Spinner Merge Live Ops: How Sunday is Driving the Game Straight to Ten Million D

Together with YoBro Studios we at Sunday soft-launched Spinner Merge back in November 2022. The name says it all: it’s the first-of-its-kind spinner-themed battle game based on a merging mechanic. Beyblade-inspired but adapted to the hyper-casual with snackable levels and an added thrill of obtaining collectables. At first, it seemed like a wild mix, but within just a few weeks, the game scored its first million downloads, proving that we’re onto something truly big!

With a focus on refining the core mechanic of merging spinners to battle and unlock more advanced machines, as well as continuous testing and iteration through regular sprints, Spinner Merge has seen remarkable results in its KPIs. We’ve already covered all major iterations that brought Spinner Merge to 2,000,000 downloads here, and since then Sunday closed the deal and acquired the game, allowing for full in-house control over production and direction. This move allowed for even more streamlined updates and optimizations to further enhance the game’s performance. Now, let’s fast-forward to April 2023, when the game is about to hit 10,000,000! What brought us here, and what did we learn along the way? Let’s break it down!

New Collection Page

First on the list of major updates to Spinner Merge is the Spinner Collection page, a dedicated space where players can keep track of all the different spinners they’ve collected so far. Aimed at boosting player retention from day seven (D7) to day 14 (D14), it’s all about making players more engaged.

The Spinner Collection page is like having a personal inventory of all the unique spinners players have obtained throughout their game. Each spinner is accompanied by details such as health and damage, allowing players to easily compare and strategise their gameplay. Even spinners that have yet to be unlocked are shown, though they are greyed out, teasing players with what’s to come and encouraging them to keep playing to unlock new spinners.

This addition not only added a layer of personalisation to the gameplay experience, but it also served as a retention tool, incentivising players to log in regularly to check on their growing collection of spinners. It’s a fun and engaging way for players to keep track of their progress and showcase their achievements within the game.

Overall Polish

In another major past update, we focused on improving the overall polish of Spinner Merge. One of the key areas of improvement was sound effects, which we added for bumping, merging, winning levels, using multipliers, and clicking on buttons, enhancing the overall audio immersion in the game. What came with it is of course a toggle button to easily turn off or on the sound effects as per the player’s preference.

Furthermore, we worked on increasing the frame rate of the game to make the rotation on the spinners look smoother and improve the overall FPS. This enhancement contributed to a more seamless and enjoyable gameplay experience for our players.

The results of these improvements were significant, with playtime increasing by up to 11 percent in various geographic regions.

The Original Boss Fights Update

In the first update to the Spinner Merge boss fights, our goal was to reduce churn and increase player retention and playtime by providing an engaging and challenging boss fight experience.

One of the key changes we made was to ensure that players no longer lose their spinner in one hit during boss fights. This adjustment would allow for a more balanced and enjoyable gameplay experience, where players have a better chance at defeating the boss and progressing in the game. We aimed to ensure that players win at least 90 percent of the boss fights, providing a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep playing.

In an attempt to make the boss fights more dynamic and exciting, we introduced multiple boss characters, each sporting long-range attacks different from those of spinners. However, with this one we have perhaps gone too far, making the bosses too powerful and increasing the churn at boss levels. Anyway, we resolved that problem – more on this later in the article!

Impactful Code Cleanup

In one of the code cleanup updates, our developers focused on optimizing the game code, resulting in a 1 percent improvement in crash rate. This helped provide a smoother and more stable gameplay experience, with 99 percent of players not experiencing any crashes after the update. As a result:

  • Players played 4.6 percent longer after installing the update, leading to higher ad views
  • We saw a 3.8 percent increase in ARPI
  • Ad impressions for interstitials and rewarded videos increased by eight percent among active users.

