Idle Tycoon Games: Market Overview

A deep dive into the Idle Tycoon games market: Is it big? Is it growing? Is it hard to enter? What does it take to create a hit? Let’s figure it out!
Idle Tycoon market overview
We evaluated the Idle Tycoon market with AppQuantum officials.

Idle Tycoon’lar, görünüşte basit üretim aşamaları ve potansiyel verimleri nedeniyle son birkaç yıldır mobil oyun geliştirici topluluğunun dikkatini çekiyor. Ayrıca, hyper-casual oyun pazarıyla meşgul olanların çoğu, sürekli artan CPI ile mücadeleye yardımcı olacak daha yüksek LTV‘li daha karmaşık oyunlar için fikirler aramaya başladı.

2022’ye kadar, Idle Tycoon’ların aylık net IAP geliri ani bir artış göstererek 21 milyon doları aştı. Kümülatif gelirleri ise (reklam geliri dahil) 30 milyon doları bulabilir.

All of the above has inspired us to write this article and have a closer look at what’s happening in the market segment.

Size daha kaliteli içgörüler sunmak için, bu pazarda oldukça deneyimli birkaç üst düzey profesyonelden yorum istedik: AppQuantum‘dan Egor Pavlyuk, Alina Zlotnik ve Elizaveta Khilkovskaya. AppQuantum, en iyi performansa sahip Idle Tycoon’lardan biri olan Gold & Goblins‘in yayıncısıdır.

Top grossing tycoons

First and foremost, let’s see what’s going on with the cumulative revenue of idle tycoons: what about the scale, the dynamics, the diversity of the market?

In the graph below, we can see that the market has been growing steadily and quite fast during the last few years (click on the image to learn the details).

Growth rates of the Idle Tycoon market by years

We can see that there were several very strong titles that caused the growth of the market segment in 2021. Let’s try to figure out what’s so special and interesting in these games. We’ll list the games according to their revenue as of Jan-Apr 2022.

#1: Gold & Goblins ($13.1M net iAP revenue as of Jan-Apr 2022)

The game first appeared in stores in Sep 2020. On the outside, the concept looked quite innovative because of its distinctive direct control gameplay.

Gold & Goblins oynanış videosu

On the inside, the game is also pretty noteworthy. Our interlocutors from AppQuantum told us that the game had a 50% D1 retention rate and a 10% for D30. It was developed by a small company called RedCell based in Canada by guys who had vast experience in the development of Idle Tycoons. Therefore, its game design is not as simple as you might think. The retention numbers are just amazing: we have always thought that long-term retention was not a metric idle tycoon game developers could brag about.

Nowadays, many try developing idle tycoons. Many just copy successful titles. However, few (if any) of them succeed. The guys from AppQuantum say that most of the games in the genre are done poorly, and that developers usually underestimate the complexity of the game design, kind of following the “Cargo cult” without understanding nuances about why exactly the top performing games of the genre perform well.

Does it mean that the development costs should be high for a game of the kind? Egor Pavlyuk from AppQuantum thinks that even a team of 3-5 people can develop a game of the same quality as Gold & Goblins, if they really know what to do.

Here’s a notable metamorphosis that happened to the game: in autumn 2021, the revenue of Gold & Goblins grew 4-fold from $700K to $2.8M in net iAP monthly revenue, and from $2M to $8M in total net monthly revenue (including ad monetization). Pretty impressive for a game that can be developed by a team of 3-5 people, huh?

Gold and Goblins monthly revenues

We’ve asked Elizaveta Khilkovskaya, another producer with AppQuantum, how the publisher contributed to the success of the title.

She told us that the publisher and the developer had agreed on this from the very beginning: RedCell works on the game according to their idea, and AppQuantum is responsible for the business part (and doesn’t interfere with the game development itself). Overall, on the side of the publisher, there were several times more people involved, compared to the game development team itself. These people worked on monetization, user acquisition, marketing analytics, ad creatives (70 new ones per week), product analytics, elaborating live-ops ideas, ASO, store featuring nominations, etc.

