Nikke's attempt at World Domination
Looking at last year's data, Team Battlers are the second largest subgenre (after MMOs) in the RPG category. More than 20% of downloads and 35% of revenue is made by games that require players to create and manage their favorite teams of fighters and send them off to battle. But even within the subgenre there is lots of nuance and variation. As the "Team Battler" categorization groups games with a specific metagame, their core games can be wildly different. Additionally, choice of theme in this category generally shows strong variation as well. This article focuses on a game that has broken records over the last six months with its unique combination of core gameplay and choice of theme.
Nikke: Goddess of Victory, developed by Shift Up and published by Level Infinite & Tencent is the full title of this controversial, yet highly successful game. Many of our (largely male) readers might have seen ads fly by showing anime ladies in their underwear shooting robots from behind cover.
While these creatives initially and most likely have been greeted with a massive eye roll, after a couple of repetitions it does make one wonder if this blatant sexualization of the female form works in this context. While we at Naavik don't condone sexualizing women as a strategy to optimize for User Acquisition, it's important to keep reporting about these developments.
Next to noting that the game's RPD on iOS has plateaued around $32 since the start of the year, the image below should be able to answer this question quite clearly. Nikke recently passed 25M downloads and has grossed more than $220M to date.
What's remarkable about Nikke's case is its relatively worldwide appeal. Whereas games with similar themes usually don't reach much further than Japan, Korea, and the occasional weeb elsewhere around the world, more than 60% of Nikke's downloads and 24% of its revenue come from other countries.
What's interesting is that (according to AppMagic) retention numbers in the west look abominable, but the game still monetizes very well. Unsurprisingly, Nikke seems to be a niche in the US and South Korea, but the few players who like it seem to monetize very well. In Japan it's more the other way around, where downloads 10Xed the other two countries (skewing ARPDAU downwards) with equally strong RPD. Please note that in the table below, the first week of Nikke's existence is excluded to not have Japan's initial spike in Downloads influence the ARPDAU even more).
We'll discover multiple reasons why this is the case throughout this article, but among others, the biggest prerequisite, which is top-of-the-line localization (including English dubbing for the game's long and countless campaign dialogues) have pushed Nikke to become the world's top-grossing Team Battler over the last six months. That's right, from its launch, Nikke has been outperforming Fate/Grand Order and Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, which have been the all-time two top performers in the Team Battler genre over the last years.
It's been a great six months for Team Battler fans, as additionally to Nikke, other games in the subgenre like Three Kingdoms, Heaven Burns Red and Blue Archive have all been strong climbers, but only the last one was released in the west.
Now, spoiler alert! Throughout this deconstruction, we'll discover that Nikke's core gameplay actually doesn't have such a big impact on the game experience because of its highly restrictive damage calculations and minimal agency. For that reason, the game could actually also be categorized as an Idle RPG, which makes it very similar to games like Attack on Time, which released last year but failed to make a splash. When looking at other games with the common theme of Waifu collecting, most of them are Team Battlers too, but perhaps the most relevant comparison is Honkai Impact 3. This MiHoYo game also performed relatively well in the west, but it offers a very different core gameplay experience with its free-movement Action RPG controls.
So as it seems, with Nikke, Tencent has clearly found a(nother) huge, gaping hole in the market and managed to advertise the game in the west well enough to make it a global hit. The question remains for how long the game can extend its tail. Can Nikke keep its momentum and continue westernizing the waifu-collecting phenomenon? To be able to predict this better, we'll dive deep into the aforementioned hole by covering the following topics:
- More on the game's User Acquisition vis-à-vis the appeal it has managed to achieve
- A breakdown of the game's unique core gameplay, and how much of it is actually real!
- The three facets of Nikke's meta that take care of the game progression
- A short section on the game's social and live-ops features
- An analysis of its Monetization
- Our take on the future and the potential revolutions Nikke has started
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