The Battle Pass – probably made most popular by Fortnite – is on its way to become a default monetization feature in mobile gaming. A bit like the Piggy Bank a few years back, more and more games are adopting this system. Battle Passes are now appearing in midcore and casual title. That’s because what makes the Battle Pass so successful in a wide variety of contexts is not that it’s tied to cosmetic items. It’s because the Battle Pass is a way to tie-in monetization and engagement in a rewarding way.
This post is not meant to go into details about what the Battle Pass is or how it works (for an analysis of the Battle Pass you can read what I previously wrote here and here). Rather, in this post I will suggest 3 important questions that will help you better design your Battle Pass and improve your monetization performance (while at the same time providing a more rewarding experience for your players).
1) What day do most purchases occur?
You might have observed in your game that most purchases usually occur soon after releasing an offer. It’s likely the same thing happens with your Battle Pass. If you were to distribute the purchases of your Battle Pass along the dimension of days since release (or even hour since release), you might see that the day where most purchases occur is the day the Pass is launched. Even more, depending on the duration of the Pass you might see that a majority of buyers during a season have purchased the Pass on the day it was released.
Why does that happen?
Why questions are always hard (maybe impossible) to answer with data. But the idea is that you can try to leverage data to try to confirm of inform various assumptions and hypotheses. Answering these “why” questions is actually the most important thing you need to do to ensure you actually get value from your data. Answering the why questions can help you understand some key principles that inform your players’ behavior, and design and balance your game accordingly.
In the case of the Battle Pass there are multiple factors that can explain why most purchases occur on the pass’ release day. Releasing an offer carries with it a sense of novelty – which in itself is appealing. Furthermore, your most engaged users play regularly – probably daily. That means that most of your fans (who display the highest propensity to purchase it) will be in the game on the day you release the Battle Pass. Another reason might have to do with the rewards in your Battle Pass. Some Battle Passes reward players with passive boosts – increase the gold collected, get an XP boost, reduce build times, etc. That means that the earlier a player buys the Pass, the sooner s/he will get the passive bonus, the bigger the value.
What can you do with that information?
If you observe that most purchases occur the day the Pass is released, then that’s a good indication it’s the “preferred” path. By that I mean, it’s the natural purchase tendency. The conclusion that follows is that you should try to try to reinforce this tendency even more: you should try to double down on the fact that most purchases occur soon after the pass is released. If you rather try to increase the amount of buyers later in the season – say 10 days after release – then you are going against the natural trend. That means you will most likely dedicate a lot of efforts and resources for low returns (because you’re trying to get players to do something they are not naturally inclined to do).
Because of that, you can try to provide some incentive to purchase your Battle Pass soon after release – that can take for example the form of a bonus or a discount soon after release. Another important point here, you should ensure your Battle Pass is rewarding from the moment players purchase it. Of course, you should be putting valuable rewards in your Battle Pass. But more importantly, that means you should ensure the Battle Pass is a gratifying purchase – at the moment the purchase occurs. You don’t need to make your pass buyers jump through hoops and put in a lot of effort before getting valuable and desirable rewards (more on that below). In order to do that, at the moment users buy your pass – even before they have progressed – they should receive things that make that purchase rewarding. You need to keep immediate gratification in mind. The simple act of purchasing the pass (of spending money) should be rewarding and gratifying in itself. So, try to make sure valuable (and ideally exclusive) rewards are unlocked at the moment the pass is purchased.
2) At what node do most purchases occur?
It’s one important thing to look at the day the purchase occurs. Another important thing you want to look at is the node at which the purchase occurs. Based on the above point it’s clear that most purchases of the Battle Pass occur on the first node (or at the very least in the early nodes). Most purchases occur soon after release – and most users buying the pass have not had the chance to progress much by the time they purchase it.
However, if you look at purchases from a relative point of view – and no longer in absolute terms – you might be seeing something slightly different (if that’s not the case, you can skip to the next point). To determine this, you want to look at the total amount of non-buyers reaching a node. Out of all those non-buyers reaching a node, what is the percent actually buy the pass at that node? For example, out of 200,000 players who have not bought the Battle Pass and reached node 3, maybe 0.5% have purchased the pass at that node (and became pass buyers before reaching node 4). On the other hand, maybe 10000 non-buyers have reached the final node – and 4% of those players will purchase the pass at that node. So, in absolute terms you have more players buying the pass early. In relative terms, more players buy the pass when they reach the end.
Why does that happen?
On the one hand this probably simply reflects the level of engagement of different players. Everybody – even the non-engaged players – will be on the first node. Many players will progress a few nodes unintentionally. By simply being in the game and performing some mundane actions, players will progress in the Battle Pass. So relatively speaking, the percent of engaged users among early nodes will be low. And because usually, you need to be somewhat engaged in a game to monetize in it, the percent of non-buyers purchasing the node early on will be low (monetizing in a game is a sign of engagement, not a cause). Conversely, only the most engaged players will reach the end of the pass. So, you know that’s the subgroup of non-buyers with the highest propensity to spend.
