Social developer Playdom is moving into the hidden-object style of game with its most recent release, Gardens of Time. Though the company’s games enjoy a combined total monthly active user count of nearly 18 million and a daily active user count of 2.2 million, according to our AppData service, this choice of genre seems risky as we have yet to see hidden object titles perform well on Facebook — although Playdom isn’t the only company launching this type of game now.
Here’s our Early Look at the title’s first weeks online.
Following closely on the heels of Game Insight’s own hidden object game release, Mystery Manor, Playdom is seeking to add an extra decoration element to the game, increase socialization within the game using a series of established social elements, and introduce power ups unique to the hidden object genre.
In Gardens of Time, players join the Time Society, a group charged with the protection and preservation of history. However, upon entering this world, players discover that something is amiss within the flow of time. Using a time machine mechanic, players travel to different time periods which offer hidden object puzzles. Like Mystery Manor, each puzzle requires a set amount of energy to play, thus restricting the number of times a player can try a for free puzzle per day. In each puzzle, players search for objects that are not native to the time period. The list is finite, and players are scored based on how quickly, and accurately, they find them all, with extra bonuses by finding them in quick succession. The better they score, the higher their Star Rating goes at the end of the puzzle. Each puzzle’s Star Rating is cumulitave, encouraging players to revisit puzzles frequently to gain the max rating of four stars.
The Star Rating is put toward leaderboards scored between in-game friends, one of several social elements included within Gardens of Time. Friends can also share bonuses after completing a level or earning a reward via a Facebook Wall post, which nets your friends the game’s basic currency, Silver.
Gardens of Time differs from other hidden object games in that it offers players a decoration/builder experience in the form of the player’s garden. Far from being just an aesthetic element, players unlock decorations as they play through time periods. The decorations are tied to a reputation score within the Time Society, and as reputation increases, more levels are unlocked. The garden also functions as a social feature where friends can send gifts and visit between gardens. Friends that appear in your garden can be clicked on to enter a mini-game that Playdom calls “blitz mode.” Here, players try to find as many hidden objects as they can in 60 seconds, earning Silver based on how well they do.
The other way in which Gardens of Time stands out is in the power ups players can use to complete puzzles. Unlike Mystery Manor, which charges players virtual currency for hint or time-extension objects, Gardens of Time gives players a zoom-in-on-object feature that can be used for free as many times as a player wants during a puzzle. The catch is that the zoom has a cool down period between uses, costing players valuable time that could otherwise earn bonuses. Three other puzzle help tools become available after a player reaches a certain level, but they must be bought with virtual currency. An example is a pair of special goggles that highlight specific objects when moused over them.
The monetization comes primarily from buying these special items and from buying premium decorations for gardens. Besides the standard Silver, Gardens of Time offers a premium currency called Gold that players can purchase in quantities ranging from four to 500 at the cost of $0.99 to $99.99, respectively. Gold can also buy energy refills, unlock levels early, or be exchanged for Silver.
Considering the choice of game type, Playdom will be hard pressed to make Gardens of Time grow. There have been very few hidden object games on Facebook that did especially well. Examples include Bounty Quest Mystery, from Nimbus Games, which only hosts around 1,000 MAU, and Big Fish Games’ hidden object mini games in Treasure Quest, which ultimately was shut down due to low user numbers. Still, Playdom is betting that these games declined due to a lack of truly social play and that Gardens of Time’s existing features and future features will succeed where the other games did not. In the immediate future, Playdom plans to roll out different styles of hidden object gameplay in Gardens of Time, such as a “spot the difference” mode.
You can see whether or not Gardens of Time pans out into a successful hidden object title via AppData, our social games and developer tracking service.