How many friends does a Moshi Monsters player invite? And what is Moshi Monsters’ viral growth?

Matthew Warneford
26
June
2011

For a long time online kids games and virtual worlds have left TV advertising well alone; it’s expensive, can’t be tracked, poor conversion, and all the other reasons (or if you prefer, old wives tales).

Those myths are just not true any more. At GDC 2010, Acton Smith revealed that Moshi Monsters’ targeted TV campaigns have been one their most cost effective marketing channels. And it isn’t just true for Moshi Monsters, we’ve seen very similar results with the campaigns we’ve run for our clients.

Way back in 2010, as Moshi Monsters signed up their 30 millionth user, Michael Acton Smith (Moshi CEO) presented a breakdown of registered users by marketing channel.

There’s a couple of interesting snippets from Acton Smith’s presentation, I want to focus on two of them:

  • The power of TV advertising
  • Moshi Monsters viral growth

If you’re in a rush, scroll down the post to see Acton Smith’s presentation slides.

The Power of TV

For a long time online kids games and virtual worlds have left TV advertising well alone; it’s expensive, can’t be tracked, poor conversion, and all the other reasons (or if you prefer, old wives tales).

Those myths are just not true any more. At GDC 2010, Acton Smith revealed that Moshi Monsters’ targeted TV campaigns have been one their most cost effective marketing channels. And it isn’t just true for Moshi Monsters, we’ve seen very similar results with the campaigns we’ve run for our clients.

TV advertising is effective again.

It’s really not that surprising. In the last 5 years TV advertising has become a lot less expensive, but more importantly, many children have started to watch TV while also using their laptops, and often their smart phones as well.

This ‘three screen phenomenon’ has single handedly made TV advertising a truckload more efficient. There’s no writing down a URL, waiting until the end of the show, then going upstairs to visit the site. The kids already have their laptops open, providing the advert sounds exciting huge numbers will visit the site immediately.

Certainly TV is no guarantee. There are pitfalls, and because the minimum spend is far higher than online marketing channels the mistakes are magnified. But done right, it’s very powerful.

As an aside, I’ve half penned a post about the techniques we use to manage some of those risks. In the meantime, if you have any questions about marketing worlds, games, toys, books, and other kids entertainment do get in touch, I’m always happy to share ideas and learn new ones! (matthew@dubitlimited.com)

Moshi Monsters Viral Growth

I think I’ve been writing long enough without a picture break. Below is Acton Smith’s slide that shows new registered users each month, and split out by acquisition channel (Google, TV, Bing, etc). Notice my crudely illustrated arrow on the right – 70% of Moshi Monsters registered users originate from ‘Organic’! Acton Smith attributes this to viral growth / word of mouth.

So what does that 70% mean? Scroll past the image for the science bit (for those who remember the L’Oreal adverts as fondly as I do here’s Aniston selling shampoo).

Although Acton Smith’s presentation was a little ambiguous, I think we have enough to make some good approximations. Taking Acton Smith’s 70% of users that come from viral, and 30% that come through paid channels, then we can figure out that for every paid user we get 30% / 70% = 2.33 viral users.

Think about this another way. For every user they “buy” through advertising they actually get 3.33 users. 1 user from advertising, and 2.33 from viral.

The statement, while correct, is misleading. That lone user who comes through the marketing channels isn’t personally bringing 2.33 of his friends into the world. Because if he did wouldn’t those 2.33 people each invite 2.33 of their friends? And those people invite their friends? And before we know it we don’t need marketing any more, we’ve got exponential viral growth… Only that’s not what’s happening. Marketing is still very important for Moshi Monsters.

What I think’s happening here is that the user who came through paid acquisition channels is inviting some friends, but on average he’s responsible for less than 1 person joining. That’s normal for children’s game.

Following this train of thought. As an example, lets say each user is responsible for 0.5 people signing up (that means the viral ratio is 0.5). The first person invites 0.5 of a person, and that 0.5 invites 0.25, and that 0.25 invites 0.125, and so on. Or 1 + 0.5 + 0.25 + 0.125… and on and on.

It’s a simple geometric series that can be modelled as: total users = 1 / 1 – k where k is the viral ratio.

For our example where k = 0.5, then we find that 1 / 1 – 0.5 = 2 In plain english (or as plain as my limited brain will allow), this means that when we got the first user through paid marketing channels we actually ended up with 2 users because of viral growth.

So lets apply this to Moshi Monsters. We can reverse the equation to find viral growth:

k = 1 – (1 / total users) = 1 – (1 / 3.33) = 0.7 viral growth factor

I think that’s pretty huge! For every player who joins the game he directly bring 0.7 other players. Any virtual world would be proud.

I hope this is a useful metric for developers exploring new virtual world, business models, or benchmarking their existing games. On the subject of business models. I’ve written at length about viral growth (where ‘at length’ is a code word for boring) and player acquisition cost in our series dissecting virtual world business models. If you’re interested check out the summary post.

If you’ve read this far then you’re probably wondering why all I’ve done is re-enforce how important viral growth is without actually giving any suggestions for actually improving it. It’s because I’m out of time this evening! So for now check out one of my old posts “If bolting wings onto a car wont make it fly don’t expect that tacking a Facebook Connect button into a game will make it viral”  and follow me on twitter because I’ll be writing more about marketing games and worlds.

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