- Dislyte managed to stand out in a saturated CCG-RPG market thanks to its trendy, mysterious aesthetics and musical appeals, topping the download charts across major markets at launch. Lilith’s marketing strategy also best showcased visual and audio excellence, lowering the barrier of entry for new players.
- However, the gameplay in Dislyte is nothing new, adopting Lilith’s best practices for CCG-RPG games with validated gameplay, solid meta-features, and gacha-based monetization. The game also lacks sustainable growth with poor retention due to limited in-game content, weak end-game, and grindy progression.
- Overall, this game fits well in Lilith’s diverse portfolio as a successful attempt at the western market by combining a unique theme with the proven core gameplay.
In 2018 everyone was introduced to Lilith, the Chinese publisher behind the mega-hit Rise of Kingdoms. Lilith followed the success the next year with another billion Dollar hit, AFK Arena.
It’s been now a few years since Lilith has scaled mega-hits. After AFK Arena Lilith released another strategy game, Warpath, a solid top 100 game, and Farlight 84, a very impressive-looking shooter that is yet to scale.
Since 2017 Lilith has released 5 top 100 grossing games out of which two have crossed the billion dollar mark
Dislyte, which is Lilith’s latest game, manages to stand out in a saturated CCG-RPG market thanks to its trendy, mysterious aesthetics and musical appeals, topping the download charts across significant markets at launch. Lilith’s marketing strategy also showcased visual and audio excellence, lowering the barrier of entry for new players.
The game is, in a way, a follow-up to the widely successful AFK Arena. However, the gameplay in Dislyte is nothing new, adopting Lilith’s best practices for CCG-RPG games with validated gameplay, solid meta-features, and gacha-based monetization. The game also lacks sustainable growth with poor retention due to limited in-game content, weak end-game, and grindy progression.
Overall, this game fits well in Lilith’s diverse portfolio as a successful attempt at the western market by combining a unique theme with the proven core gameplay.
The game has had a very strong start with 6M downloads and $25M in net revenues (source: Sensor Tower). Question is, can Dislyte become another billion-dollar game for Lilith, or will it become “only” their next top 100 grossing title.
Introduction: Old Wine in New Bottles, or Do Clothes Make the Man?
Lilith already owns multiple hits in the CCG-RPG genre and now has launched a new contender in Dislyte, which boldly adopts the urban trendy mythological theme. Popularity has soared as Dislyte launched, topping the free chart in many countries.
With its stylish theme, Dislyte gives us a striking first impression. However, on closer inspection, its gameplay largely resembles that of Summoner’s War, the allegedly foundational work of the genre. Lilith, the developer, probably seeks to introduce Turn-Based CCG-RPG to Gen-Z players through this work.
Product Strategy: Eye-Catching Theme In the Red Ocean
The CCG-RPG game market is saturated at the moment: while the winner takes all, new games’ chances of breaking into the top charts is incredibly slim. If we take a look at the top 10 grossing in North America, Dislyte’s target market, we find only three types of games:
- IP-based titles: Titles that target fans of an existing game or a non-game IP
- Examples: MARVEL Strike Force: Squad RPG, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, The Seven Deadly Sins
- Titles with new mechanics: Games that target non-hardcore gamers, often combining multiple genres
- Examples: AFK Arena, Cookie Run: Kingdom, Fire Emblem Heroes
- Original titles: Titles that target core players, often introducing innovative content to conventional gameplay
- Examples: RAID: Shadow Legends, Epic Seven
Dislyte is in the last group (i.e., original titles). On the one hand, it creates an original IP with the eye-catching “urban + mythics” labels. The unique theme sets the game apart in the market, acquiring large numbers of users in the launch period. On the other hand, the game does not focus much on gameplay, saving tremendous amounts of time and money, although that might bring future challenges in user acquisition as players grow tired of the banal gameplay.
In this regard, via Dislyte, Lilith Games is testing the feasibility of “theme-driven CCG-RPG”. What if a game mainly features unique worldbuilding instead of intriguing gameplay? With the purpose of vadaliting it, Lilith tries to establish a sustainable/scalable business model of game development and publishing, as well as build up an even more diversified portfolio.
