AppQuantum deconstructs Animal Restaurant: How to Earn $2,000,000 in IAPs with a Cute Mobile Game

AppQuantum
9 min readNov 29, 2023

Disclaimer: This article was written and published in May 2023. Some details may have changed since then, but the main points are relevant.

Animal Restaurant is a casual management simulation game published by Chinese developer DH Games, which was released in 2019. The game was chosen for this article not only because of its good metrics or revenue but also due to its exposure on social media: Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram. People love this game and share it on these platforms often.

By April 25, 2023, the game had generated $2,000,000 in IAP with over 20,000,000 downloads. Taking into account the monetization system, in-game ads also provide a fair share of income. But we’ll come back to this later.

So, what’s the secret of this cutest game? AppQuantum will tell you about this project's gameplay, monetization, LTEs, and other features.

Animal Restaurant`s gameplay is relaxing!

The game starts as a pretty standard tycoon game with all the essential features of the genre: a player runs a restaurant (business theme), buys and upgrades items (tycoon progression), hires staff (management elements), earns prestige, and opens more restaurants.

Everything looks pretty familiar to the player, besides the camera angle and the cute visual style, which continuously attracts attention and stands out, but isn’t a novelty within the industry.

Сute-looking games of all sorts appeared long before Animal Restaurant: Kleptocats (2016), KleptoCats 2 (2018), Purrfect Spirits (2017), Tsuki Adventure (2018), Cats are Cute (2018). Also, there are many other newer games. They all are very different in mechanics and style, but still united by a casual genre, a theme (animals, cats in particular), and charming and simple 2D visuals.

Casual games can be very diverse: in some of them, players can feel like big bosses, some make players feel smart, and others are for dynamic action lovers. As for cute-looking games, they primarily focus on relaxing ASMR and meditative experiences for the player. That’s why this particular art style is chosen.

But we’re talking here about a specific genre — tycoon. In tycoons, such a kawaii visual style and an animal theme are not so conventional, but still, there are some examples on the market: Cats and Soup (2021), Cat Snack Bar (2022), Penguin Isle (2019) and other more minor apps. Among those, Cats and Soup is the most successful one, even being released two years after Animal Restaurant.

Cats & Soup is an adorable idle game from NEOWIZ (surprisingly, it is about cats and soups!), which recently hit 40,000,000 cumulative downloads worldwide. The game has been an enormous success, and many game developers have tried to copy its visual style, relaxing gameplay, and ASMR features.

But let’s come back to Animal Restaurant. It was an interesting decision to make the screen fit with one but very dense location, which can be changed by swiping in different directions. So, no moving around the map, no zooming: everything is conveniently displayed on one screen.

The game is obviously focused on long-term retention, as the beginning of the game is very standard and familiar. Players get immersed in a typical, but proven working tycoon core, and later, they can dive into the exciting world of mini-games and new mechanics. Even with the later variety of mechanics, players still have an opportunity to play their beloved core tycoon gameplay while maintaining progression.

In the case of Animal Restaurant, opening other sites doesn’t mean that the previous restaurant is completed or “lost”. That’s a great plus for the players. Their feeling of ownership is treated very gently, while in other tycoons, sometimes it feels sad to lose what was earned with your own sweat and blood.

Game’s Visuals

The game has a simple but cute, eye-catching visual style that gives an impression of hand-drawn adorable pictures. The game’s animations are deliberately simple, but fit the visual style perfectly.

The game is very visually rewarding. After each upgrade, the facilities become visually better, and it’s not just about color or size. The facilities in each new level are separate models that are visually nicer and prettier than the previous ones.

The hiring of every worker and other activities are visually displayed, giving the players better satisfaction and visual feedback.

Approach to the In-Game Currencies

The currency required at the beginning is called Cod (aka fish, not Call of Duty), which can be slowly, but easily earned. Everything can be bought and upgraded with Cod in the Restaurant location. The game doesn’t have a separate currency for hiring and upgrading the staff. It’s simplified to make the game’s onboarding process less painful for the player.

New currencies are added to the game later. For example, Films appear in the Courtyard, Bells appear with the purchase of the Signature Store, and Plates appear in the Buffet. Still, they are mostly connected to their own locations and aren’t required much for the progression of the main storyline.

The game has a restaurant rating system, also known as the experience system, which is typical for all tycoon games. Stars (the rating’s currency) are used to unlock some items and locations. However, in this case, increasing the rating is more complex than in other tycoon games, and a player has a lot of instruments to get Stars from different sources (Daily Tasks, Orders, Garden, Customers, etc.).

Even though the game is highly casual in terms of the management elements (players can’t have any financial losses from poor decision-making or make any bad decisions at all), the process of earning money in later stages can be pretty long if you are not engaged in the game and not paying attention to it.