Next, we addressed the remaining bugs and improved the overall polish of the game. This low-effort, high-reward update resulted in:

  • An eight percent increase in playtime
  • Decreased churn at boss levels, with a 21 percent reduction at level 18 and a 27 percent reduction at level 30.
  • 10 percent improvement in level progression, with players progressing 10 percent faster by level 19 and 25% percent faster by level 31. The higher playtime also led to a 10 percent increase in rewarded videos per user, indicating increased player engagement and monetisation opportunities.

Big Economy Update

We also implemented an update to the game economy. Our goal was to align it with industry standards and improve long-term engagement, while also addressing issues with the economy becoming unbalanced after level 50, by which most players would hoard an abundance of in-game currency.

One of the key changes we made was to introduce an exponential progression curve in the economy. This means that players would now experience a constant exponential increase in currency, which is a common strategy in idle games to keep players interested for a longer period of time. Prices for spinners would also keep increasing following an exponential curve, as well as earnings from higher-level spinners’ attacks.

We implemented these changes to the economy but had to temporarily revert them, and not because the system was faulty. At first, it negatively impacted the metrics because we haven’t perfected the boss behavior yet. As a result, players found it more difficult to spawn spinners – which were now more expensive – while unable to damage the bosses due to their long-range attacks.

Some players failed at boss levels more than 10 times in a row! This also meant that players were not earning enough money to spawn new spinners, with the only solution being to watch rewarded videos to either spawn new spinners or multiply winnings. However, players felt that they were being forced into watching ads due to difficult levels, which resulted in churn and player dissatisfaction.

Our bad: with so many moving parts, we had to adjust both the economy and the boss fight logic simultaneously because they were too interconnected. We acknowledged that we needed to fix the boss logic ASAP and ensure that it aligns with the changes made to the economy.

New Boss Logic

To finally roll out the new economy and reduce churn, we updated the boss logic once again in v3.3 to some positive outcomes. The previous issue of bosses doing long-range attacks and killing spinners too quickly has been resolved. As a result, churn at boss levels has decreased, and we saw:

  • Playtime has improved by eight percent
  • D4 retention has increased from nine percent to 10 percent
  • 4.4 percent longer playtime on D0
  • 6 percent improvement in D1 and D3 retention
  • Increase in D0 ARPI by three percent

Notably, the impact of these changes on other regions, such as India, has been even higher, with an 11 percent higher ARPI observed.

The longer players play, the better they retain, as evidenced by the higher playtime resulting in 5.6 percent more interstitials per user. The overall impact of the fine-tuned boss logic has been super positive, thanks to doing it in conjunction with the economy changes, ensuring that all aspects of the game are working together in a balanced manner. By fixing both of these elements together, we now expect to see a continuous increase in the number of rewarded videos players watch. With the new economy, players will feel the need to earn more money, but they will not be frustrated due to the boss levels they can’t beat.

Lesson learned: it’s crucial to consider all the moving parts in the game, and how they work together. Simply fixing one element without addressing the others can result in unintended consequences. It’s essential to take a holistic approach and ensure that all changes are cohesive and balanced to create a churn-proof gaming experience. Luckily, we always rapidly iterate on our games, releasing new versions quickly, and gathering data to make necessary adjustments and improvements. This agile approach allows us to quickly identify and address any issues, optimize gameplay, and ensure that our game remains enjoyable and engaging.

What’s Next for Spinner Merge?

We’ve already come a long way, but like all the other games from Sunday, Spinner Merge is all about building a massive lifetime value (LTV). That’s why we plan to keep testing and iterating for years to come. Without spoiling too much, here are some of our plans for the nearest future:

  1. Changing level progression: We plan to implement a rollercoaster progression model to provide levels varied in difficulty, creating excitement and anticipation as players progress.
  2. Introducing new modes and features: These may include PvP modes, challenges, collectable or rare spinners, events, and other exciting updates. They will add depth and variety to the gameplay, providing players with fresh content and challenges to keep them engaged and entertained.

Till next Spinner Merge breakdown! At 100,000,000 downloads, perhaps? For now, try the latest version of Spinner Merge with all the updates from this article in action:

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