Getting a game to the top charts in just 4 days of publishing?
Sounds impossible, right?
Not for Project Makeover, a game that accomplished exactly that. This casual game experienced massive growth in the few months it has been out.
To figure out the secret behind its rapid success, I’m going to analyze different KPIs, and dissect Project Makeover advertising strategy and creatives. Additionally, I have included some lessons you can learn from this game.
Let’s dive right in!
About Project Makeover
Project Makeover is a casual title published by Bubblegum Games, which is under Magic Tavern. It’s a meta match-3 puzzle game with narrative fiction and storytelling elements. Furthermore, this game has a fashion/décor theme, which seems to be the perfect mix.
“The challenge lies in how to perfectly integrate people, hair style, makeup, clothes, decoration, main story, background story, social and match three experience. If you are not careful, it will become a hodgepodge of four different things that casual players will not accept.” – Charlie Gu (Magic Tavern)
The premise is that you’re working with three experts in fashion, hair & makeup, and interior design. The goal is to give clients the makeover of their dreams. However, there are extreme personalities from the industry you have to deal with, which produces a lot of drama.
The game borrows its concept from popular makeover TV shows like Extreme Makeover and Queer Eye where regular people are given fashion, home, and lifestyle makeovers. The game even included the classic before and after reveal that’s the culmination of these TV shows.
In order to complete makeovers, players need to solve match-3 puzzles to get more coins and money to buy clothes, makeup, furniture, etc.
This is also the basis for the game’s monetization strategy – in-app purchases. To learn more about how this game earns money, read our Project Makeover monetization dissection.
Project Makeover Competitors
Above you can see a list of the main competitors for Project Makeover from GameRefinery. As you might expect, all are very popular casual and match-3 puzzle games.
The casual genre is still booming. In 2020, casual games generated the most revenue out of all mobile genres – 9.8 billion. Furthermore, $3.7 billion came from match-3 games. However, it’s important to note that meta match-3 games recorded the biggest growth, unlike classic match-3 games that are on the decline due to oversaturation.
How Successful Is Project Makeover?
Even though it was released fairly recently, in November 2020, Project Makeover is already a hit game. It became a top-ranking free game in just 4 days.
Here’s some interesting data that confirms this.
Unless stated otherwise, the data in this article comes from an internal source.
All Time Project Makeover Downloads by Country
Right when it was released, Project Makeover downloads jumped to almost 5 million, which is a great start. During the December and the holiday season, they dropped to less than 3 million. However, at the end of 2020, the downloads started to recover and peaked at almost 6.5 million in January 2021.
By the time of writing this article, Project Makeover was downloaded 23.5 million times, which is quite an achievement in such a short time.
All Time Project Makeover Revenue by Country
So far, Project Makeover earned more than $35 in revenue. The US gamers are the main drivers of revenue. However, a significant amount of revenue also comes from Japan, Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Australia, France, South Korea, and Switzerland.
The beginning of 2021 was when Project Makeover revenue reached its peak. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the next few months – we’ll keep you updated.
Project Makeover Daily Active Users (DAU)
Soon after the release in November, Project Makeover got to 2 million daily active users, which is an impressive start. By the end of February 2021, it reached almost 7 million.
Project Makeover Monthly Active Users (MAU)
We can also see the same growth when we look at monthly active users. By the end of January 2021, it got to more than 45 million MAU.
Project Makeover User Retention
When compared to average user retention for casual games, Project Makeover is already up there with the top 2% of games.
Day 1 user retention for Project Makeover is 44%. For the top 2% of casual games, the average in 2020 was 50%.
Project Makeover retains 21% of players after a week, while the average for top casual games is about 23%.
After 30 days, 8% of users keep playing this game. This might not sound like a lot, but it’s very good, especially for a casual game. Just to put it in perspective, the top 25% of casual games retain only 2% of players after a month, while the bottom 25% retain almost none – 0 to 0.01%.
When it comes to session count, 28% of Project Makeover users play for one session a day. 13% have two sessions in one day. Those are most likely casual gamers.
However, there’s also a significant percentage of players who interact with this app 9-14 times a day – 18%. This is a group that’s highly invested in the game.
Average Session Duration
This metric tells developers the average duration of a player’s session. As you can see from the data above, most people play Project Makeover for 1 to 30 minutes per session.
More specifically, 18% of users play for 1 to 3 minutes, 25% of them play for 3 to 10 minutes and 27% play for 10 to 30 minutes.
