Crossy Road and Unity Ads

January 13, 2015 in Community, Services

UPDATE: Now at $3 million

At our GDC event, we were proud to announce that the iOS version of Crossy Road has earned over $3 million with Unity Ads since launch. In February, four out of ten top iOS games monetized with Unity Ads and 1500 new games started earning money!

Crossy Road is fun, adorable, addictive and full of cultural references. It also earns money. Hipster Whale already grossed over a million dollars from using Unity Ads in the iOS version of the game alone. Why did they decide to go with free to play? Why did the chicken cross the road?

Andy Sum and Matt Hall met in October 2013 during a monetization talk at a conference and after doodling a whale on their notes, started talking game ideas. Inspired by Froggy and Flappy Bird, as well as Disco Zoo and Fez, Crossy Road was a twelve-week project. The Australian duo collaborated remotely the whole time. The game released on the App Store November 20.

Matt has developed three other App Store number one games. For Andy, Matt’s junior by 15 years, Crossy Road is his first commercial mobile release. So Matt got the responsibility for the mobile-specific details, while Andy experimented with the design in the Unity editor. “I did a lot of fine tuning on the difficulty to keep the curve satisfying. I always tested it on Matt first,” he says.

Monetization was an integral part of the design. “We wanted it to be free, so that everyone has a chance to play,” says Matt. At the same time, he wanted to shoot for a big financial hit that would allow the developers total creative freedom on their future projects.

Unity Ads in Crossy Road
Final screen of an ad from Crossy Road
Crossy Road profile on Everyplay
Dark Lord's demise in Crossy Road
Hipster Whale ran into a train

“I played Disco Zoo and thought that video ads were a really good way to earn money without getting into people’s faces. We just needed to figure out a fun reason for players to watch them”. In the game, watching ads earns coins. Players can use coins to buy new characters that hop across the endless dangerous road in new and often hilarious ways. But it’s also possible to simply buy them with real money or just collect coins in the game.

“We didn’t want any consumable purchases, we wanted to do something that everybody could pay a little bit for if they wanted to, but where it wasn’t necessary to keep paying,” says Andy. This makes the game really transparent, which is especially important to parents of small children.

Hipster Whale heard good things about Unity Ads and since they were already familiar with the Unity engine, it was a pretty easy decision. “It worked straight away. Plugins can make your game unstable sometimes, but we didn’t have any problems with this one,” says Matt. “It’s great that the ads are only fifteen seconds and exclusively for other games”.

Playing the game, it’s striking how the visual UI makes the whole “watch ads to earn coins, but you can simply skip this if you don’t care” message extremely clear. Another detail that makes Crossy Road so kid-friendly, but also helps with localization.

It’s fun to die in the game. A chicken, a black sheep, PewDiePie’s dog or a hipster whale get smashed by trains, run over by trucks and drowned in water, just like in classic cartoons (think Wile E. Coyote). Players can take screenshots and videos, then share them with their friends. “Let’s Play videos inspired us to try out Everyplay,” says Matt. “Over 200,000 people have shared their replays, that definitely helps”.

H65A8921(colour)

Crossy Road recently launched on Android. The monetization model is the same, but you can also play as the Android robot and score on Google leader boards. At the end of January, Hipster Whale will celebrate Australia day by adding Aussie animals (yes, that includes a platypus) and environments.

What’s next? “When you get into ‘development hell’ during a project, you get a lot of ideas for games you could be making in the future. Now both me and Andy can work on our own projects without worrying and stressing about making money,” says Matt. “At the same time, we would be crazy not to keep building on Crossy Road.”

What’s their advice for up and coming indies?

“Don’t believe that success in the market is random. You can definitely make it work! Just start thinking about it very early on. The Casual Connect conference is a good place to learn from games that make money.  Don’t copy them, but try to understand why they’re working.” says Matt.

Andy adds that practice makes perfect: “Just make games! We’ve been both developing since we were kids. I also got a lot of the skills I needed through game jams. Even when developing Crossy Road, I took part in the 7DFPS.”

