Developed by China-based Century Games, Frozen City is a city-building simulation game set in an ice and snow apocalypse. It is a new spin on the classical base building and survival genres that combines elements found in both of these categories and uses them to create a refreshing new experience.
The game was released in late December 2022 and as of date, it has been downloaded more than 16 million and generated a revenue of $17 million. In its first three months, the had $11.3 million on in-app purchases and 10.8 million downloads. This alone puts the game in league with some of the best strategy games on the market.
The game’s success is built around a classic core loop.
Frozen city takes the traditional 4x strategy game core loop but adds simulation elements and survivors, playable heroes. Gaining resources through building and expanding sink resources leveling up buildings, and surviving.
For the first-time players, the tutorial introduces a barren wasteland. The first tutorials are on how to set up the camp and gather basic resources. There is a task list that also serves as a great short-term progression guide. As players progess the game lets player to move on from the tutorial city.
Leaving the tutorial city, there are clear mid to long-term goals, as shown on the map. New resources are introduced coal, iron scraps which can be turned into iron blocks that can be turned into furnaces, and molds which then are used to upgrade and expand your buildings. These goals are engaging easy to understand.
Clear long-term aspiration that appeals to the game’s target audience. This aspiration is supported by medium-term goals that seem achievable to the player but are far enough away to require continued investment. These medium-term goals are achieved by engaging in an easy-to-understand short-term game progression that rewards the player frequently for her engagement. The second city also introduces heroes and fighting.
The more heroes you collect you can change your battle formation, and get buffs if certain pairings are in play on the battlefield. This is still a new game, and I guess that the next step for this mechanic could be more leadership board-style ranking.
Resource management is a key part of the game. Buildings drain and also create resources. Resources are needed to make more resources. Balance inputs and outputs keep the city running.
Leaving the tutorial city, there are clear mid to long term goals. This goals are engaging easy to understand. Clear long-term aspiration that appeals to the game’s target audience. This aspiration is supported by medium-term goals that seem achievable to the player but are far enough away to require continued investment. These medium-term goals are achieved by engaging in an easy-to-understand short-term game progression that rewards the player on a frequent basis for her engagement.
The second city also introduces the game’s monetization strategy. There is a monthly subscription which gives perks each month along with Loot Boxes, store purchases and limited time bundles. There are also live is one live event running with purchase incentives.
Only four live events modes before this. The Last Autumn is a very interesting limited-time event recently added to the Frozen City mobile game. It’s one of the four events available in the game right now; the other three are “Grandpa’s Farm,” “Fish Farming,” and “Turning Waste Into Treasure” events. This event is quite different from all other events because this one is quite similar to regular game mode and doesn’t require selling or exporting resources (like in Grandpa’s Farm).
What’s in store for Frozen City?
Forecasts suggest that if the game keeps its trajectory, it will reach $80.000 in revenue and 30.000 downloads per day.
Frozen City is performing very well, but there are still areas of opportunity. When you reach the end of the map, there is no other content. There is no incentive to keep being the strongest in any category. A strong elder game has the player constantly upgrading, researching, etc., making you stronger and wanting to keep progressing further, as you can immediately feel that your power is growing after an upgrade. This also is a significant factor in why you’d be willing to spend money on the game as well.
The game is predictable and repetitive. The task list is the roadmap, and you don’t need to put much thought into the gameplay except how much longer until you get the resource you need for an upgrade. In every successful 4X game, various game modes are available for players, as shown earlier (5v5 in Rise of Kingdoms, Frontline of Hell, Kiss of War). The reason why there are so many of these modes is to keep the gameplay as diverse as possible and to offer players additional activities in addition to the traditional 4X gameplay.
There are no social features which could introduce more content and game time. Player interaction is an important part of the game, for example, by completing different tasks together through guilds. You can really build relationships with the people in the game, and it’s not uncommon to have a Whatsapp group with your guildmates.
Guest Author: Pamela Iluore
Pamela is a game product manager with 13 years of game industry experience and an MBA from UC Berkeley. She has worked on titles such as Call of Duty 3 (console), Requiem: Memento Mori(PC), The Sims Mobile (iOS and Android), and most recently, Apex Legends Mobile (iOS and Android). She has a passion for gaming and has done research on improving diversity in gaming. She has given lectures about gaming and gaming diversity at the University of Illinois, UC Berkeley, Vlerick Business School, the Grace Hopper Conference, and the Game Developer Conference (March 2023). She has been highlighted in the iOS meet the developer series and has been named an industry game changer by Apple.