The data above shows you how much time people spend playing Project Makeover a day. Most users play for 3 to 30 minutes a day. However, a significant number of users play for 1 to 10 hours a day – 17%.
Who Is Playing Project Makeover?
To better understand this game, it’s useful to know who is playing it and what type of gamers it appeals to.
Project Makeover Demographics on Google Play
As you might expect, considering this game is geared primarily towards women, 86% of Project Makeover players are female.
When it comes to age, 41% of players fall in the 25-34 age bracket. Furthermore, the average age of a Project Makeover player is 32. However, there’s also a significant number of players younger than 25 (26%).
In terms of gamer interests, Project Makeover targets a very broad audience and that’s the secret behind its success. Acquiring match-3 puzzle players is difficult for a new game since those players are already married to older top games in this genre.
That’s why Project Makeover needed to broaden its target audience by including gamers from other casual genres. More specifically, fashion game players, dress-up/makeup game players, and decoration game players.
According to GameRefinery, Project Makeover users consist of these three types of gamers – Thinker (43%), Expressionist (23%), and Skill Master (8%).
Here’s some info on the two main archetypes for this game (Thinker and Expressionist) and which Project Makeover features appeal to them.
Since match-3 puzzles are so prominent in this game, it attracts gamers who love to solve them.
According to Game Refinery, Thinkers prefer the following features, many of which can be found in Project Makeover:
- Puzzle-solving mechanics
- Average level playtime 3+ minutes
- New game mechanics introduced as the game progresses
- Special level mechanics (match-3 puzzle games)
- Monetized timers
- Monetized continue/retry
- Possibility to see other player’s progression
- Recurring competitive events
As I mentioned before, Project Makeover is not a classic match-3 puzzle game. It has fashion, dress-up, and decoration meta elements. These attract Expressionists – players who like to express themselves through gameplay.
Furthermore, this game also includes narrative fiction elements, which allows this type of player to feel like they’re part of the story.
Features Expressionists prefer are:
- The background of the game’s setting is explained
- Storytelling/dialogue elements
- Decisions in the story affect the game
- Customizable player avatars
- Collectibles album
- Relationships with in-game characters can be developed
- Decorative buildings, accessories, skins, and other decorative items
App Store Optimization: Dissection of Project Makeover’s Google Play Page
As you probably know, Google Play and Apple’s App Store are the main places where users discover new games. Additionally, it’s where users are sent after clicking a mobile game ad.
Because of that, the way a game is presented on both app stores is very important. The process of app store optimization can improve the visibility of a mobile game and increase conversion rates. In other words, it helps developers acquire users organically.
However, ASO is not just about making people click on an app store listing page. It’s also about conversion rate optimization – making people download the game once they’re there. Optimizing elements like game icon, title, screenshots, description, and app promo video can help with that.
In this section, I’m going to analyze all of those elements on Project Makeover’s Google Play page.
Project Makeover is a great name for this game because it describes exactly what it’s about – makeovers. Also, I can’t help not to be reminded of Project Runway, a fashion design competition show, every time I hear the name of this game. I think that was on purpose. It’s clever to connect a game with such a popular TV show with a similar theme.
Project Makeover’s icon consists of a close-up of a girl’s face. She looks like one of the girls I encountered at the beginning of the game and that’s featured in many ads. The art style is cartoonish, which is popular for fashion and beauty-type games.
There are scissors and a comb next to her hair, signifying the makeover that’s about to happen. If I look closely at her eyes and eyebrows, she looks a bit frightened and unsure of what’s about to happen.
Similar games follow the same theme.
Notice that all of these icons consist of a girl’s face and things like scissors, makeup brushes, lipsticks, etc. Some icons look very similar to Project Makeover’s icon, while others are an exact copy.
Project Makeover App Promo Video Breakdown
The app promo video for Project Makeover starts with a cool intro, not unlike those we see in TV shows with the same theme. The music sounds like something that might be playing on a runway, which is fitting.
We’re met with three clients in desperate need of a makeover, standing in a rundown apartment.
Then the video transitions to the match-3 puzzle. The goal is to swap places of board pieces to make the matches, just like in Candy Crush Saga.
When enough coins and diamonds are earned, the promo video moves on to makeovers. We see all three clients with different hairstyles, makeup, and clothes, looking much better.
The final part of the app promo video is about home décor, which completes the makeover.
There’s no call to action at the very end of the video, just an image of the Project Makeover characters.
