Cookie Run: Kingdom's Bountiful Appeal
Since March 2021, the game had been enjoying big success in South Korea, the birthplace of the Cookie Run franchise. Although it had been downloadable worldwide since then, the game only gained popularity in Japan and the US half a year later.
Several auto-battlers have been released over the years, but none of them have a case as special as Cookie Run: Kingdom. The Cookie Run IP saw the light in 2009, and while other successful games in the genre, like Disney Heroes: Battle Mode, have much stronger IPs, they're not as profitable as Cookie Run. Some stats:
- In the last quarter of 2021, the game had the No. 1 top-grossing spot in the "Turn-Based RPG" category, leaving heavy-hitters like Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, Marvel Strike Force and RAID: Shadow Legends behind.
- Last year, Cookie Run: Kingdom ranked second in terms of downloads in the "Team Battle" category. Only Hero Wars was downloaded more.
With over $220M in lifetime revenue as of yet, it is currently one of the biggest in its category, which deserves a deeper analysis.
The Cookie Run Universe
How it all started
Since the launch of OvenBreak in 2009 until Cookie Run: Puzzle World's soft-launch in 2019, the Cookie Run universe has been growing into a long-lasting IP with each successor in the series. Especially in Devsisters' biggest markets - South Korea, the US, Taiwan, Japan, and Thailand - the appeal of the Cookie Run characters and their humorous take on life is praised by many.
Only since Cookie Run: OvenBreak, the Cookie Run universe has really been expanding narratively. While the first Cookie Run games were purely arcade or puzzle games with a heavy focus on their core gameplay, CR: OvenBreak featured a full story mode with Chapters, each unveiling elaborate plots and expanding the roster of playable characters.
One of the most crucial ingredients for strong and appealing collectible creature creation is a theme that's virtually ever-expandable. One of the reasons why Pokémon is so successful is that it takes well-known creatures (animals in nature) and mixes them with fantasy elements to create a multitude of combinations. Cookie Run characters are created with the same idea in mind, but with the common theme of baking. Cookies are based on fruits, vegetables, medieval characters (Princess, Knight), fantasy creatures (Werewolf, Kumiho, Moon Rabbit), flowers (Tiger Lily, Clover) or other foods (Pancake, Gumball, Mala Sauce).
With so many new game modes having been added over the years, different parts of the lore are told through different game modes. Over the years this has resulted in a non-linear narrative that only die-hard fans will be able to recite back in a somewhat comprehensive manner. Therefore, it's only logical that with the latest game in the series, Devsisters have created a more open and uncluttered space to continue telling the Cookie Run story.
Whereas CR: OvenBreak focused on the cookies through character-based storytelling, the latest game allows more of a location-based storytelling by shifting its focus to the entire - you guessed it - kingdom! For the first time in the history of the IP, the player is thrown into a physical space in which the story unfolds. To create the feeling of space, even the ever-sidescrolling core gameplay has been switched to a daring 45-degree, top-down angle. This feels more connected to the isometric scene of the cookie kingdom in which the player decorates their world.
But what makes this game tick? What's the reason behind its success? In this essay, we will answer this question by looking into:
- What Cookie Run: Kingdom is; what are its systems, and what makes this game so engaging
- What the game world facilitates (apart from an engaging experience)
- How a fun & casual narrative paves the way to an immersive game world
- Other efforts to double down on deeper world building
- How Cookie Run: Kingdom is faring these days and what its future could hold
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