Game Art: Fashion Innovations
The art of Dislyte is a manifesto from “the future”. Combining vaporwave and mythological elements, Dislyte certainly has a unique cyberpunk vibe.
Dislyte is probably inspired by “vaporwave style”. Vaporwave was an online artistic movement started in 2010 that used psychedelic elements in art and electronic music. Although it was originally created as a rebellion against capitalism, it has since been deprived of all its critical meanings and faded into popular culture as a fashion component. Apart from neon colors that characterize “vaporwave”, Dislyte also features lots of transparent iridescent fabrics, metal limbs, and other high-tech elements.
Scenic design inspired by vaporwave
While the game steps towards the vaporwave future with its concept art, Dislyte also looks back and draws upon ancient mythologies in its character design. In Sun Wukong and Nezha (both characters from Chinese mythologies), for instance, we can see how traditional cultural elements and vaporwave urban style are seamlessly interwoven with each other.
The designs of some foreign gods are (unfortunately) under heavy influence of contemporary pop culture. For example, Loki’s horns remind us of a certain Marvel character, instead of any mythological hero.
Urban Trendy Style
In recent years, games are embracing fashion elements. Examples include Fortnite (partnered up with Balenciaga and Nike), Persona 5 (featuring Japanese campus fashion), and Overwatch 2 (introducing streetwear designs). Following the lead of its predecessors, Dislyte boldly combines fashion with game art, potentially as an attempt to attract more Gen-Z players. The game looks like a fashion brand wardrobe with a profusion of styles packed in it. Trendy shoes, outdoor clothing, all kinds of leather jackets and trousers, rivets and zippers… things you have and haven’t heard of.
A Combination of East and West
Dislyte’s character design mixes styles of Japanese anime and American cartoons, showcasing sophisticated line art (typical in anime) and exaggerated facial expressions (typical in Amerimaga). After years of efforts in trying to appeal to global audiences, Lilith certainly knows how to cater to different tastes with a comprehensive art style.
Anime styled character
Amerimanga styled character
Gameplay: On Giant’s Shoulders
Dislyte’s gameplay is no different from any traditional CCG-RPG, such as Summoner’s War. In those games, players recruit characters and run semi-turn-based battles versus either AI or other players. Such gameplay can be coupled with monetization mechanics like gacha. Still, Dislyte made some “micro-innovation” for differentiation. For Example, some character acquire unique skills in combat (such as Enemy Action Bar distortion, Enemy Max HP reduction), giving players a more complex strategy tree.
Apart from the standard features like “daily tasks,” “arena,” and “resource dungeons”, Dislyte has introduced several interesting meta systems. First, the mini game “DJ Contest” borrows mechanics from rhythm games. Despite its high learning curve, once players manage to “turn the steering wheel left and right with the rhythm”, it becomes an easy win. So players can lay back and enjoy the music. Second, Dislye also inherited the roguelike mode from AFK Arena, offering random dungeons and free-to-use characters, encouraging players to spend more time on battles and more money on the gacha system. Third, Dislyte provides minimized idle mode for players to bypass repetitive, boring battles and instead focus more on advancing the main story, playing PvP games, or engaging in more challenging boss fights.
Rougelike mode in Dislyte
Overall, Dislyte shows great care about non-hardcore players’ gaming experience, in that they provide an idle mode, various meta games, team comp recommendations, and so on. Players get to customize their game at their own pace. Regrettably, though, Dislyte does not have enough content—most of the 96 levels were without a plot; even for those with one, the story is a bit cliché.
Monetization: Something New, Something Challenging
Dislyte has simple gameplay and thus a straightforward economy loop.
It follows the well-established monetization model of AFK Arena, which is centered around Battle Pass and limited-time offers. BP cultivates a regular purchase habit for the players. Meanwhile, the shop bundles serve as anchor sales, further highlighting the value proposition of limited-time offers, thereby stimulating payer conversion.
In Shop, IAP bundles are expensive and options are limited.
Pop-up sales are discounted at nearly 50-80% off
Within the first two weeks upon launch, Dislyte has reached a revenue of over 5 million dollars on both iOS and Android in North America. It outperforms AFK Arena and other competitors in the same time period.