Overall, Project Makeover’s promo video does a good job of explaining the core gameplay experience – and that’s its main purpose.
Moreover, it consists of gameplay footage instead of cinematic scenes which makes people know what to expect from this game.
An app promo video is the main driver of conversions on an app store listing. However, graphics and screenshots can also help.
Images on Project Makeover’s Google Play listing are quite simple but nicely designed. Most of them follow the before/after transformations. Each graphic depicts one game feature – makeup, dress-up, home renovations, match-3 puzzles.
This one consists of before and after pictures that show a big transformation in the overall appearance of the girl.
In the before photo, the girl looks a bit unsure. She has messy hair and glasses. We see hands doing her hair and makeup. In the after photo, she’s smiling as she shows off her new look.
It shows players a glimpse of how makeovers work in this game.
The concept, design, and composition in this graphic are the same as in the previous one. On the left, we see a girl just in a towel, looking a bit embarrassed. On the right, she’s transformed and looking confident in a new outfit.
It shows us some of the available clothing and how dressing up works.
Following the same before/after template, this image shows a home transformation. The room on the left is dirty, poorly lit, and falling apart. On the right, it’s completely renovated and looks bright and modern.
Match-3 puzzles are also represented in Project Makeover’s app store graphics since this is an important part of the gameplay.
The truth is, not many people read the description. However, it’s important to include it, especially on Google Play since keywords in the description influence ASO.
Project Makeover’s description is quite simple, but it explains every aspect of the game. Upon reading it, I got all the information I need.
Furthermore, it’s packed full of relevant keywords like “makeovers”, “fashionable clothes”, “hairstyles”, “makeup”, “furniture”, “fashion-themed puzzles”, “customize”, “decorate”, “drama”, “stylize”, etc.
Above you can see top ASO keywords and keyword rank for Project Makeover. (AppAnnie)
“Fashion”, “fashion makeover”, “fashion game” are important keyword for this game and it ranks #1 for it. Notice this game also ranks #1 for “project runway”. As I mentioned before, the name of this game was chosen strategically to connect itself to Project Runway, the TV show.
Paid User Acquisition: Project Makeover Advertising Strategies
Before we get into analyzing Project Makeover creatives, let’s look at some advertising data from MobileAction.
The highest percentage of Project Makeover creatives are on Facebook (37%). 19% are on AdMob. Other ad networks Project Makeover advertises on are Applovin, Instagram, Messenger, Unity, and YouTube.
If we look at ad formats, the majority of Project Makeover creatives are video ads (69%), 14% are image ads, 2% are playable ads, and 13% are html ads.
Localization distribution is rather even across different countries. However, the main language is English. 7% of the promo materials are in German, while 1% is in Danish.
Dissection of Top-Performing Project Makeover Ads
So here’s the thing about Project Makeover ads.
Most Project Makeover ads follow a similar concept – a disheveled girl in embarrassing social encounters and a failed makeover. For example, the ads often depict a smelly, hairy, half-bald girl about to meet her boyfriend after the makeover doesn’t work.
These creatives are purposely a bit shocking and out there. They’re made to capture attention and stand out. And I got to say they succeed at that, which is what makes them good.
It’s very reminiscent of the classic ugly duckling tale like in the movies Mean Girls, Clueless, and Never Been Kissed where ‘ugly’ girls transform themselves to fit in with the popular girls or get the boyfriend.
This seems to work for this game.
However, these ads might alienate certain groups of people because of their content and message, which can be interpreted in a negative way. My advice to developers is to find ways that grab the viewer’s attention, but try not to offend anybody. The goal is to broaden the audience and appeal to many different types of gamers.
Ad #1 (Applovin)
This ad demonstrates the central part of the game – the makeover.
A female client is standing there with messy hair and no makeup on. It’s the same girl that’s featured at the beginning of the game and different promotional materials.
As makeup is being applied to her face, she’s getting happier and more satisfied. Finally, her hair also gets a makeover which transforms her into a new person.
This is one of the more ‘normal’ Project Makeover ads. There are no scenes that are meant to be shocking or high drama situations.
However, that’s what awaits us in the following ads.
Ad #2 (Adwords/Admob)
The first scene of this top-performing Project Makeover ad is an attention-grabbing one. We see a young girl sitting on the couch, texting. Her boyfriend asks her to meet up.
Everything seems normal at first glance.
Except, she has a full beard on her face. That seems to be enough to make anyone stop and watch. It’s not everyday one comes across bearded women.
