Why running Merge Mansion is like ‘governing a micronation’


At Develop 2023 last week, Metacore product manager Dish Eldishnawy explained how he looks at behavioural data to keep Merge Mansion players happy and engaged, comparing the process to ‘governing a micronation’.

Eldishnawy began with some background on Metacore, stating that the Supercell-backed studio is one of the fastest-growing game companies in Europe. Its revenue in 2022 hit €129m ($145m), an annual revenue growth rate of 123%. The team has also expanded rapidly, up from around 60 in 2021 to over 100 in 2022. The Metacore team is now over 150 today.

“Running a game is akin to governing a micronation, albeit with multiple currencies, a diverse population, dynamic day-over-day evolution, and a supremely democratic free-to-play system,” said Eldishnawy.

Eldishnawy’s slide on Metacore’s recent growth.

“‘Taxes’ are paid only when and if citizens enjoy the place. This scenario poses unique challenges to game leads, necessitating a specific setup for overseeing game performance and growth potential.”

Eldishnawy said his ‘behavioural retention’ model “ensures a balance between maintaining a stable and sustainable economy while keeping players engrossed and in flow,” and that some of the typical metrics studios use often don’t provide the full picture.

“The business growth of a mobile game typically hinges on three pillars: game features, live ops and UA,” he said. “In a bid to comprehend their game’s financial metrics and set growth expectations, studios often segment high-level metrics such as ARPDAU, conversion and DAU by monetisation groups or player progression stages.”

A quick glance at the data shows King Charles and Ozzy Osbourne as being similar…which is why it’s important to go deep on player data, says Eldishnawy.

“However, this approach can limit the understanding of what truly motivates our most valuable players and those with the potential to become avid gamers. Consequently, game teams may find themselves puzzled when a certain metric dips or when attempting to boost a particular metric to meet ambitious goals.”

He urged product managers to consider player preferences through behavioural segmentation, instead of just looking at monetisation segments. Game teams can look at monetisation and engagement as vectors, and then segment out players by both concurrently, thus creating behavioural segments. For that engagement vector, “look for what correlates the most with your players engaging most with the game – your successful live ops features and events might point it out,” he said.

In Merge Mansion’s case, Eldishnawy and his team noticed there are different distinct behavioural groups based on how players prefer to progress in the game. “As we examine the gameplay and style of these significant segments, clear differences in how they engage with the game emerge, which assist in constructing behavioural segments.” he said.

Eldishnawy used hypothetical ‘health’ and ‘power-up’ player types to show how players can be equally important but have very different behaviours.

Once you have those segments, go back to look at more typical metrics like ARPDAU, conversion and DAU through those lenses to find disparities and gain a greater understanding of different player motivations, he said.

“This is key for a free-to-play game since growth is closely tied to players feeling in flow and rewarded when they play,” said Eldishnawy. “The most valuable and impactful players become the focal point for game business growth.”

“By interpreting game metrics through this lens, the team can foster a culture that talks about player preferences over LTV groups, thereby bridging finance and game metrics. Strategically, game teams can now prioritise and customise features that most resonate with fans, effectively growing the game business organically.”

Breaking out player types for live events shows the subtle differences in how each live op resonates.

Viewing live ops and retention performance through these segments reveals where each cohort is less or more engaged. With that data in mind you can then “serve each segment differently by targeting them with new features or a customised experience of an existing feature,” said Eldishnawy.

“You may find that some of your events are not attractive with their current economy to a certain significant segment,” he continued. “Make sure as a game team that you are not stuck on one stagnant segment, it might be much easier to improve your high-level metrics when working on segments with a high potential to grow.”

Eldishnawy added that deploying a large variety of live ops that “allow different player segments to enjoy and engage with your game” is also good way to learn more about your players. Then you can optimise and target those live ops at different players in the future.

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