game, and Tropicats, a match-3 puzzle game.
But back to June’s Journey, Wooga’s most successful game.
It’s a hidden object detective mystery game with storytelling elements and a Roaring Twenties theme. It also has design and decoration meta layers.
The goal of the game is to find hidden clues and uncover the murder mystery. Overall, the game is quite simple to play – anybody can pick it up in a few minutes.
How Successful Is June’s Journey?
June’s Journey was released worldwide in October 2017. Since then, it has been very successful in terms of downloads and revenue.
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Even though it was released back in 2017, June’s Journey got the most users in June 2021, when the downloads reached almost 5 million. However, they were never that high again. During 2022, the number of downloads ranged from 600,000 to 800,000 each month. At the beginning of 2023, they went up to almost 1 million.
Since its release, June’s Journey was downloaded more than 63 million times.
The game’s revenue is even more impressive – almost $480 million so far. Unlike downloads, the game’s revenues have been growing each year, reaching their peak in 2022. The majority of revenue ($276 million) comes from the United States. Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom are other profitable markets for this game.
Their increasing revenue is due to a smart monetization strategy – read all about it in our June’s Journey monetization dissection.
Analysis: Advertising Strategy
To find out how Wooga managed to get so many users for June’s Journey, I’ve dissected its user acquisition strategy.
In order to make sense of June’s Journey advertising techniques, it’s important to understand what draws people to this game.
Player motivations are the basis of the motivation-based creatives approach, which is currently one of the top UA trends for mobile games.
In short, it’s about coming up with mobile game creatives based on specific player motivations to reach a broader audience.
For example, you might identify that your game would appeal to players who love to relax while playing games, those driven by discovery, and to players who like puzzles. That means three very different groups of players are attracted to different aspects (or meta layers) of your game. What you do next is come up with creatives that highlight each of those motivations and connect it to gameplay.
In other words, each motivation-based creative targets a different group of players. This allows publishers to expand their audience pool and results in a very personalized approach.
Facebook Gaming has identified eight common player motivations. If we consider June’s Journey features, we can conclude that these are the main reasons people are drawn to this game: relaxation, discovery, self-expression, and escapism.
However, most ads feature relaxation and discovery as the main motivators.
In the following examples, you’ll see how this is achieved.
June’s Journey Analysis: Top-Performing Ads
Let’s start our June’s Journey analysis. First up are a few examples of video creatives for June’s Journey. Pretty much all of them feature the hidden object theme, which is a part of the core gameplay.
The creative above starts with a challenge – Can you find all the clues? It’s a good attention grabber that pulls viewers in.
The goal is to find five birds in a crowded backyard pool area. It’s an accurate demonstration of June’s Journey’s gameplay.
Plus, it targets players who are driven by exploration and cognitive challenges.
Furthermore, the atmosphere and tone of this creative communicate how relaxing it is to play this game. The video is slow-paced – there are no action scenes. The music is tranquil and soothing. There’s something very meditative about it.
That makes it clear that this ad targets casual players who simply want to relax and pass the time. This group of players is not about complicated games that take weeks to master. Instead, they’re into easy gameplay that can take their minds off other things.
This is another example of such an ad. Just like the previous one, it also features hidden object gameplay, but in a different setting. This time, the goal is to locate five hearts in a rustic kitchen full of different items.
The pointer hand makes the video more immersive – players get the feeling as though they’re the ones playing the game.
Once again, it leverages relaxation and discovery as the main player motivations.
After every item is located, there’s a simple Play Now CTA that invites people to download the game.
Unlike the two previous creatives, this one primarily targets players who are into storytelling. It’s not so much about finding hidden objects. Instead, we get a glimpse into the murder mystery storyline.
We see June Parker in action as she spots some inconsistencies. The police said her parents were drinking alone, but there were three whiskey glasses on the table.
Even though the viewers get only a small glimpse of the murder mystery story, it’s enough to captivate their attention because it remains unresolved. It leaves them wondering what took place and how the story progresses.
The CTA emphasizes that – “Find out what happens next! Investigate now!”.
For players driven by storytelling, this is a powerful motivator to download the game. Notice how including a personalized CTA is much more effective than a generic Play now.
I’ve also included one example of a German video creative for June’s Journey, as this is the publisher’s native language. However, I’ve also come across creatives localized for the US, English, Italian, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, French, Chinese, and Dutch audiences.
This is important because it helps Wooga reach a global audience.
There are also TV commercials for this game. In this one, the actress Mim Drew is the main character.
It’s a funny ad where the husband fails to notice his wife’s new dress. That storyline is connected to gameplay – she explains how important it is to notice small details in June’s Journey.
What’s clear from this commercial is that June’s Journey’s main target audience includes women. More specifically, this game targets women older than 50, according to former Wooga product lead Patrick McGrath.
While the story in the commercial is quite stereotypical (bad/neglectful husband trope), some women can relate to it.
Furthermore, this ad is about escapism – it targets people who want to immerse themselves in a fantasy world and escape their reality.
Judging by the YouTube comments, people love it – many find it funny and entertaining.
This commercial has a high production value – it’s a dramatized version of the game. We’re introduced to many different characters – June’s milliner, the maid, June’s love interest, and the newspaper guy. All of them are talking about June and her sister’s murder she’s trying to solve.
