The Better Game: Mystery Manor vs. Gardens of Time

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.

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18 Responses to “The Better Game: Mystery Manor vs. Gardens of Time”

  1. Steve says:

    Do you have any data to support your conclusions at the end of the article, namely that “The bottom line is that both these games benefit in traffic from each other’s existence”? Is it clear how many users are playing both games and thereby boosting the population of each? Would love to see some numbers if you have them.

    I’m not sure keen how each developer is on the notion of sharing their users with another very similar Facebook game. Each may be trying to target players of the other game and trying not to lose the players they have. Depends on if you’re thinking about this from the player perspective or dev perspective.

  2. AJ Glasser says:

    Hey Steve,

    We can see that the traffic in Mystery Manor didn’t take a hit when Gardens of Time came out, so we can rule out the conclusion that one game would choke out the other. Sadly, there’s no effective way to track how many of Mystery Manor’s users also play Gardens of Time and vice versa. Although I can say from personal experience that the Gardens of Time sponsor ad shows up for me when I play Mystery Manor because two of my friends play the game.

    Rather, the conclusion that the games benefit from each other’s existence comes from the rationalization that hidden object games are a very specific genre and there just aren’t that many of them on FB. By having more games in the genre, it creates a wider audience and therefore — assuming users can find their way from one game to another — the games benefit because there’s more traffic to go around.

  3. Hidden Object Games Appear at the Top on This Week’s List of Fastest-Growing Facebook Games by MAU says:

    [...] top games on Facebook, Mystery Manor grew 27% over the last week and now has 1.3 million MAU. We took a closer look at both Gardens of Time and Mystery Manor last week and compared the two [...]

  4. D9: Disney’s Iger Says More Original IP Titles Coming From Playdom says:

    [...] just with existing Disney IP. He highlighted the recent success of Gardens of Time, an original-IP hidden object game that Playdom launched in early [...]

  5. Brenda says:

    Hi I have just blocked Gardens of time by mistake and i dont know how to unblock it can anyone help me please ,

  6. Severin says:

    Personally I think Gardens of Time is the more rewarding and thus fun game – for the story it features alone. But I also really love the decoration part, the music is really nice and the overall graphics also are more to my liking than those of Mystery Manor. Also I think that the objects in GoT are harder to find, which makes it the better experience. That they stay in the same place is something I appreciate since it lets you go for highscores on each map more easily…

    The money system is more or less the same in both games as it is in every other game on facebook, but that’s neither good nor bad. I put a few paysafecards into the game (GoT) in the past week and I’m glad they accept psc cause I wouldn’t pay on facebook using my credit card. I haven’t bought anything in MM so far and I don’t think I will, since I’m buying buildings/artefacts etc. only in GoT.

    I think you are right about the playing both games at once part, though. It’s something fresh and new on facebook and it’s really fun and there’s no reason why you should play only one of them… I know I play both even if I’m not switching between them all the time to just kill the time till the energy refilled (wouldn’t have that much time ;) )

  7. Shirl says:

    Is der a garden of times app for iPhone

  8. PrinceMarvel says:

    I play both, and I have thoroughly enjoyed both. I knew about Mystery Manor before I did Gardens of Time. I do enjoy the story mode in Gardens of Time, but Mystery Manor does have somewhat of a story, just not as elaborate as Gardens of Time.

    In a way I do like how Gardens of Time keeps their items in the same spot, because it does make it easy to find, but at the same time, I also like how Mystery Manor moves their items around as it give it more of a challenge.

    Also, I do like Gardens of Time’s neighbor activities better than Mystery Manor’s.

    I will continually play both, and will continue looking for other great HOGs on facebook.

    I will also continue recommending both, I have introduces many of my friends to Mystery Manor (mainly the ones that play Gardens of Time)

  9. Kris says:

    Unfortunately, what could be an outstanding game is marred by a plethora of glitches (disappearing energy and lost gold just to name a few) and a hacker who’s giving out players’ banking information.

    So far, neither Playdom.com nor Disney has addressed any of the problems, will not reply to players’ emails and has done nothing about the hacker!

    I am terribly disappointed and discouraged and have deleted my account.

  10. jml says:

    personally i like mystery manor better. gardens of time is rather annoying only being able to move on when you have put enough in your garden. though i do seem to end up playing it more often then mystery manor because you do not have to wait as long between searches. but it ends up being something i do while waiting till i can play mystery manor again.

  11. Jen says:

    I prefer GoT as it has better GUI, I like that things don’t move around, I can be challenged and challenge my neighbors, I like the story line, I can play longer as I always have enough energy.
    I don’t like that they push to have you add to the garden so soon after reaching the goal. I would like more scenes to do before having to meet the next set. I also don’t like that it only goes to scene 14. There are not enough ways to make exp. points.
    I don’t play Mystery Manor often as I hate the flashlight and the moving of things around. I don’t like scrambled words or shapes. One minute is not enough time to figure those things out. I only have enough energy to play two rooms and I am not buying more. I don’t like or understand the game well enough. I quit playing it except once in awhile to accommodate friends that play. Everyone in my neighbor list has quit playing except for 4 or 5.

  12. lorri says:

    is there any way to play MM other than on FB?

  13. Stephen says:

    ‘Mystery Manor doesn’t appear to have any punitive actions for click-happy users.’

    This should be changed since, recentlty, MMs Devs added a ‘zodiac’ mode which consists of this: If the player clicks three or four times without taking an item out of the list, five seconds will be discounted from the timer.

  14. smikowski says:

    I just started playing Mystery Manor, but do not understand what every thing means. Can someone post the rules so I can have more fun

  15. Sarah Landry says:

    Please cancel any person or ads etc for Mystery Manor. Do it immediately or I will report that you are getting money from innocent people that don’t understand this is not a free game and you must buy any help you need. This is not told before you start . Don’t ever send this game via my e-mail again. Thank you in advance.

  16. lawlesspants says:

    how do I unblock mystery manor please, and where might find the rules for mystery manor

  17. ubcrafty says:

    GOT has many, many, many, many, many glitches. When you submit a ticket to support it takes days for them to respond…and then you get a form letter that they respond to all letters with. But the problems you have NEVER get fixed. They keep trying to add more features without repairing what is already wrong. There are way too many pop-ups that they shove down your throat as well. And the game crashes all of the time. If they would fix the problems they have the game would be great, but as for this player I give it the thumbs down at this current time and I am searching for newer and better games to play.

  18. Marissa says:

    I like Mystery Manor very much! The only issue I have with it, is that it take too long to acue energy. That was one of the reasons as to why I became interested in the other games on FB. Right now there seems to be technical problems with the site, I’ve been trying to go in for two day to no avail. Hope the problem get resolve soon. TK U!!!

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