Blog post

Reflecting on the journey of “MONOPOLY GO!”

A message from Scopely co-CEO Javier Ferreira

It’s amazing to think that at this time last year, we were preparing for the worldwide launch of “MONOPOLY GO!” after a seven-year journey to develop the game.

Today, I finally took a moment to reflect on the incredible journey of “MONOPOLY GO!.” Last month, we celebrated another major milestone in the MONOPOLY adventure by officially passing $2 billion in lifetime revenue. That exciting moment came just ten months since launch and only three months after reaching $1 billion, which is astounding.

The trajectory of this experience has been nothing short of extraordinary, and we have our talented team and passionate players to thank.

The engagement of our players has been, and continues to be, exceptional—while early retention beat our expectations, the remarkable long-term stickiness of the experience has challenged what we thought was possible in casual games, with over 8 million people playing every day of the week—representing more than 70% of our 10 million+ total daily players. This deep engagement is a true testament to our team of gamemakers and the ways they inspire play, every day. It has been incredible to see a game find an extremely invested, loyal audience that continues to significantly grow every day.

At Scopely, we have five culture tenets that drive our work: play to win; care deeply; ignite passion, earn loyalty; iterate to greatness; and embrace the adventure.

I cannot think of a journey that better represents our tenets more than “MONOPOLY GO!,” and I can certainly say it was an adventure. As anyone in the games industry knows all too well, the road to success is never linear. There were moments during the seven-year development process to get to “MONOPOLY GO!” where we questioned if we were on the right path, and, to be perfectly honest, there were plenty of times when we were not.

In my twenty-plus years in the games industry, I’ve always found that having great people around you will both get you through tough moments and allow you to achieve incredible, and many times improbable, things together. There’s also a clear parallel to my experience, and many of the games our teams create: you get farther with a strong team to build, play, challenge, and teach you.

That’s why I thought I’d use this moment to reflect on a few things our Scopely team has learned over the course of the journey to create “MONOPOLY GO!”:

The importance of subverting expectations.

Many of you may have heard the story by now, but we first built a different MONOPOLY-inspired game. Codenamed ‘Boardwalk,’ the game was a synchronous PVP that required a lot of skill to build wealth.

While it was a good game and tested well, the team determined it did not serve the entire potential MONOPOLY audience. SVP and GM of the game, Massimo Maietti knew the power of this IP was vast, and ultimately felt that a midcore experience would leave behind millions of players. We needed to take a bigger bet, not be afraid to subvert expectations, redefine what a modern MONOPOLY game could be, and still capture the essence of what makes the brand so beloved. It was risky but bold thinking, and that’s why we decided to pivot to building a completely new experience many years into the journey, which was codenamed ‘Top Hat,’ and ultimately became “MONOPOLY GO!.”

A game isn’t ready until you love it.

When creating ‘Top Hat,’ we did not move forward with our development process until we loved the game’s core loop (which, for those that do not play, is “rolling around” the MONOPOLY board). Finding the right levels of wins and losses took months, if not years, to get just right. During that long journey, the team made very conscious decisions to not move to the next milestone—not because the core experience was not good, or even great, because many times it was—because they did not love it.

We have to love our games. Only then is there a chance that players will love them too.

If you’re building a global game, you need a global team.

Over the course of its development, the “MONOPOLY GO!” team evolved many times. We started with a small group in Los Angeles and fast forward to just before launch in April 2023, we had 150+ best-in-class gamemakers from over a half dozen countries working on the experience—stacking studios and expertise together. Overall, we try to build game-making ecosystems that can support creative magic. To us, that means how a group of people with their own dynamics work, win, lose, and dream together.

It’s not an easy feat to organize and operate such a globally distributed team, but this structure enabled us to infuse the gameplay with culturally relevant ideas that reflect how people around the world connect with MONOPOLY. We believe that this global lens is one of the reasons why the game has resonated with players around the world.

You can’t underestimate the power of the “flow state” in gameplay.

It may seem crazy, but we worked on the dice mechanic in “MONOPOLY GO!” for over a year. This was because the team fought so hard to make sure we didn’t disrupt a player’s “flow state” as the game progressed. Your flow is that magical feeling of being in the zone without interruption. One thing we’ve heard time and time again is that the game offers a joyful escape from daily life as the outside world disappears around you. It’s why our players, on average, log in more than 3x a day, and why we are experiencing the best retention metrics that I’ve ever seen with ANY free-to-play mobile title in my career. Attention to detail goes a long way for keeping players engaged and coming back for more.

