An In-depth Look: Mob Wars

This is part of a series of posts that will take an in-depth look at various games and applications in an effort to examine what has led to their success or, in some cases, failure.

Mob Wars is a wildly popular Facebook game that is rumored to make upwards of $1 million per month, making it the most profitable game on Facebook. How did they do it? Let’s take an in-depth look at Mob Wars and how it’s gotten to where it is today.

A Brief History

Mob Wars was developed by David Maestri (a.k.a. Jason Gilbert) and launched in January of 2008. According to statistics collected by Adonomics, Mob Wars has grown at a fairly steady pace from 331 daily active users on January 27, 2008 to 449,057 daily active users on September 27, 2008. That’s a 135,566% increase over a period of just 8 months! (As of this article, there are currently 505,178 daily active users.)

Growth & Retention

Mob Wars has achieved tremendous growth in a fairly short period of time. How did they do this? The entire Mob Wars game is built around a viral invite model—a user invites several friends, each of which will (hopefully) invite several of their friends and so on and so forth resulting in exponential growth.

While the game isn’t impossible to play as a single user, your ability to complete certain tasks and to become successful in the game will be limited.

Prior to Facebook prohibiting incentivized invites, Mob Wars was able to offer users rewards such as (virtual) cash, health and energy for inviting their friends to play. However, even with the removal of incentivized invites, there are still plenty of reasons why users would try to invite as many people as possible to the game: you need a certain mob size to complete some tasks and there is strength in numbers. The question has been raised as to whether or not this means that Mob Wars is using forced invites—another prohibited practice by Facebook.

Getting users to invite their friends and have them install your application is only one small part of the growth equation. If you really want your application to grow you need to keep your users engaged and wanting to come back for more. And guess what? Mob Wars seems to have this part of the equation down pat. According to Developer Analytics:

“…[Mob Wars] has one of the longest average user lifespans we’ve ever seen on Facebook.”

Why does Mob Wars have such a high engagement and retention rate? Bret Terrill of Bret on Social Games has recently written several posts that may give us some insight into why Mob Wars is so successful.

In two of Bret’s more recent articles, he uses lessons from evolutionary psychology to look at Social Status and Leaderboards as reasons behind successful social games. Brett says that:

“Competing for social status is the core activity of all humans, even if we do it in incredibly indirect way.”

He goes on to say that:

“Social games, by their virtue of being embedded in a social environment, offer players the opportunity to compete for social status.”

Mob Wars definitely allows you to compete for social status by recruiting mobsters and building the largest mob possible (currently 500 mobsters plus yourself), attacking and killing other mobs (you can even taunt other mobs by punching them in the face), and by competing for a spot on the leaderboard where you can gain status as “Most Deadly”, “Top Fighter”, “Top Bounty Hunter”, “Top Tycoon” (the richest), “Most Notorious” and “Most Wanted”. The link to this leaderboard is titled “Made Men” and has a description next to it that says:

“Pay your respects to the top mobsters on Mob Wars.”

In another article titled “How to Build a Successful Social Game: Design for Play with Strangers“, Bret argues that:

“If you’re only building for interactions between friends, then you’re not leveraging a significant chunk of the interactions on Facebook.”

Furthermore he states that:

“Mob Wars is the prime example of this…competition is focused on strangers, and cooperation is focused on friends.”

These are some of the reasons that Mob Wars is enjoying such a high level of success, but it is still only part of the equation.

Monetization

What makes Mob Wars stand out from the crowd isn’t how many daily active users it has (many applications have more), rather the amount of money they are reportedly making from these users. How is Mob Wars making money?

Mob Wars uses two different strategies to monetize the game:

  1. Banner advertising
  2. Cost Per Action (CPA) Offers

The first way that Mob Wars has monetized its game is through banner advertising by placing a banner advertisement at the top of each page in Mob Wars. Advertising isn’t all that profitable unless you have a serious number of page visits. Mob Wars may be successful with advertising because game play often involves visits to many pages by a single user. In fact, according to Developer Analytics:

“…each unique user generates over 60 page impressions per day…”

Combine 60 page impressions per day with over 500,000 daily active users and you’ve got a pretty good formula for generating a descent amount of revenue from banner advertising.

The second, and perhaps most profitable way Mob Wars has monetized its game, is through Cost Per Action (CPA) offers, partnering with companies such as Offerpal Media and Super Rewards. In an Inside Facebook interview, Super Rewards CEO and Co-founder Jason Bailey stated that:

“Developers come in making $100 a day and we can take them up to $1000 a day in short order.”

