Endless Running Game Despicable Me: Minion Rush Dominates the iTunes Download Charts
Despite being considered one of the biggest game companies in the world, Gameloft does not have a roster of global mobile game hits to boast.
Luckily for Gameloft, this all changed with the release of a mobile action video game inspired by the Despicable Me franchise, titled Despicable Me: Minion Rush. The game, which was developed by Gameloft, was released to iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
The Mad Success of Minion Rush
Touted by Mobile Entertainment as the “App of the Day” on its day of release, the game has already experienced over 50 million downloads in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store in just one month. It has also topped the free iOS app charts in more than 100 countries and has been there for three consecutive weeks in the US. Moreover, the average rating of the game in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store is around 4.5/5 stars. This is such a significant feat for Gameloft, considering that it has not had any blockbuster mobile games to date.
How do we explain this? The simplest reason for the success of this game is synergy. Released alongside Despicable Me 2, the game is hooked into the success of the little yellow minion characters, who are getting their own spin-off film in 2014.
Unique Gameplay Makes Despicable Me: Minion Rush Stand Out From the Crowd
As Gru’s faithful followers, these little minions are always determined to outshine their peers for the kind-hearted villain’s attention. In this simple game, players will assume the role of the minion Dave, who wants to nab the “Employee of the Year” award.
The gameplay is, like all endless running games, simple and pretty easy to master. To get Dave moving, you simply swipe left or right to switch lanes or up or down to jump or duck-and-roll. While you run, you encounter a series of obstacles, from a range of metal rockets to glass transportation tubes for the minions. Once you hit an obstacle, the game is over.
The underlying objective of the game is to get the highest Despicable Score possible. In order to beat your highest score, you must drive your multiplier higher and higher. You gain higher multipliers by doing Despicable Acts—which are typically bad deeds such as running over other minions or destroying objects with the use of power-ups. You must also complete the three goals that Gru, Dr. Navario, and Gru’s daughters provide in order to advance to a higher starting multiplier.
Collect Bananas, Collect Rewards
It helps to collect as many bananas as you can because they serve as a form of currency in the game. Bananas can be used to unlock different costumes for your minion and each costume is designed to have its own special ability. The bananas are also used to unlock the other available power-ups in the game, such as the Freeze Ray (which freezes and smashes obstacles apart), the Banana Vacuum (which attracts bananas straight to Dave), and the Mega Minion (which makes Dave grow and step on other minions). These are just a few of the power-ups you may find while running. Once you unlock a certain power-up, you may also upgrade it in order to make it last longer or have a greater effect.
Aside from the bananas, tokens are the alternative currency in the game. On average you can find about five tokens a day. The scarcity of these tokens suggests that in order to acquire costumes or gain special powers, you should nudge toward making in-game purchases. Amazing how having money can improve your winning prospects, eh?
Not the Same Old Endless Running Game
Overall, Minion Rush is not your typical endless running game, as we’ve seen in Temple Run. The developers have done their best to create unique environments during the duration of your run. The viewpoint switches to a front view when you encounter a Mega Minion power-up and a side view when you go onto a one lane track. It even throws in a boss fight here and there.
Despicable Me: Minion Rush = Big Money for Gameloft
The best part for Gameloft is that Despicable Me: Minion Rush has been surprisingly lucrative.
Given its younger target audience, the game doesn’t seem to have a large monetization potential. However, looking at the game’s design more closely, it does employ all the techniques you'd expect, in terms of using soft and hard currencies, plus permanent items such as the now de facto 2x gold multiplier ($4.99).
Interestingly, the game’s minimum IAP is $1.99 although the maximum single purchase is capped at $49.99.
Despicable Me: Minion Rush Enjoys High Ratings and Popularity
In terms of its top grossing chart performance, Despicable Me: Minion Rush is doing very well.
The iPhone version has been a top 100 grossing app in 113 countries and a top 10 grossing app in 71 countries. On the iPad, the ratings are 118 and 68, respectively.
Looking at individual territories, the game has done very well in the US and the UK, peaking at the #10 top grossing spot on iPhone in the UK and the #12 top grossing spot on iPhone in the US.
However, the game hasn't performed as well in Asia – either in South Korea or China.
Right Place, Right Time for Despicable Me: Minion Rush
The success of Despicable Me: Minion Rush is impressive – both in terms of the number of downloads and revenue. It suggests that Gameloft might be about to forge ahead in the free-to-play arena.
Perhaps, the greatest lesson to be taken away from this specific game release is that timeliness is crucial. Mobile games that are inspired by movie releases or cartoon characters should learn from the execution strategy of Despicable Me.
Just as proprietary stuffed toys and happy meals have been created exclusively for movie releases, it makes perfect sense for Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment to commission a gaming company to design a mobile action video game as well. The mobile game, as it was originally intended, definitely allowed the film to gain word-of-mouth popularity and awareness.
At the end of the day, more than just being a great game, the release of Despicable Me: Minion Rush exemplifies a well-executed marketing strategy.