Friday, January 11, 2013

Behind the Success of Hay Day

I started writing this post some time ago as I do with all of my deconstructions. First play for 2 weeks, then do the core loop, break down the core loop, analyse the difference between benchmark titles etc. But what I noticed with Hay Day is that the magic isn't just in the core loop or features. 

So I decided to chat with Timur Haussila, Product Lead at Supercell, who's team created Hay Day to find out what makes the game so successful.

Meet Timur Haussila
Product Lead, Supercell
twitter: @Timurcio

Timur started his career as an analyst and the shift to the games industry happened three years ago at the same time with the increasing burst of casual free-to-play game services. He joined Supercell after successfully launching three Facebook titles at Digital Chocolate. Timur was the original Product Lead for Supercell’s game called Hayday, and he successfully took the game all the way from the first idea to launch. Timur holds a Master’s degree (MSc. Econ) in Business Administration

Hay Day's Player First Approach

I started writing this post some time ago as I do with all of my deconstructions. First play for 2 weeks, then do the core loop, break down the core loop, analyse the difference between benchmark titles etc. But what I noticed with Hay Day is that the magic isn't just in the core loop or features. 

Hay Day is an awesome game and we all know it. It's a farming game but it's not 'just another farming game'. It feels fresh  despite having really anything innovative or new. In my opinion what makes Hay Day so good is that the team who made it took a step back. Instead of slapping new elements into an overworked genre Hay Day actually emphasizes those key elements that made the whole genre successful. And as a cherry on the top it's made tablet first, which is a difference you can truly see and feel. The magic of Hay Day is in the way the game has been designed. You see Hay Day is designed with a player first approach, which is sadly something we developers tend to forget too often.

The Core Loop

XP earned by player actions allows player to level up. With every level up players unlock
new ways to produce different resources and thus diversify and grow their farm.

Chat With Timur

Timur, out of all genres how did you end up doing a farming game?

We wanted to create an entertaining game for a large audience and nothing really says mass market in social games more than farming.  Of course we knew that we were about to enter the most competitive segment in gaming but at the same time we saw it in a bit different light. I mean there are a lot of farming games simply because people enjoy farming games. The opportunity was there because because no-one had developed farming games specifically for tablets. Farming games that really made use of the stunning large touch screen.

So you saw the opportunity in tablet specific farming games. How long it took the team to develop Hay Day and what was the team size?

You know that at Supercell we keep our team sizes relatively small emphasizing more on the experience and the dynamics of the teams instead of the sheer size. But to answer the question, throughout development our team size has been between 5 to 10 developers and it took us 6 months till the first submission, which was limited to the Canadian App Store.
Supercell's game teams tend to be much smaller yet much more
experienced compared to other game companies.  

After 6 months of production you soft launched Hay Day exclusively in the Canadian App Store to see how the game performs. What kind of changes did you make during soft launch phase?

We kept Hay Day exclusive in the Canadian App Store for about two months and this phase proved up to be crucial for the global success of the game. Firstly we were able to significantly improve the first time flow as well as prove that players understood all of the game's features. Secondly we were able to tweak the game economy a lot. I mean we changed roughly all of the initial values in the economy during the soft launch phase. And thirdly being live showed us at which points in the game players ran out of content and we were able to fill these gaps of inactivity with new content and thus improve retention.

What was the growth like after the global launch?

As you can see from App Annie our growth was very patient and we actually broke the TOP 10 grossing list only four months post launch. Mostly this is because we wanted the game to grow organically relying on player retention and word of mouth. Sounds corny but we wanted to prove that Hay Day could grow just because it’s that good of a game.

Talking about retention. At one point AppData showed DAU/MAU of 55% for Hay Day. How did you guys reach this kind of engagement rates?

Yeah, as I said retention is something we really focused on in Hay Day and the results have been pretty amazing. I personally think that a lot has to do with the facts that we don’t teach our players to play Hay Day. Instead we give our players the freedom to learn to play the game themselves. Our updates have also increased retention. This is because the updates were designed to reinforce the core loop and add meaningful social features instead of adding new elements to the game.