Mob Wars is reported to be making $22,000 per day and they have done it, in part, by integrating these CPA offers directly into the game without making gameplay dependent upon them. In other words, you don’t have to participate in these offers to play or even be successful in the game, but there are incentives to taking part in these offers.

For example, after completing an offer such as getting a free auto insurance quote or signing up for a free trial of Netflix, you can redeem the “Favor Points” you earn to accept offers from the “Godfather”. These offers include things like cash, more mobsters (hired guns) or full energy.

Mob Wars Godfather

These two monetization strategies combined with explosive growth and a very high rate of user engagement and retention have made Mob Wars perhaps one of the most profitable games on Facebook today. You might want to think about integrating these strategies into your applications.

You can learn more by taking a look at the Mob Wars application flows in Product Planner.

  1. I’m sorry, but I think this post is vague. Really the information you posted was a poorly paraphrased version of what developer analytics posted on their site.

    The flow chart that you show is ridiculously pointless. That is not any sort of new method of exponential growth, its a strategy utilized by literally every single application on facebook — Ask people to invite friends, they invite friends, friends join. Voila!

    The statement that it is not necessary to fill out the surveys is just simply wrong. Have you ever played the game? After about 10 minutes of gameplay, the game refers you to the “Godfather” and you are forced to obtain energy points through this dude by filling out any of the surveys (either that, or you wait an obscene amount of time for your energy to refill).

  2. Hi Ben, the article didn’t state that Mob Wars utilized any “new method of exponential growth” as you’ve suggested, just that Mob Wars utilizes a method of exponential growth. Furthermore, if building a successful Facebook application was as easy as asking people to invite friends and having those friends join, then every single Facebook application should be as successful as Mob Wars. Since this isn’t the case, the aim of this article was to look at why Mob Wars has been so much more successful than other Facebook applications and several suggestions were made for why this might be the case: inviting (a lot) of friends is a direct part of the gameplay, a very high user retention rate and a successful monetization strategy.

    You also mentioned that “The statement that it is not necessary to to fill out surveys is just simply wrong.” I completely disagree. I’ve been playing Mob Wars for well over a month now, I have a mob size of 165 (all stocked with the best weapons, armor and vehicles possible) and my income is over $2 million and I haven’t filled out one single survey. I also didn’t have to “wait an obscene amount of time” for my energy to refill. It is true that you are referred to the “Godfather” often, but this is part of Mob Wars’ successful monetization strategy.

  3. is there any prizes for wining this game

  4. Hi opy, there really isn’t any way to “win” the game beyond being one of the “Made Men” on the leaderboards and there will certainly always be other mobs that will replace the current leaders. So, no, there aren’t any prizes offered for winning the game.

  5. ive been playing this game for a couple of weeks now..and ive already taken up some of the offers, from the business aspect of gaming, this method is definately with the times, how many people prefer instant gratification to a slow but steady growth?

    and in fairness the offers make them even more then just selling the points, big names are there taking lots of cash, tesco, coral just to name 2, the idea, that with £10 and 20 minutes having a flutter, you can also enhance your standing will sit well with the fast majority, who are used to getting what they want now, something our governments are finding out with the crisis over non existant money being loaned to cover soceities need for speed, out with saving and in with credit. unfortunately however i think facebook is missing a trick or two, with internet security a constant worry, many people will feel reluctant to give over card details to third party’s especially since there is some long delays when waiting for the said favor points, centralising this function would ease some of the anxieties and may produce more new consumers, who ordinarily wouldnt use a card over the internet, the growth is exponential and retention is high, why not capitalise ?

  6. I would juz like 2 know if playing mob wars uses alot of your internet usage. if it uses any at all then does it use much when u click on banners n fill out surveys.

  7. This was a great article! Don’t listen to Ben Jackass up there. He just sounds like a tired, failed ‘developer’, jealous of Mob Wars’ success.

    What I’m curiouis about now in Nov. 2011 is if Zynga’s Mafia Wars is doing better than the game it copied -Mob Wars. I know Zynga was sued and settled out of court for 7-8 million dollars, but Mafia surpassed Mob in user numbers and monetization. What do you think?

    Also since Mob came out in ’08 and Mafia in ’09 (I think), have their strategies for earning profit since been dampened by the platforms, preventing new games from using similiar strategies? For example, I don’t think Facebook took 30% cuts back then. Thanks!

  8. im tycoon lvl 19 and my cash flow per hour is $822,430,000
    iv created an account 2 years ago and i didnt checked until this year and i have thiscashflow

    is that a good number?

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