Localized marketing wins when you want to appeal to the world.

It’s hard to launch a game in today’s landscape. As we were gearing up for the official debut of “MONOPOLY GO!,” we knew we were facing strong headwinds. Even with a title based on the most played board game in the world, we spent many late nights debating how we could break through to a truly global audience. Our marketing team was a fierce advocate for taking a hyperlocal approach, and in turn, much of our upfront marketing investment went to developing individualized creative that reflected the language and culture of every country where the game is available. It also wasn't just the creative the team focused on, they rebuilt our dashboards, re-organized our teams, and changed how we ran our analytics to ensure we were hyper-focused at the country level. It was our most extensive and most impactful go-to-market strategy to date.

Campaign payback in days or weeks (versus months or years) is possible if you create a game that is highly social and have one of the best marketing teams in the industry.

For much of my career, D365 campaigns were the gold standard for games of this size, scale, and genre. And while it’s not talked about much, I’ve even seen some companies push their marketing timelines to D730 (that is to say, it takes two years before they recoup the money invested). Our goal for “MONOPOLY GO!” was always to optimize our spend—meaning we were only investing our net profit into incremental marketing activities. We didn’t set out to create a blitz campaign, but as the game rapidly grew, so did our marketing efforts. For much of the title’s first six months, we were fully recouping our spend in a matter of weeks, something not often seen in games today.

Coupling our marketing efforts with “MONOPOLY GO!”’s highly social and community-driven experience has a flywheel effect that has allowed us to build a very large audience. Players embark on a journey of wins and losses—and they want to share those wins and losses with others. We’ve created experiences—like our co-op mini games—that drive people to want to work together toward exciting goals and hence, bring others along for the ride.

Today, we continue to see extraordinary return on a large marketing investment (which is still less than a quarter of lifetime revenue to date), achieving marketing recoup rates that are still below 120 days, almost a year after launch, and a level of profitability that is only seen in much more mature chart-topping games.

In addition to what our Scopely team has learned on the journey, I would be remiss not to acknowledge a very important faction of our team: our players. This game wouldn’t exist without them. From the 150 million+ people who have downloaded “MONOPOLY GO!,” we’ve learned that social integration is so much more than just a “share” button.

At Scopely, we aim to always build highly social games that are anchored around community. “MONOPOLY GO!” was no different. In its infancy, Massimo always said that the purpose of the game was to capture the emotional “rollercoaster” of MONOPOLY—from the high of charging your dad rent and the low of getting bankrupted by a friend. Our players have shown us the power of providing meaningful, deep social experiences through games. Our players tell us about the joy they get from seeing the faces of their friends and family on their game boards, the rush from knocking down another player’s landmark, and the sinking feeling when another person lets them down during a partner event. This desire for connection is why our audience has sent 450 million+ friend requests and much of our growth is driven by peer-to-peer sharing. We will always continue to create games that build vibrant communities around unending digital playgrounds.

I’ll close by sharing two key takeaways from me:

First: the power of play is resilient.

As one of the leaders responsible for 2,300+ of today’s most talented gamemakers, marketers, artists, designers, publishers, engineers, analysts, recruiters, and so many additional crafts, I’ve had many sleepless nights grappling with how to ensure the brightest future for our Scopeleans. While it can be easy to get swept up in disillusionment, “MONOPOLY GO!” is a tangible reminder that there is much to celebrate and the games industry always finds the light.

Second: I know that there are many moments throughout a game development journey where rational thinking would be to stop—it may be taking too long, feels too difficult, there are too many problems, etc. Developing a new creative experience is incredibly challenging, and you have to be ready to go through a very demanding process that sometimes can feel like you are in a dark tunnel with no likely end. What we have found at Scopely though, is when we follow the passion and core beliefs of our team, they have always found a resilience and creative drive that has allowed them to persevere and march forward. And, they not only have found their way, but also amazing industry-defining successes—such as with “MONOPOLY GO!” and many other Scopely titles.

The creative process requires magic, resilience, dead ends, and discovery, but if you are patient enough and passionate about going on that journey, the outcomes can be exceptional.

“Play” is a psychological need and will forever be a driving force in our culture. I believe nothing will stop the creativity, passion, commitment, and conviction of the incredible people who make games for the world. I’m honored to work with so many of them.