When I first saw Line Pop was topping the Top Grossing charts in the Japanese app store I assumed it was a freak hit, but when I read it had grown faster than Draw Something and grossed over $1M in only 12 days I thought it was worth a closer look.
Line Pop was released by Line who are an Asian mobile social network with over 70M users and primarily based in Japan. The game itself is a generic match 3 format featuring Line’s trademark and rather excellent IMO quirky art style.
The game employs a standard two currency system with a hard currency (gems) that can be bought in store and used to buy power-ups and a soft currency (hearts) that are used as an energy mechanic allowing the player to play the game. Each Match 3 game lasts for 60 seconds and delivers a frenetic explosion of play that leaves the player desperately wanting more action.
The actual game engine itself feels a little clunky with the board frequently running out of matches leaving the player to graze the top rows to catch the engine generated matches, but considering it’s short play cycle I think this is acceptable. The consistency of the block delivery and set-up feels very random with some games delivering exceptional scores where others can only provide lowly numbers of matches throughout the minute play.
Line Pop delivers most of the standard feedback you’d expect to see in a freemium game with the soft currency (hearts) disappearing into the play button, juicy feedback accentuating gameplay and a soft landing is delivered by a bonus score screen and a dancing bear when the game is over.
The key replay factor in the game is to beat your own highscore and lead the weekly highscore tables featuring your friends. The highscore table is refreshed every week to keep competition fresh. Players are continually assisted in having the ability to beat their own highscore the more they play the game. Each time you level up, you get a score enhancer that provides a 5% uplift and when players reach higher levels they unlock the ability to purchase ‘helpers’. All these features make the feeling of progression in this simple play environment tangible.
Whilst the highscore table provides the core social/replay loop for me the most compelling and addictive part of the game is the ‘casino’ style delivery of the board. There is a real sense of risk when deciding whether to drop gems at the beginning of the game which delivers a classic skinner box experience creating a highly addictive replay loop. The super fast gameplay loops and quick soft currency refreshes mean that the game is perfect for mobile play leaving me to suspect that most of the revenue is generated from the purchase of helpers.
I really like Line Pop, but I’m still pretty stunned that it’s so popular and generating so much revenue. I guess it’s like the perfect pop song that you want to play over and over because you just don’t get to hear the chorus enough in one play.