Despite its high average, Dislyte’s daily revenue has shown a down-turn after 10 days since launch (the largest drop was estimated to be nearly 65%). Good performance at the early stage may have been powered by user acquisition platform features, and Lilith’s die-hard fans. Should Dislyte keep itself the way it is (i.e., without new content or innovative features), the revenue bottleneck is foreseeable—and, Dislyte’s Cumulative Revenue since launch has shown exactly that trend.
Publishing: Focused Strategy Around the Game’s Core Strength
Lilith has tailored its publishing and marketing strategy around the game’s core strengths.
With YouTube and social media platforms as their primary marketing channels, Dislyte’s marketing campaigns were consistent and well-timed, featuring a lot of high-quality video content and fan events. Since the first announcement trailer in September 2021, the Dislyte team spent months producing multiple video series, from Video series Voice of Gyrate after the announcement, to the regularly updated character series Esper Introduction, to the behind-the-scenes series Meet the Team after launch.
On the launch day of May 10th, Dislyte published the gameplay trailer and the story trailer The Show Begins, which generated the highest views on the channel. Two days later, the second shoe dropped with the release of the cinematic trailer Ready to Awake and new user guide just in time to capture increasing interest and demand as the game became featured on both Apple and Google Play App Stores.
These trailers all focused on introducing the main characters and did a great job establishing their personalities to players within a few minutes. The music OST in these marketing assets also embodied the urban trendy theme of this game and received a lot of positive comments. In the comment section under these videos, a lot of players asked for a Spotify playlist and even made their own, claiming that they will check out the game just for the music.
On social media, Dislyte has hosted a series of fan activities (e.g. fan art competitions, music festivals) centered around its core marketing strength—its stylized art and music. Primarily used to post holiday messaging, activity updates, and new user guide, Dislyte’s Twitter account has expanded to run a series of fan art activities in partnership with KOLs and fan art platforms, such as Meme Spree, Easter Egg Painting on Discord, and the Dislyte Celebration Contest on DeviantArt. The Twitter account has also retweeted a lot of fan art to increase engagement and recognition.
Since its release on May 10, Dislyte’s download metric peaked around May 13-14 after being featured on both Apple and Google Play App Store on May 12th. However, Lilith’s paid media activities started far before that, with increased user acquisition spend and variety in March-April globally across the US, Canada, and Australia.
Similar to past Lilith games, Dislyte used a lot of live action creatives in their paid media placement, first with a focus on raising awareness and later on improving retention by providing game tips. These creatives usually feature actors across different age groups showing off their in-game achievements in various everyday scenarios (e.g. gym, home, meeting your new girlfriend’s dad, etc), which can be slightly cringey but fun to watch.
Overall, Dislyte centered its marketing strategy around the game’s core unique selling point in art, characters, and music with a series of assets in line with the game’s urban trendy theme (e.g. music video, concerts). This has successfully set the game apart in a competitive CCG-RPG Game market and lowered the barrier of entry for new players. The channel strategy focused on YouTube and social media has also best showcased the game’s visual and audio excellence, inspiring the creation of more fan arts. With its concerted marketing efforts and feature spots from the App Stores, Dislyte has crafted a great image as a high-quality, well-polished mobile game.
Should a game be centered around its gameplay or its theme? Different game developers might have different opinions. If we consider the glass painting in AFK Arena as a small attempt toward building a game around a theme, Dislyte has fully embraced that with its urban mythology and trendy EDM fantasy, especially given that the core gameplay of Dislyte is nothing special.
In a saturated CCG-RPG market where the core gameplay is well established, Dislyte’s goal to break out with its trendy, mysterious theme proves to be an effective strategy. However, in addition to being a flash in the pan, we also would like to see games leverage the intersection between art and technology and create new possibilities. To fully explore and build around a theme, the gameplay is just as important as the story and world-building. Dislyte should do both to be truly innovative. Just one thought: if Dislyte’s marketing is centered around EDM, shouldn’t we expect to see more gameplay inspirations from combining EDM and vaporwave?
edited by Jiaqi, Rob