Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp arrived in November with high hopes, and it did not quite deliver the experience gamers were hoping for. While Pocket Camp kept a lot of the charm that the Animal Crossing franchise is known for, with wacky characters and funny non-sequiturs, it deviated from the village setting the franchise is known for, added in app purchases, and stuck to a rigid gameplay cycle.
A frequent point of contention with fans has been Nintendo’s decision to make the game a free to play title that contained in app purchases that essentially allowed players to advance in the game faster by using real money. This decision was almost certainly made with profits in mind, as free to play titles still dominate on mobile. As of January 2nd, 2018, only one of the 200 top grossing games on Google Play in the United States is a paid game (Minecraft, it is always Minecraft). It is increasingly looking like the free to play model used for Pocket Camp will not lead to Animal Crossing Pocket Camp becoming the next major mobile hit.
Things are not looking good
As of January 2nd, 2018, Animal Crossing is the 193rd highest grossing game on Google Play in the United States, 204th in the UK, 343rd in Australia, 274th in Germany, and 174th in Canada. Those numbers are far lower than one might expect from a major free to play title from one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, particularly when Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has achieved over 10 million downloads through Google Play. To complicate things further, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is still not available in a number of regions including including South Korea and the Philippines.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp may be failing to live up to lofty expectations, but it is important to keep things in perspective. Google Play’s top grossing list tends to be dominated by entrenched titles that have been on the top grossing list for years. It is also typically populated by games that spend significant amounts of money on marketing. No one should be surprised that Pocket Camp is not generating more revenue than games like Clash of Clans, Candy Crush Saga, or Gardenscapes. Where things really begin getting bleak is when Animal Crossing is compared to other games released in the latter half of 2017.
In the United States, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is further down on Google Play’s top grossing games list than recent releases like Lineage 2: Revolution (39), South Park: Phone Destroyer (106), Digimon Links (153), and The Alchemist Code (158) while being ahead of Naruto x Boruto Ninja Voltage (203) and Shadow Fight 3 (255). All of these titles were released towards the end of 2017, and the strength of their brands varies greatly. However, none of these games have surpassed Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp’s download numbers. Fire Emblem Heroes, based on a franchise that is less popular than Animal Crossing, has stayed in the top 50 for most of its run which began in February 2017, it currently sits at number 7.
Why does revenue matter to gamers?
Revenue matters. It matters for publishers and developers because it helps determine the types of games that are developed. It helps determine how much a company might be willing to spend on improving and supporting a game long term. Ultimately it helps determine how long a company is willing to keep the servers that the game operates on running and avoids users losing a game they might have enjoyed (as will soon be the case with War of Crown).
In the case of Nintendo and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, the success of the game will help determine Nintendo’s mobile strategy going forward. Thus far they have already been disappointed with the performance of Super Mario Run. Fire Emblem Heroes and its gacha hero collection monetization has proven to generate the most revenue out of Nintendo’s three attempts at transferring their franchises to smartphones. As a result, gamers shouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo’s next mobile titles are heavy on gacha or loot crate mechanics
Revenue is not everything
As gamers gawk at the gaudy revenue numbers of the big mobile franchises, they often miss the fact that revenue is only one side of the equation. While revenue matters, so do a company’s costs and expectations. Generic strategy games like Game of Thrones Conquest tend to rank quite high on the top grossing list, they also spend a lot of money on advertisements. There are also development costs and the expectations (reasonable or not) set by parent companies and publishers. All of these factors help determine a game’s success along with revenue. So while Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is not generate as much revenue as many mobile games, its success should not be measured by revenue alone.