Just like the game, the ad has a fabulous Roaring Twenties theme – the perfect setting for a murder mystery.
For a game like June’s Journey, it’s all about the characters and storylines, which is why it’s a good idea to make them come alive in the ad form. It makes the story real and the viewers can connect to these mysterious characters.
The only question that remains is – who did it?
While video ads are the most prevalent in June’s Journey’s advertising strategy, there are also some image ads, which is another fairly popular ad format for mobile games. Most of these image ads are based on a hidden object game, just like the game itself.
For example, in the ad above, the goal is to spot the glove in a busy scene. Because it’s a challenge and a game, it’s much more engaging than classic image ads. Furthermore, it’s a good representation of the game experience, and those who are into hidden objects or similar games are likely to install it.
June’s Journey Analysis: App Store Optimization
Organic user acquisition is another good way to get more users.
The best thing about it? It’s free!
Most commonly, organic UA includes app store optimization, which improves your game’s visibility in the app stores. But it can also include content marketing (posting on social media, building communities, etc.).
Let’s start with the most important ASO elements.
The full name of this game on Google Play and Apple App Store is June’s Journey: Hidden Objects.
The second part of the title is a descriptive keyword that tells users what the game is about. Additionally, it can improve the visibility of the game. For example, if a user searches for “hidden object games”, June’s Journey might pop up.
June’s Journey’s icon features the main character – June. The magnifying glass she’s holding makes it instantly clear that she’s a detective. Furthermore, we see the 1920s theme in her outfit.
This is a great example of how to visually communicate what the game is about.
App Promo Video
Next, we have the app promo video. You’ll notice it has the same concept as the video creatives – it’s about finding hidden objects.
While the promo video accurately demonstrates the main gameplay, it’s too simplistic. Furthermore, it doesn’t showcase any of the storytelling or design elements, both of which are important for the game.
It would be much more effective if we got introduced to the main character and the murder mystery she’s trying to solve.
The images on June’s Journey’s app store pages do a better job of presenting everything this game has to offer. More specifically, the following – new challenges, finding hidden objects, solving the mystery, unique characters, beautiful scenes, and exotic locations.
Overall, the visuals are very captivating, both in the game and in these graphics.
June’s Journey Analysis: The Good
To finish off, here’s what June’s Journey excels at and what could be improved.
Understanding the Target Audience
According to former Wooga product lead, Patrick McGrath, the average age of a June’s Journey player is 55 (predominantly female). That’s reflected both in game design and ads (particularly in the aforementioned TV commercials).
In an interview with Global Games Forum, McGrath said, “For example, we were the only hidden object game out there without a lose condition. You actually cannot lose in June’s Journey.”
He continues to explain why, “This kind of gameplay was a key differentiator for our demographic, which on average is around 55-years old and predominantly female. This is something that a lot of our younger creators were testing with their parents, and we found that unlike younger gamers, our audience isn’t really interested in grind-based gameplay. Understanding what that core demographic needed was vital to our success.”
Reaching a Global Market
Wooga was also smart about localizing June’s Journey and its creatives, which allowed them to reach a global audience. This is immensely important because publishers can no longer rely solely on the US audience for downloads and revenue.
As McGrath explains, “One of the growth strategies we had for June’s Journey was expanding to a global audience. One of the basic functions within a game team or company is localization, because it’s 2021, and people want to be able to play games in their native language.”
However, their localization efforts didn’t stop at simply translating the game, but taking a country’s local holidays and festivities into consideration.
“Even just having an event for Lunar New Year is a must nowadays, especially to your Chinese market, but that’s just the start. Every country has its own celebrations; Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are different everywhere, and it’s something developers really need to think about in the localization process.”, McGrath explains.
June’s Journey Analysis: The Bad
While June’s Journey is doing well so far, there are a few things regarding its UA strategy that could be improved.
Not Enough Variety in Ad Creatives
One of the main issues with creatives for June’s Journey is the lack of variety. The majority of them are hidden object ads. Yes, it’s the core gameplay and each one has a different scene and theme, but it still gets repetitive.
Considering the murder mystery storyline is at the core of June’s Journey and drives gameplay, it could be beneficial to feature it more in ads.
Testing out different ad concepts could result in reaching a much broader audience of players. And that’s crucial for the growth of a mobile game in 2021.
Not Utilizing Player Motivation to the Fullest
This also ties into adding more variety to ad creatives, but it concerns motivation-based creatives in particular.
While June’s Journey’s ads do a good job of connecting some player motivations to gameplay, this is underutilized.
For example, the design meta-layer should be more prominent in ads since that appeals to players who love self-expression and customization.
Furthermore, considering storylines and narrative elements are a big part of this game, they should also be featured in creatives. This aspect of the game would tie in nicely with the escapism motivator.
Final Thoughts on June’s Journey
Overall, Wooga has done a good job with June’s Journey. Even though its UA strategy could be improved, this game is doing well in terms of downloads and revenue.
The Covid lockdowns have had a positive impact on these metrics and Wooga managed to acquire a lot of new players. It will be interesting to see whether this game will continue to grow in the second half of 2021.