Getting started with Unity Ads is very simple – just import the free Unity Ads plugin from the Asset Store and you’re good to go!

Comments (16)

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  1. Paul

    February 28, 2015 at 6:56 am / 

    Love the art in this game!

  2. Euan

    February 2, 2015 at 7:24 pm / 

    It is very good

  3. Euan

    February 2, 2015 at 7:23 pm / 

  4. Dread Knight

    January 29, 2015 at 9:14 pm / 

    Great article, I love seeing indie game development success stories, it keeps my hopes up as I’m working on a collaborative project myself that’s free to play as well :-) https://AncientBeast.com

  5. Jace Paek

    January 25, 2015 at 1:47 pm / 

    This tells you that collaborating with the right person is the key to success. Just like other big companies like Kiloo and sybro with Subway Surfers. WeRok Games is another upcoming studio that is coming up the ladder and they have recently just launched their first game “Go Pete Go” . It’s another endless runner type game but with a whole new concept. Very interesting to see who makes the next hit game on the market.

  6. Brett M

    January 23, 2015 at 11:07 pm / 

    I have the Android version but don’t see any ads. I got the free gift. Is it just me, or do I have to play for longer?

    I only played for 5 minutes.

  7. christiaan

    January 14, 2015 at 6:03 pm / 

    hoi

  8. Bard Hole Standal

    January 14, 2015 at 1:50 pm / 

    Congratulations on making a great game and getting paid for doing it! Love to hear stories like this, now these guys can make even more awesome games without worrying about paying for rent. That’s what the world needs, artists making money to make more art.

  9. Cameron Bonde

    January 14, 2015 at 7:33 am / 

    Just thought I’d point out your Everyplay page doesn’t have the Google Play link

  10. Aaron

    January 13, 2015 at 10:24 pm / 

    In response to above posts: There was no frogger game making significant money at the time they introduced this game. They were talking about looking at games that are making money and understand why it is happening. Even copying the method of other games isn’t enough because you need to match it to the game style you are making.

    So, anyway, glad they shared. Working out how to make money on games is something I haven’t been able to do yet. It has more to do with working at it part-time and not being able to adjust fast enough, but the mobile marketplace is pretty crazy flooded with games.

  11. Brayden

    January 13, 2015 at 8:42 pm / 

    Don’t copy? That game is so original… wait… hmm… fro… frogg…. FROGGER

    1. Nathan Vaughn

      January 13, 2015 at 10:25 pm / 

      As much as it draws on Frogger I’d say it’s even more of a Flappy Birds rip-off.

      1. John

        January 13, 2015 at 11:59 pm / 

        Hmm, no, I’d say it’s more like Frogger. I don’t see any Flappy Bird in it (see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUXzEDdS9lQ). But I still love the game and am happy to see their success!

  12. lulu

    January 13, 2015 at 8:01 pm / 

    ” Don’t copy them ”
    ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

    1. David

      January 14, 2015 at 1:39 pm / 

      He’s saying, don’t copy their monetization scheme. Because every game needs to think through a scheme that works best with their gameplay, in order to make the most money.

      1. Andy

        January 14, 2015 at 8:40 pm / 

        No, as he says, he copied their monetization from other games. Nothing original in that. He’s saying their game has been there and done that: i.e. copied Frogger and monetized it with playing for ad views. So copying this game and trying to monetize probably won’t work out for you.

        Wiser for others would be to copy other old style arcade games like they did with this one and monetize in the style they have done. Nothing unique in the way they’ve monetized so no need to feel your copying their monetization method. They monetization method is their game not the advertising placed in it. Take the game out and the ads flop by themselves.

        The owners of the rights to all those old arcade games should have monetized their IP in this manner and they would have made much more than what they did by charging. e.g. Frogger, Q*Bert, Pole position and others are available for a price. Many parents aren’t going to be paying for games or can’t afford to pay for games for their children. Do malls and other places even have arcades anymore or are all arcade visits restricted to Chuckie Cheese special events because it’s gotten so expensive? Arcade are fun but too expensive as anyone that’s frequented arcades knows.

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