The number one App Store game in several top markets right now is X-Hero, a bizarre mix of meme-y physics puzzles and idle hero battling.
We’ve seen UA ad mechanics make their way into games as ‘real’ gameplay before, but we’ve not seen a developer just glue two wildly different ideas together into one game, until now. The physics puzzles in X-Hero appear to be lifted wholesale from another game, Save The Dog, and are all over TikTok right now.
The game asks you to complete several ‘Save the doge’ puzzles during the onboarding process, switching between these and the ‘real’ game, a hero battler. Once you’re into the meat of the game, the doge puzzles fade into the background and become optional.
The ‘save the doge’ games pop up during onboarding, but soon fade away and the ‘real’ game takes over.
And clearly, this approach his working. X-Hero is currently the number one iOS game in the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy, but does not have much of a presence on Android, according to Sensor Tower charts.
Appmagic data suggests the game has now earned Hong Kong-based creator Bingchuan almost $52m in lifetime IAP revenue, with 14.5m downloads to date. Appmagic data is based on developer payout, so does not include the 30% the platforms take.
Last week, Bingchuan earned $2.1m from the game, and on average made around $300k per day, according to Appmagic data.
Sensor Tower also says that in August, X-Hero generated 3.3 million downloads globally, accumulating 753,000 in the U.S. alone. Preliminary estimates show that between September 1-14, the game accumulated 5.2 million installs, with 1.7 million in the U.S.
X-Hero has been live in several different forms. The Jan 21 and Dec 21 spikes are likely previous UA efforts using ‘tower strategy’ and ‘dino sorting’ creatives and onboarding.
So what happened? Well, X-Hero’s developer has tried several other UA ads and onboarding mechanics before it settled on the ‘save the doge’ theme in the game today.
As UA expert Matej Lancaric notes in his blog about fake ads, X-Hero has previously used tower-based strategy and dinosaur-sorting mini games in its UA – and presumably also in the onboarding of the game – with some success.
You can see the spikes in the graph above where one UA push in December 21 caused weekly revenue to spike at $2.9m. This faded quite quickly but with downloads up spectacularly with the implementation of the ‘Save the doge’ theme and UA splurge, developer Bingchuan must be anticipating another huge payday.
Previous UA hooks include these ‘tower’ and ‘dino sorting’ creatives. As with the ‘save the doge’ puzzles, these were likely placed inside the game as onboarding until the ‘real’ game takes over.
UA expert Lancaric estimates that Bingchuan is spending up to $100k a day on UA across five channels, gaining around 200-300k new installs daily.
“They are spending the most in the US, but also heavily in UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Switzerland,” he tells us. “They increased their daily revenue by 3x in the last 30 days from 90k to 270k so I would assume they spend somewhere around $50k-$100k a day on UA.”
“Different sources say different things about where they spend the most, but looks like their biggest UA channel is Google where they spend almost 40% of overall budget,” adds Lancaric. “30% of the spend is on Applovin and Facebook is third with around 20%. Vungle and Ironsource share the remaining spend.”
The western version of X-Hero is published on the App Store by Bingchuan’s Hong Kong-based subsidiary. Its parent company, Shenzhen Bingchuan Network, is based in Shenzhen, China, and operates several other games. It also runs a similar-looking hybrid game in China called 超能世界, which translates as Super World. It has the same ‘save the doge’ onboarding but a different battler underneath.