Taps

The financial success in this tycoon depends on the players’ activity with the tap mechanics, which compensates for the relaxed and slow flow of the game and keeps the player engaged in the process. It is used in several ways in Animal Restaurant:

  1. The player is encouraged to tap on the action button to increase production. Tapping promotes your business and attracts clients and without it, the progress of earning soft currency will be extremely slow.
  2. Tapping is used to collect soft currency, as the game has no automated Cod collecting.
  3. Tapping at the customers’ orders helps to speed up turnover.
  4. There are limited-time events in the game’s flow, requiring players to be attentive to the gameplay and tap where necessary.

Meta Game

Almost all of the new sites offer a set of new meta-features and mechanics that are fundamentally different from the core gameplay of the main site. For example, in the Courtyard, apart from buying and upgrading the items, new mechanics of mini-games appear, which give the players different rewards and soft currency.

Gotta collect ’em all!

Also, there are some mechanics for collecting Customers, Mementos, Letters, and Movies.

Customers are animals of different types that visit the restaurant. They vary by how they work: regular is just a default customer, special ones have unique features and outcomes, booth owners bring additional income, performers appear at the Courtyard Concert, etc. Players have access to a journal containing information about the customer types. This mechanic seems attractive to the players as it satisfies the need to collect a full set of items.

Mementos are in-game items that various customers drop when requirements are met. They provide players with automatic bonuses.

At new sites, new collections are unlocked: Letters and Movies.

Gacha

Of course, there is no tycoon game without the gacha mechanic. It is presented in different locations and serves different purposes:

  • Gachapon. This is a machine in the Buffet. It can be used to obtain Stars, Cod, Plates, Mementos, Dolls, and some Letters randomly. Players will receive a certain number of free uses daily, depending on the facility’s level.
  • Wishing Well. This facility in the Garden gives out random rewards such as Flowers, Cod, Stars, and some Mementos. One free draw is given per day.

And, of course, mini-games!

Mini-games appear after obtaining a Game Machine. The Game Machine is a device in the Courtyard that can give out rewards such as Cod, Stars, Films, and a Magnifying Glass if you play various mini-games on it (i.e., Barbecue Game, Coloring Game, Cake Cutting Game, etc.).

Developers put much effort into making the game enjoyable for different players. Such an approach also helps to keep players attracted to the game by diversifying the mechanics.

How meta activities influence the game

  • As the pacing and progression in the game are relatively slow, it’s essential to keep the players constantly occupied, which is successfully done by engaging them with lots of meta activities;
  • They create more opportunities to introduce new monetization points that are valuable to the player;
  • They create variety for the players, as well as help to balance the game.

Limited Time Events in Animal Restaurant

The game has lots of LTEs devoted to almost all major holidays. During these events, players have an opportunity to get exclusive collectibles: special customers, Mementos, Letters, themed facilities, decors, etc. During some events, players have a higher chance of rarer items dropped by Gachapon.

From the mechanics’ point of view, each event adds a brand new activity.

How LTEs influence the game

  • They add variety to the gameplay for loyal players;
  • They attract more people during the event because of the exclusive items players can get;
  • They create more monetization opportunities.

Monetization, In-App Purchases

There are pretty standard packs in the game, such as starter packs, packs with hard currency, Skip Ad packs, free Gacha packs, etc. For example, the Gacha pack offers free gacha tries and some soft currency. One interesting point is that there is no ad-free offer in the game, but there are special Skip Ad tickets that can be purchased.

Other packs require players to log in daily to get a reward within a month. This type of pack is great for maintaining long-term retention.

How hard currency can be used:

Hard currency is used to purchase almost all of the soft currencies in the game. Interestingly, it is not used to simplify the gameplay in any other way. Players have to watch ads or buy specific IAP packs to do so.

Ad Monetization

The game’s ads don’t feel aggressive, even though the game has a whole lot of placements (reward videos, interstitials, and banners), but as a player, you barely notice it. Users don’t have to watch ads to be able to play the game, as they have everything needed for free every day (but in small amounts). However, making progress without ads will be plodding. Also, every ad offer is very valuable for the player.

Since the devs haven’t added a ‘No Ads’ offer to Animal Restaurant (only Skip Ad tickets), ad monetization is a big part of the game’s income.

Keys to success

  • The game has very relaxing gameplay with cute visuals.
  • Strong and familiar core gameplay and theme combined with slow pacing, but with lots of simple and entertaining mechanics to keep players busy.
  • Very gentle, but effective balance-based ad monetization combined with slow-paced gameplay.
  • Collection mechanics are embedded into the gameplay, which gives a boost to long-term retention.
  • Each site offers something new, and this isn’t just a typical prestige where players have to start from scratch — everything they earn stays with them.
  • Lots of LTEs with exclusive items give a boost to the activity.

AppQuantum will continue sharing the most interesting projects and analyzing their path to success. Stay tuned!

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