I’ve never been much of a mobile gamer but that’s probably prejudices getting in the way. When I hear about a mobile game, I immediately think of a free-to-play game of fairly low quality and nearly impossible to play without dumping a pile of money into microtransactions.
Monument Valley isn’t one of those games. You have to pay up-front but you also don’t have to pay microtransactions and the gameplay is quite good. Unlike the stereotypical mobile fare, you could actually call Monument Valley a real video game.
You might not have heard Monument Valley but the Escher-inspired mobile puzzle game was one of the smash hit mobile games of 2014. It was one of the best rated mobile games of 2014 (that isn’t Hearthstone, anyway) and was the only mobile game to pick up a Game Awards nomination for Best Indie Game.
While they’re becoming more frequent, paid mobile games are more the exception than the rule. Despite costing over $1.4 million to make (including the Forgotten Shores DLC), ustwo Games sold enough copies and made enough money to more than cover the costs and get them on their way to the next game.
The lesson that ustwo Games teaches us with their breakdown of the dollars and cents of Monument Valley is that you don’t have to have a terrible free-to-play play-to-win monetization model on top of a non-existent game to make money in the mobile space. If you build a great game, people will buy.