Google Play subscriptions boost engagement for games

Learn how Japanese game developers find success introducing a subscription business model to ensure regular revenue and boost engagement.

For many game developers, the introduction of a subscription business model helps ensure regular revenue and boost engagement. When introducing subscriptions to a game, it’s important to first identify the issues that need to be solved. In addition, developers should take measures to retain users and stimulate their willingness to spend by designing attractive subscription rewards.

Issues to be solved by introducing subscriptions

The issues to be solved in a game differ depending on the game. They can be as wide-ranging as the examples below.

  • Increase login rates and user retention rate

  • Ensure stock-type, stable base revenue even when Live Ops aren’t ongoing

  • Encourage players to progress in story quests

Service plans when introducing subscriptions

Next, consider how incorporating subscriptions and providing rewards could help achieve your business goals by providing three reward types: short-term, medium-term, and long-term.

Short-term rewards: include a perk that users receive immediately after purchasing the subscription.

• Items that users get immediately: in-game currency. In BanG Dream! Girls Band Party!, users can obtain 360 stars by purchasing the subscription.

• Additional in-game features: ability to run auto battles and loop or increase the number of teams and equipment slots. Dragon Quest of the Stars (Japanese version) increases the number of equipment slots to five by purchasing the subscription.

• Exclusive quests: one run per day quests that add rare rewards. Puzzle & Dragons unlocks daily bonus dungeons by purchasing the subscription.

• Rewards outside the game: discounts on merchandise or invitations to exclusive events. Monster Strike offers free shipping for over 3,000 JPY merchandise transactions by purchasing the subscription.

Medium-term rewards: offers perks according to user actions.

• Login reward: sending out a premium login reward.

• Completion rewards: multiplying the rewards given for the number of enemies defeated or other in-game actions. Dragon Quest Walk users can get 2.5x engagement rewards by purchasing the season pass. (*this is not subscriptions but a season pass).

Long-term rewards: offers perks upon subscription renewal.

• Sending out a reward to users every X number of months subscribed. Monster Strike unlocks the 6-star guaranteed special gacha reward every 3 months upon subscription renewal.

In addition, if there are multiple issues that you want to solve, offering multiple subscriptions with different terms, benefits, and periods can be effective.

KLab's Bleach: Brave Souls offers two subscription plans, the "Brave Souls Bonanza Pass" and the "Character Collector’s Pass," to meet different objectives. Each pass offers short-term, medium-term, and long-term (3 months) benefits, and both passes can be purchased at the same time. The game can be enjoyed with either subscription plan, but the plans were created in a way that users can enjoy the game further by purchasing both subscription plans.


Puzzle & Dragons utilizes a free trial feature to increase subscription rate

In December 2019, GungHo Online Entertainment’s puzzle roleplaying game Puzzle & Dragons (Japanese version) introduced the P&D Pass, a subscription plan. The P&D Pass offers rewards and service plans not found on the regular purchase menu. To entice users to try the subscription pass, the team provides a free one-week trial.

Dragon Quest of the Stars offers one month’s free subscription to users who already have a season pass

In July 2019, Square Enix’s Dragon Quest of the Stars (Japanese version) began offering their subscription plan, the Star Pass (Monthly).

The Star Pass (Monthly) is a monthly version of the Star Pass, a 14-day limited season pass. It offers even more attractive rewards than the season pass. The Star Pass (Monthly) also offers the first month for free, and it’s designed so that users who have already purchased a season pass can also buy it for free, lowering the initial hurdle of purchasing a subscription plan.

Monster Strike offers rewards based on the subscription period

mixi, the developer of Monster Strike, started offering the MONPASS subscription plan in September 2017.

The MONPASS is designed to be a subscription plan with features that are appealing to loyal users. Subscribed users receive different rewards every day, month, and every three months, which helps drive longer term retention and reduce churn rates.

To increase subscribed users, mixi focuses on driving awareness of new and existing subscribers to reduce churn rates. They also urge users who ended their subscriptions to resubscribe. Aside from designing rewards for the subscription plans, each company’s subscriptions utilize free trials & introductory offers to increase initial subscription rates, as well as grace periods, account holds for declined payments, to protect against unforeseen cancellations by users.


In comparing subscribed users with non-paying users of the three game titles above, we learned that subscribed users have higher login rates and tend to play the game more.

In Puzzle & Dragons and Dragon Quest of the Stars, subscribers have higher login rates than non-paying users. For Puzzle & Dragons, comparing the median of users subscribed to a P&D pass for three months versus non-paying users revealed that the subscribed users’ login rates are 30 percent points higher. When looking at only users who were at the same level of progression in the game, the subscribed users’ login rates are almost 20 percent points higher. In Dragon Quest of the Stars, users who purchased the Star Pass (Monthly) logged in 1.2 times more than non-paying users.

Increased login rates are connected to higher rates of continuing to play the game and higher numbers of quests completed. Users who purchased Star Pass (Monthly) in Dragon Quest of the Stars completed 2.6 times more quests and 3.2 times more multiplayer quests than non-subscribed users. In Monster Strike, users who purchased the MONPASS played 20% more times per day than before purchasing a MONPASS, contributing to accelerated engagement.

Benefits of introducing subscriptions

By introducing a subscriptions offer in your game, you can increase the number of users and their level of engagement, leading to greater business success. Google Play offers multiple options for easily controlling subscription pricing options and changing the contents of subscriptions. Get started today.

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