What do you think makes Hay Day so successful?

I believe the success can be also linked to our approach where we avoid teaching players to play the game. There’s no forced tutorial. No missions or quests in Hay Day. And there’s no ”right way to play” the game or punishment for playing the game in different way.  We wanted Hay Day to be extremely logical and thus easy to understand and enjoy. 

For example when players collect chickens they gets eggs instead of coins. To get coins players sell eggs. To get more coins players make up more valuable goods to be sold by combining eggs with various other resources producing waffles, cookies etc. That's logical. You don't need a forced tutorial with spotlight, arrows and instructions to teach that.

All the concepts in Hay Day are very logical and thus easy for players to understand.
Even producing bacon by putting pigs into sauna is in a way very logical.

Hay Day has been constantly in the TOP 10 grossing list for months now. How come the game monetizes so well?

This might sound crazy but we designed the game so that it could be played truly for free without ever having to pay in order to progress. At the same time we understood that some of our players will want to speed up their progress at some point and we simply made it easy to do so. So in short, we sell players convenience without ever forcing our players to pay or get viral to progress.

Hay Day is really strong in IAPs but what everyone doesn't know is that the ads bring also a hefty chunk of revenue. Can you talk more about ads in Hay Day?

We wanted to give our non-paying players a chance to earn some hard currency and ads were the perfect solution. But ads are also a great way to ruin the game experience. So we set out with an aim to avoid turning Hay Day into a Christmas Tree by slapping interstitials, banners and popups on it. 

The way ads have been integrated to the game follows our overall strategy where we aim to keep things logical for the player. In addition to keeping things logical we also approached the ad integration from the game side instead of pushing the ads from the marketing side. So we got the game team interested in finding great ways to show ads to our players which resulted in awesome ad integration.

Ad integration is again very logical and not intrusive in Hay Day. For example players see ads
in the in-game newspaper.  No banners. No interstitials. No forcing. Yet very effective.

With cleaver ad integration you must also boast strong CTRs?

All I can say is that the ratio of ad revenue out of total revenue is substantial. And in fact it could be more as our players’ demand for ads currently exceeds the supply. That’s why we’re actually looking for additional cleaver ways to integrate ads into the game.

You've passed the torch of Hay Day some time ago and you're currently working on a new title. What is different in the development of your upcoming title compared to Hay Day? What did Hay Day teach you?

Our approach has stayed pretty much the same. We work in a small and experienced team where everyone carries true passion for the game. The only major change in the development approach this time around is the profound emphasis on the first time flow. We really want to nail it from the get go as it’s probably the single most important part of a game.


  1. Fantastic analysis and article as usual. Thank you, and great job Timur Haussila and his team, Hay Day is a brilliant game.

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  2. Great insight into the App conception as always. Having followed Supercell for a while, I have one question:

    I wonder why Canada is picked as the test market for a contained launch. Is it just the similarity to the important US market? Why not simultaneously test in a smaller EU country?

    1. I think you pretty much answered the question "the similarity to the important US market".

  3. good post, guys i'm looking for games like
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  4. This tutorial is indeed useful. I have just downloaded it. Thanks againSuccess in business

  5. Will you present a traditional analysis as well?

  6. great analysis, i have one question related to the development of android games, i see many games with the same background and set of icons, developed from diferents companyes like clash of clans and battle wars, is usual in the market?

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  8. Hello, I am playing Hay Day since January and I was trying to find a hack that would give me free coins and diamonds. Problem solved when I have found this one:

  9. What do you mean by: "do the core loop"?

    1. Every game has its core loop which more likely is

      ::Do a task -> earn some reward -> upgrade your props that helps u do the tasks better -> Continue doing this::

      This continues till he churns out. The magic is player is rewarded time after time and he feels accomplished every single time. Keeping this in mind if u take a look at Fig.1, ull get the point.

  10. An usefull post,thx to admin for the article

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