The Better Game: Mystery Manor vs. Gardens of Time

By AJ Glasser Comment

Hidden object games recently got a lot of love on Facebook from publisher 6wavesMystery Manor and developer Playdom‘s Gardens of Time despite the genre’s historically poor performance on social networks. With both games completely live and mostly populated, we compare and contrast the two to see who wore it better.

Mystery Manor was the first to market with a playable product live in mid March that officially launched in the first week of April. The game comes from Russian developer Game Insight, which has two other medium-sized games on Facebook via 6waves’ publishing platform. Players take the role of a character trapped in a mysterious manor where each room represents a hidden object puzzle. Rooms can be replayed numerous times to increase an overall mastery level and earn items and experience points. New rooms unlock as the player gains levels.

Gardens of Time hit Facebook about a week later, right around the time developer Playdom also launched the role-playing game, Deep Realms. Interestingly, it seems as though Deep Realms enjoyed a lengthy alpha test phase on Facebook beginning as far back as February when the app first appeared on AppData. Gardens of Time appeared literally overnight and already surpasses Deep Realms in traffic (ISG contributor Tami Baribeau goes into more detail about the competing launches on her blog). The game adds a decoration meta-game to its design where players earn reputation by decorating their gardens, and the reputation unlocks new levels, each being a hidden object puzzle.

At a glance, Gardens of Time is killing Mystery Manor on traffic. At 2.2 million monthly active users and 941,000 daily active users, Gardens is roughly twice the size of Manor in user base. Its percentage of DAU/MAU is also much higher at 42% compared to 12%. But which is the “better” game? While we’d like to think a game’s quality determines its size, we are aware that ad spend and cross-promotion can have a significant impact on a game’s MAU and short term DAU. It’s important to remember that Playdom has the larger network from which to leverage cross-promotion and it also is a much larger company than Game Insight, which would indicate that it has more resources to dedicate to advertising campaigns.

Gameplay-wise, there is a subjective element in determining which game is the better hidden object game. Rather than make that judgement for you, however, we’ll present the ways in which the two games differ:

  • Mystery Manor changes the locations of items in a puzzle each time a level is played. Gardens of Time keeps objects in the same places.
  • Gardens of Time features different hidden object puzzle types such as spot-the-difference and spot-as-much-as-you-can-in-60-seconds. Mystery Manor uses the same puzzle type, but features modes where the words of the objects you’re looking for are scrambled, or only the silhouette of the object is displayed instead of its name.
  • Mystery Manor is punitive with players that do not complete puzzles within a time limit, kicking them out of the level if they fail to find all the specific objects. Gardens of Time rewards players with a scoring multiplier for finding objects quickly, but never kicks users out of the puzzle.
  • Gardens of Time is punitive with players that click the screen too much, suspending player action for five seconds with a chiding message. Mystery Manor doesn’t appear to have any punitive actions for click-happy users.
  • Mystery Manor organizes its quests around earning specific items through completing puzzles more quickly. Gardens of Time has a plot-based quest system that moves the player forward as they gain a reputation score by decorating their gardens.

On the monetization front, Gardens of Time appears to have an edge because of its decoration component through the garden and through special premium puzzles. Both games monetize through the sale of special items that make the puzzles easier or more rewarding for the player in terms of experience points or item drops. Mystery Manor has some premium puzzle payment options for players that want to unlock higher level rooms early and could easily implement paid-only puzzles in the future.

The bottom line is that both these games benefit in traffic from each other’s existence. We can see from their MAU and DAU charts that both have enjoyed growth in their first few weeks of life, which disproves the idea that one would take the audience away from the other. If anything, having two hidden object games with energy restrictions on players is a boon because players can wait out cool-down time in one game by killing time in the other. They trick to making the relationship work is targeted advertising so that Gardens of Time users know that there is another hidden object game out there; Facebook’s new game discovery methods may come in handy here.

We’ll keep an eye on the traffic trend for both Mystery Manor and Gardens of Time as they post-launch climbs level off. You can follow each game’s progress on AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.