On the other hand, this probably also occurs because the most value from the pass comes once it’s reached. The Battle Pass is a way to monetize engagement. The more a player engages and plays your game, the more s/he can get from the Battle Pass. Once a player reached the end of the pass, s/he knows that purchasing the pass provides the maximum rewards possible. There is a sense a security that comes with knowing you’re getting the most out of your money. If you buy the pass before you reach the end, you are spending your money but don’t know if you’ll be able to get all the rewards you can potentially get. That’s not a concern once you’ve reached the end. This sense of completion (and closure) is probably very conducive to having players make a purchase in good conscience.
What can you do with that information?
Looking at relative purchase per node can help you identify the most desired rewards in the pass (chances are you will see more relative purchases at nodes that feature desirable rewards than at nodes with less desirable rewards). You can either decide to put more of those rewards, or place them at a more strategic node (or both).
The biggest action point from this concerns the way you can balance your pass progression for your non-buyers. Simple stated, you want to try to get your non-buyers to get to the end of the Battle Pass. There are two ways to help make that happen (slightly more).
First, you can provide a compelling reason for a non-buyer to get to the end of the pass. This can be done by placing something valuable at the end of the free pass. It needs to be something perceived as valuable enough to entice a non-buyer to get to that point. In addition, you probably want to make sure the reward at the end is the best reward of the free pass. You don’t want to provide a reason for your players to stop pushing forward (and having reached the best greatly decreases the value of continuing to push forward). Second, you need to make sure you are pacing your non-buyers appropriately. Here, think about progressing along the nodes of the Battle Pass a bit like a funnel (not unlike a tutorial funnel). Of course, you should balance the effort between nodes appropriately. You want to make sure the time and effort it takes to get from one node to the next (and from the first to the last) matches the type of engagement patterns your players are already displaying in your game. You can also provide many (even if small) rewards to make sure your non-buyers have a frequent “reward loop” and tangible sense of progression. If you give players frequent feedback on their progression (by showing them they are reaching more nodes and getting rewards more frequently – even if we’re talking small rewards) it will make it more likely they will continue playing and trying to progress.
3) Do you benefit from making it hard to progress in the pass?
Some games offer the opportunity to directly spend resources to get to the next node. Alternatively, some games allow player to monetize indirectly to progress. Maybe one challenge to complete to get to the next node is to train 500 troops. You can spend gems to speed up the training process and get the points needed to get to the next node.
In other words, there can be 2 sources of monetization around a Battle Pass: acquisition and progression. If your game offers a way to progress in the pass via spending – either directly or indirectly – then you are probably tracking down how much you are monetizing progression. And the revenue breakdown between acquisition and progression might present you with some opportunities to improve your Battle Pass. This is a point that will likely vary a lot for each game – it will depend on how the progression spending is implemented (if at all), the cost of the nodes and the speedup (how that compares to the price of acquiring the pass), the way rewards are distributed, the difficulty with which progression is balanced, etc. So, less than the above 2 questions there isn’t a one-size-fits all assessment (and no “why” section to this point). However, if you observe that the revenues you are making from progression are marginal (both in terms of percent of users spending and total amount spent), then there is a last action point you can walk away with here.
What can you do if you see you don’t monetize progression much?
The big question you need to answer is whether making the pass difficult is helping you. In other words, is it worth it to make it difficult to progress (and by extension, complete) the pass? What you need to do is think about the tradeoff between monetizing progression and getting more revenue.
If you see that you don’t monetize from progression much, you might want to consider making your Battle Pass easy to complete (or even easier if it’s already easy). The goal of the Battle Pass should not be to get players to engage more. Its goal is to tie-in monetization and engagement in a rewarding fashion. That means you might not benefit from making your pass hard (or harder) and making your pass buyers jump through hoops to get all the rewards the pass has to offer. If most of your monetization depends on pass acquisition, then you should double down and focus on maximizing your revenue from players acquiring the pass. You should try to ensure you are creating a rewarding experience.
You might have already seen from point 2) that you will probably get more people to buy the pass if you make it easier for non-buyers to get to the end. You might also be benefiting from making it easier for your pass buyers to complete the pass. Even though you might not monetize the progression of your pass buyers (and I get the temptation because they probably have the highest propensity to spend again to complete the pass), you might benefit from getting more pass buyers to get to the end. You can achieve that by reducing the amount of points or even better (because it rewards even more spending) provide some completion bonus for pass buyers. For example, pass buyers get 10% more XP per action, or more challenges to progress more nodes for a similar level of engagement.
Keep in mind that you’re in this for the long run. That means that you might benefit from designing a more rewarding monetization system. If your pass is easier, not only will more non-buyers get to the end (where the propensity to spend is the highest). If your pass is easier, you will also provide a better experience for your pass buyers, and increase the probability they will stay in your game and purchase the next pass you release. Over time if you want your game to continue growing and monetizing, you want to be building that Battle Pass buyer base. Making sure that purchase is rewarding ensure your most engaged players stay engaged in your game, and keep buying your Battle Pass. And that’s the reason why the Battle Pass is such a great monetization system: it monetizes engagement. And the more rewarding you make engagement in your game, the more reasons and value your players get for spending in your game.