There is some debate as to whether or not cross-promotion is an effective technique for acquiring new users. Bret on Social Games asked the question “Does Cross-Promoting a Game Work?” back in June and came to the conclusion that it really depends and the cross-promotion strategy that is employed.
Bret used the example of a very popular Facebook game, Scrabulous, who unsuccessfully cross-promoted their game Chess Pro. He attributed this, in part, to the idea that most Scrabulous players probably wouldn’t be interested in playing a chess game.
Not all cross-promotion strategies end in failure, however. Let’s take a look at how cross-promotion is working for some other companies.
Playfish started cross-promoting its games in August 2008. What’s interesting is that the two games that were released after they started cross-promotion—Pet Society and Geo Challenge—both experienced a spike in Daily Active Users (DAU) within about a month after their initial release. Pet Society (released August 8, 2008) more than doubled its DAU in a single day, jumping from 126,469 DAU on September 16, 2008 to 310,413 DAU on September 17, 2008.
Their latest title, Geo Challenge, debuted (in beta) on September 22, 2008 and the DAU grew to 131,430 by October 27, 2008. The next day it jumped to 458,783 DAU!
Compare the above statistics to those of their other titles, Who Has the Biggest Brain?, Word Challenge and Bowling Buddies, all of which were released without cross-promotion and experienced more of a steady climb in DAU over time. Take a look at the DAU graph from Adonomics for Word Challenge as an example:
As you can see, while DAU increased over time, it didn’t experience a significant spike like Pet Society and Geo Challenge did. While this certainly isn’t hard proof that cross-promotion works, its an interesting observation nonetheless.
The Blood Games
Playfish isn’t the only social gaming company that uses cross promotion, The Royal East India Trading Company has produced four games called The Blood Games that they cross-promote with each other. However, they’ve take cross-promotion to a different level by incentivizing it. Shortly after you begin playing Elven Blood, for example, you’re taken to a screen that informs you that you will be rewarded with “3 Blessings from the Elder Tree” (these blessings can be used to increase wealth, life, stamina or add a new member to your party) if you try all of the Blood Games. They also make it clear that you need to try all of the games immediately, stating that “You won’t be able to do this mission again.”
It isn’t clear how well this approach is working: as of this writing Elven Blood has 1,040,243 Monthly Active Users (MAU) while their other games (Blood Lust, Skies of Blood and City of Blood) are seeing MAU in the range of 460,000 to 550,000. Whether or not this turns out to be an effective cross-promotion strategy (The Blood Games are still fairly new), it is still an interesting and unique approach.
As Bret points out at the end of his article, cross-promoting your games, even if they are promoted within a highly successful game, doesn’t necessarily guarantee their success. No user acquisition strategy can be successful if the game just isn’t engaging. But, if you’ve created a successful game, cross-promotion may prove to be a great way to acquire users for your other games.