The task is to help her freshen up.
First, the beard is removed, which makes her happy. Then she gets a new hairstyle, but it’s a bad one – I would describe it as bald in the front, party in the back.
She’s not amused by it, to say the least.
When the girl meets her boyfriend looking like that, he’s shocked and walks away.
This ad follows the formula I mentioned before. A girl who already looks ‘bad’ gets a makeover that makes the situation worse and she’s kind of humiliated in front of other people.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that this ad and most others are not a true representation of the game. The ads are made from animations, i.e., cinematic scenes and not gameplay footage.
Most of what’s displayed in these ads is not even an option in the game. The clients don’t look this bad, as far as what I’ve seen in the game. Also, the game’s design is much simpler and basic than what we see in the ads.
That’s a potential problem.
Players might expect one thing after watching the ad and then getting something completely different once they download the game.
It can result in poor user retention and bad reviews.
Ad #3 (Adwords/Admob)
A girl with smudged makeup smells so bad that flies surround her and toxic green mist emanates from her body.
That’s the first thing viewers see in this ad – attention captured.
Panic ensues when her boyfriend knocks on the door. There’s the option to do makeup or take a bath. The former is chosen even though the latter is obviously a better choice in this situation. But fails are the main concept of this and other ads.
That’s exactly what happens. Makeup is applied to the girl, she got a new hairstyle and clothes.
However, she still smells bad. So much so that her boyfriend is knocked down to the ground after smelling her.
Ad #4 Mopub
In the first second of the ad, we see a young girl in a swimming suit. She has hairs all over her body, which is emphasized for shock value.
When the camera zooms in, we also see that her face is covered in pimples. And just like the girl in the previous video ad – she smells bad.
The first step in the makeover is the waxing of the armpit, which is unsuccessful and leaves her in so much pain.
The makeover continues with horrible black eyeliner, which makes the girl look even worse.
Looking like that, she approaches a guy on the beach who is shocked and rejects her.
Once again, the same ad formula applies – a girl who is not looking up to a certain standard is given a bad makeover and rejected by her crush.
Psychology tells us that people like watching fails, which is the starting point for these ads. If I could use one word to describe Project Makeover ads, it would be – schadenfreude.
Ad #5 Mopub
The idea behind Project Makeover ad for Mopub is similar to those teen movies where the unpopular ‘ugly’ girl is trying to become the prom queen.
The first thing she needs is a makeover.
However, she’s given short hair, weird purple makeup, and an ugly dress, which she’s not happy about. In other words, another failed makeover.
“I know I’m better than this”, her caption says as tears run down her face.
There’s the option to give up or try again. This is to make viewers download the game and do a better job for the makeover.
Ad #6 Facebook
“This game is way more interesting than the ads”, says in the ad copy.
In this 30-second Facebook ad, a half-bald, smelly girl is standing next to an attractive guy. The goal is to help her look better because he’s “too hot for her”.
What looks like mud is plastered on the top of her head, where she’s missing her hair. As you might expect, she doesn’t look too pleased. Then, her face is waxed, which angers her.
As in all other ads, the makeover is a big fail and the guy rejects her and runs off.
The reason why depicting fails in ads is a big trend in mobile game ads is because it makes people think they would be better at playing the game. It makes you feel better and smarter than everyone else. That’s exactly what advertisers want you to think.
Ad #7 Facebook
Mismatched socks with holes in them, very hairy legs, don’t forget the stench, and you got yourself an attention-grabbing ad intro!
Oh, wait, her hair is also on fire. Yes, literally burning and melting all over her body.
After the fire is put out, her hair is saved. However, she’s missing an eyebrow. More specifically, one part of what used to be her unibrow.
She’s given new thick brows but is not happy with them whatsoever.
The video ends just like the previous ones – a cool animation of a vanity table full of makeup, with the Project Makeover logo on the mirror.
Interestingly, none of the Project Makeover ads have a call-to-action.
Final Thoughts on Project Makeover Advertising
As you can see, Project Makeover advertising strategy is quite bold. Some might be taken aback by these ads or shocked even, while others might find it hilarious and entertaining. Whatever the case may be, they’re designed to capture your attention immediately, and they deliver on that, which is what matters the most.
Love them or hate them, these ads brought millions of users to Project Makeover.
My advice to developers is to take chances and produce creatives that will stand out from all the rest. The mobile game market is very saturated, especially when it comes to match-3 games. However, make sure not to offend or alienate groups of people.