· 5 min read

The Metrics Behind Successful Tower Defense Games

How successful are Tower Defense games, which metrics should you focus on and how do you make sure you’ve built the right foundations?

Get ready to plan your layout, as you’ve got waves upon waves of metrics coming at you. We’ve been taking a gander at Tower Defense games in our latest report, so let’s look at what the perfect set up is when developing yours.

If you’d like to jump straight into the stats, download the full report. And, if you’re a keen strategist, you can dive even deeper with Benchmarks+.

What’s a Tower Defense game?

It’s a strategic genre where the player needs to defend their territory from increasingly large waves of enemies. Usually, the waves of mobs swarm down a path and the player must line it with traps and attacks, usually towers. The key is that the player doesn’t typically control these towers themselves. They automatically fire when an enemy approaches.

Tower Defense combines elements from puzzle games and real-time strategy. It’s all the action and planning, but with the sense that there’s a perfect solution. (Even if there isn’t.)

In fact, the best Tower Defense games share a few common traits.

1. Give players time to plan

Between waves of enemies, it’s best to give your players some downtime. Not only does this mean they get a break, but it also gives them a chance to revise their tactics. What if I knocked down these towers and set up over there, instead? It’s incredibly satisfying to see a plan come together, even with a few adjustments along the way.

2. Show them a wide variety of choice

The more choices you give people, the more replay value you add to your game. And the higher the retention will be. It’s also good to have a wide variety of enemies, each with their own vulnerability. This stops players spamming the same kind of defense every single time. (Which can quickly make the game boring.)

Adding some randomness to which enemies will be in each wave, can also help. This means the player can’t plan too far ahead. And might have to completely change their plan for the next wave.

3. Limit their resources

When a player has a limited amount of coins to buy their defenses, it forces them to make choices. Do I upgrade my attack turrets or perhaps I add a frost attack to bottleneck them in that corridor? Should I focus on the tough enemies or the little guys?

This also means they can’t use every tool at their disposal. Remember: there’s no challenge without compromise. What will they sacrifice? And will that sacrifice be too much?

4. Allow for creativity and combos

One of the most satisfying moments in a successful Tower Defense game is discovering an interaction between two towers that you didn’t expect. Sure, you could line the corridor with arrow traps. But what if those arrows could catch fire when they travel over a fire pit? Now the player can position their arrows more carefully to get a better effect.

And the more interactions between your towers, the more your players will find solutions you never intended. You don’t need a huge interaction at launch. Instead, you can slowly release new towers, month by month, planning how they’ll interact with each of your previous towers.

What metrics should you aim for?

Compared to platformers and idle games, Tower Defense seems to get a higher average revenue per paying user. And the average revenue per daily active user is significantly higher, too. This is likely because the average playtime is almost double those other genres.

So when you create a Tower Defense game, the key is making sure your players stick around. Adding new enemies, towers and level layouts can be quite straightforward, but can have a massive impact on the meta. By trickling out these updates over months, you can keep players coming back and make sure your retention is high.

We’d keep an eye on three key stats:

  • D7 retention: Tower Defense tends to be a longer, more intense genre and you want people to stick around for quite a while.
  • Playtime: You really should be aiming for hours per session, unlike in other genres where players might dip in and out regularly. Tower Defense is much more involved.
  • Conversion: This can really vary based on the country. But it’s still quite high on average. We’d recommend focusing on cosmetic in-app purchases, so your players don’t feel the game is pay to win. You can also release small, regular updates.

Another option is to use time to your advantage: release a new unit, for a price. But make it clear that after a month it’ll be free for all players. If you’re releasing new content every month, players will feel the purchase is fair to essentially get to playtest the newest tower.

Download the full report for the exact figures

If you’re jonesing for the specifics, you can get our full report for free. You’ll see exactly how their conversion compares, how much the top 5% make per player, and which countries it’s best to release in.

And if you want to find out more about global trends, or see how the data on the top 2%, you can use Benchmarks+ to dig deeper.

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