Talking about that huge increase in revenue that happened in November 2021, Elizaveta said: “A lot was done during that period, but the biggest driver of growth was this creative:”

A design video of the Gold and Goblins game

You may have seen a lot of similar creatives employed by different publishers. Elizaveta says, AppQuantum was one of the first publishers who adopted it for their product, and it worked outstandingly well.

#2: Idle Mafia ($11.5M net iAP revenue as of Jan-Apr 2022)

The game has been on the radar since April 2020. It was really innovative with their battler mechanics—essentially a simplified version of the party management mechanics common for team battlers.

Idle Mafia gameplay video

The game came out a long time ago—in March 2020. But what’s interesting, in summer 2021 it managed to grow nearly 3 times in monthly revenue.

Idle Mafia revenues

We see a series of major app updates during the intense growth period. But we also see many major updates at any other time, so we can’t say for sure, based just on the update timing and their patch notes, what caused the growth.

We asked all our 3 interlocutors about their opinion, and they all agreed that these were social interaction mechanics added in the game that could really affect its key metrics.

At the current stage of development, the game is unbelievably rich with metagame and live-ops. You can just check YouTube and wow at how different the late-stage gameplay can be to what you see when you just start playing the game. This abundance (surely, well-grounded) seems to be what helps the game thrive for years.

Century Games Publishing, a company that developed the game, is a very large and prosperous one. They operate very big (in terms of production) top revenue generating games: 4x strategies and farms. Their annual net revenue exceeds $550M. So their interest in idle tycoons (and Idle Lumber isn’t their only tycoon) adds points to the idea that games of the kind may earn A LOT.

#3: Idle Lumber Empire ($10.3M net iAP revenue as of Jan-Apr 2022)

The Bronze medal goes to Idle Lumber, another tycoon of the new generation that contributed massively to the overall growth of the market segment. It’s notable in terms of its core mechanics, with depots attached to every craft shop—and different types of goods that the shops deliver. Idle Lumber isn’t the only and the first idle tycoon that employed this paradigm but the one that proved: this version of the core mechanics may perform really well.

Idle Lumber gameplay video

#4: RuPaul’s Drag Race Superstar ($6.8M net iAP revenue as of Jan-Apr 2022)

This one really catches the eye. Not only thanks to its performance, but to the setting:

RuPaul’s Drag Race Superstar oynanış videosu

At its core, the game is a pretty conventional tycoon, but with the addition of metagame in the form of outfit battle mechanics (necessary at least to substantiate the use of the IP).

This game also contributed a lot to the cumulative revenue of the newly developed idle tycoons and to the whole market segment, with monthly net revenue peaking at $2.5M in January 2022 (now down to $1.5M/mo).

Talking about IPs, Eastside Games, the publisher of the game, employs them a lot. The company has published a lot of idle tycoons, and many of them are very successful: Trailer Park Boys, Archer, Always Sunny, and others. Recently, they’ve soft launched Wizard of Oz with gameplay copied from Gold & Goblins. It’s really curious to follow how it’s going to develop for Eastside Games and how well they have managed to deconstruct the gold-digging goblin game.

#5: Idle Miner ($5.6M net iAP revenue as of Jan-Apr 2022)

Idle Miner is the oldest top performer released on Jun 30, 2016. It’s noteworthy with its high and very stable performance during many years.

Idle Miner revenues

It looks like the audience may stick a lot to games of the kind and pay a big dollar, especially if the game is based on a franchise. Here is a graph for accumulated RpD (revenue per downloads ratio) over LT (lifetime of the game). It highlights the pace of ROI accumulation and gives some info about the lifetime of paying users.

RpD graphic of the game

Also, we surprisingly see that the LTV of an idle tycoon in the US may exceed $10. But be careful with this metric: if you see a very high LTV, but the number of downloads is small, it clearly tells you that the target audience is small (willing to pay, though).

