Matthew Roszak

In The Press Blog

Ngmoco’s We Rule logs 3 billion minutes of game play in one year

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When Ngmoco launched its We Rule kingdom-building game on the iPhone a year ago, it had high hopes. The game was a high-quality title offered for free and meant to take advantage of Apple’s in-app purchase feature for selling virtual goods.

A year later, the title is a success. It has been downloaded more than 13 million times, and players have logged more than 3 billion minutes building kingdoms and farming crops. In social games, that wouldn’t be considered a giant achievement, but in the emerging market for mobile apps, it’s a sign of a strong and engaged community. As more people buy smartphones and tablets, hits like We Rule are going to pay off in bigger and bigger audiences.

To be sure, We Rule’s success isn’t anywhere near as big as Angry Birds, which has been downloaded 100 million times and generates 200 million minutes of game play a day and which could hit Ngmoco’s one-year level of 3 billion minutes in just 15 days. And the game is just one of more than three dozen published by Ngmoco. But We Rule’s survival for more than a year in the cutthroat App Store marketplace — where there are 52,984 active games and 114 new ones per day — is a big achievement and shows that it’s possible to create a new entertainment franchise on the iPhone as a constantly updated service.

We Rule’s success was likely one of the reasons Japan’s DeNA bought San Francisco-based Ngmoco for up to $403 million last summer. With We Rule, Ngmoco figured out how to create a virtual economy that paid off in a way similar to that of games such as FarmVille on Facebook. As in FarmVille, players can raise crops. But they can also complete quests, trade with neighboring realms, and interact with castles, peasants, pirates, and dragons.

We Rule’s in-app purchases enable a virtual goods business model. Users can pay real money for mojo, Ngmoco’s virtual currency, so that they can speed up processes in the game. Users can pay 99 cents for just 5 mojo or $99 for a discounted batch. (and yes, parents really didn’t like the fact that kids could buy something for $99 in a game). Users are spending 15 million mojo a day in the game, and they spend 40 billion coins (a virtual currency that can’t be exchanged for real money) a day.

As a measure of engagement, players have played more than 480 million sessions, with average session length of one hour, says Clive Downie, vice president of marketing at Ngmoco. Players have gone on more than 1.2 million quests and have an average of 27 friends each. Players have banded together to do more than 82 million social jobs.

Ngmoco has a team that delivers twice-weekly additions to the game that players can download as updates. There are now more than 300 ways to customize a kingdom. And there are 19 million Ruby groves and 1.3 million dragon lairs in the game. To celebrate the one-year anniversary, Ngmoco is going to offer new features and promotions, including a new gifting feature. In the coming months, Ngmoco will expand the game to Android mobile devices.

“We’re constantly at work serving the community,” Downie said. “We curate the environment on an hourly basis.”

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