Here’s one interesting thing about Kolibri Games, the publisher of Idle Miner. They registered the “idle tycoon” trademark on Aug 29, 2019, and started sending around accusations of trademark infringements to many idle tycoon developers. It looks like it’s legal to register a name of a genre and prevent others from using it in their games’ names to monopolize organic traffic coming from the name of the genre. Mobile platforms seem to be doing nothing about it (letting Kolibri follow through with the plan).

Kolibri’nin farklı olası oyun adlarına sahip 36 farklı ticari markası bulduk. Egor Pavlyuk, Kolibri’nin artık belirli oyun geliştiricilerinin oyun adlarında “Idle Tycoon” terimini herhangi bir kombinasyonda kullanmasına izin vermediğini söylüyor. İşte Unity’nin geliştiriciler forumunun bir kullanıcısı tarafından 2019’da oyunu Idle CEO Tycoon hakkında benzer bir iddia elde etmekle ilgili bir gönderi. Yine de mağazalarda hala “Idle smth Tycoon” adlı bir çok oyun görüyoruz, bu yüzden nasıl olduğu tam olarak belli değil. Sanırım Kolibri’nin avukatları avlarını iyi seçiyor.

Egor admits that, unfortunately, we can expect this type of behavior on the part of the publishers to become more common in the near future as part of the battle for traffic.

#10: Cats & Soup ($2.3M net iAP revenue as of Jan-Apr 2022)

We skipped positions 6-9 in the chart, as there’s not much sense in describing every game: we want to only highlight the most notable ones. And Cats & Soup is a noteworthy one, indeed.

You can dress up the cats and decorate their mini-rooms. But this mechanic doesn’t play the key role in a player’s daily routine.

Cats and Soup gameplay video

There’s no mechanic of dropping the game state, when you have to restart your progress from scratch over and over again. So, in Cats & Soup, you just keep on developing the same world.

This whole approach is quite rare for idle tycoons, but not unique. For example, here’s another similar game, Penguin Isle. It was released in August 2019 and has been performing quite well. Games of this kind might define a separate sub-genre of idle tycoons.

#16: Law Empire Tycoon ($0.8M net iAP revenue as of Jan-Apr 2022)

The last of the top performers we’d like to mention is Law Empire Tycoon. It’s quite a sophisticated tycoon in terms of in-game economics: a user needs to spend a reasonable amount of time to figure out how different production chains work and how to optimize them.

Law Empire Tycoon gameplay video

This game also doesn’t have the mechanic that makes you constantly reset your progress. There’s no hyperinflation of the soft currency. There’s even no event locations. The game feels and plays a little bit like a regular large tycoon game that came from the PC.

Now let’s change the angle of view and check out idle tycoons with the largest number of downloads.

Top popular tycoons

We see that the market wasn’t really growing in terms of downloads during the last several years, unlike the revenue. That’s probably saying that the genre is moving fast from ad monetization to the iAP-based model.

Focusing on the last month in our graph, two new games with outstandingly large market share draw our attention. These are Idle Lumber and Cats & Soup mentioned earlier. The first one is very popular in developing countries: the top 3 countries in terms of downloads are India, Brazil, and Indonesia. The second game is quite popular in the US, but its low iAP revenue per user didn’t allow the title to compete for a better ranking position in the grossing chart (it was just 10th, see above).

There are nearly no games in the top free tycoons ranking that we didn’t see in the grossing ranking earlier. That being said, if you are thinking about starting to work on a new idle tycoon, trying to figure out top promising product ideas, you should be focusing on investigating the current top grossing examples of the genre.

In conclusion

The genre of idle tycoons is evolving, and the market is rich with new successful titles, and it’s growing. These are all good signs for product executives. Our colleagues from AppQuantum believe a game of the genre can earn not just millions but tens of millions a month. Which, taking into consideration the low costs of production, sounds really tempting. On the other hand, designing a really engaging game may not be as simple as one wants to believe.

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