Clash of Clans case study: 50% increase in revenue

During May, Supercell released a new update to one of the world’s leading mobile games and managed to generate a 200% increase in game revenue. After about two weeks, the revenue stabilized at a 50% increase, and at the time of writing the trend continues.

Clash of Clans Shipwreck update

The article was written in collaboration with Amit Goldberg

$2 billion a year

Supercell is a Finnish company established in 2010. Today, it’s known as one of the leading mobile gaming companies in the world with profits of over $2 billion a year.

The company maintains 5 games, four of which are among the 50 most profitable mobile games in the world, the fifth was launched this month:

  1. Clash Royale — A real-time battle game where players compete in 1V1 (one versus one) or 2V2 (two versus two). The game was launched in 2016 and became the most successful mobile game in the world. Five months after its launch, it won the ‘Game of the Year’ award by Google Play Awards.

2. Clash of Clans — A strategic war game which was launched in 2012. To date it’s the most profitable game on iOS and Android of all time.

3. Hay Day — A Farmville-style farming game that earns over $300,000 a day.

4. Boom Beach — Another strategic war game with a different storyline and relatively small success compared to Clash of Clans, if you can call $150,000 and 50,000 installations every day a small success.

5. Brawl Stars — A new shooting game which was soft launched in early June, currently on the Canadian Appstore only.

We’re talking about a brave company that has often chosen to ‘kill’ failed games such as: Pets vs Orcs (their first game), Battle Buddies, Spooky Pop and more.

What is Clash of Clans?

Clash of Clans is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game for Mobile devices.

The player needs to build a village with limited resources that serve as the basis for the game economy. The resources are used to upgrade the village and create combat units (soldiers and buildings). The battle units are used to attack other villages and steal their resources (Looting).

The Clash of Clans game economy is a work of art. The goal of the game is to build the largest village, but in order to achieve it, the player needs many resources which are extracted from mines. The player must establish a large army to protect those resources or to obtain additional ones from other players, but a large army requires a large village. As you can see, all the game elements are dependent on one another.

Players need to collaborate with other players and form clans to take part in the attacks and to defend. The ‘matching’ for battles between clans is random and determined according to rank, in order to get fair battles.

The game, like many other games, works in a business model called Freemium. This means that players can play the game without paying, but when a player doesn’t pay, he will have to spend more time in the game, work harder and eventually his progress will be slower. The payment allows players to arm themselves, build a stronger village and army, win battles and progress faster.

Flew too close to the sun

Successful game developers are always committed to creating new stimulations for their players, especially for players who reach the highest levels (which are usually paying users). The thrill and challenge are the key elements that keep players moving on and on. The game developers made sure to update the game frequently and maintain the excitement. The problem was that the endless creation eventually brought the economy out of balance. It created a problematic situation where the more you progress in the game, the more difficult it is for you to obtain resources, upgrade soldiers and buildings, and of course — win battles.

Then came a ‘Shipwreck’

“Where did this boat come from?”

When it seemed that the Clash of Clans ship was starting to sink, Supercell Pulled a rabbit out of the hat.

A few months before the release of the new version, the players were already able to notice a shipwreck on the beach near their village. Of course, Supercell made sure to create hype for something big that’s about to happen with some amusing videos:

Clash of Clans Shipwreck Update Teaser

On May 22nd, after many theories and rumors that flooded the gaming forums, the update was launched and named ‘Shipwreck’. The update allowed the players to fix the ship and travel to a new world. After a short voyage, the ship reached another shore, where a new base — the Builder’s Base — was waiting.

New mechanics

In the regular game, battles are held between clans on specific days designated for this purpose. The victory of the clan entitles loot (=resources) to all its shareholders. At the builder’s base, the game is played in a different way. The battle is 1V1, the ‘matching’ is made between two players with similar rankings. The players attack each other (each one in his turn) and the winner is the one who had the better attack. Players can win up to 3 times a day to collect loot.

The update is no less than a milestone in the gaming industry. It was, in fact, a new game inside an existing game.

The update included 2 major changes: 1) Easing the game experience; 2) Approaching different types of users.

What made the game easier?

● Ability to gather resources faster

● Automatic training of soldiers

● Base protection walls come in packages of 5 instead of singles

● Reducing the obligation of wasting resources in searching for battles and training soldiers

● Removing the risk of losing resources under attack

● The fact that a player cannot be attacked when he is offline

Approaching different types of users was done by faster and automated resource mining along with larger storage. The automation reduced the level of commitment because it made it possible to return to the application less frequently. While it may seem strange that lower frequency of use is a positive thing, there are certain types of players that can become frustrated by being obligated to open the app too frequently. It might even damage the player’s lifetime eventually.

The update also offered new content: new achievements, new and diverse buildings, new soldiers and the possibility of personalizing the base.

The new Clock Tower & Gem Mine offered faster and automated resource mining along with larger storage

When asked about the update, Supercell replied:

“The team strongly felt we shouldn’t release the Builder Base as a ‘second grind’ to help keep play demands reasonable and respect active players’ time. Unlike in the main village, where progress is slow but you can grind through constantly, in the Builder Base progress comes in fast burst, but the ability to grind is limited.”

Removing barriers and changing the game economy

The new game changed the players’ state of mind. It allowed players to play without the fear of losing resources and ranking. Also, the cost of everything was reduced to nothing — but there are consequences to a change like that. Supercell knew very well that if they start giving players unlimited loot, the popularity of the game would likely rise but the players would stop purchasing and there would be a decrease in revenue. Therefore, there was a need to balance the game economy so that there would be some restriction on the ability of users to progress in the game. The restriction was made by limiting the number of daily attacks to 3, instead of an infinite number, as it was until now. So the amount of loot a player can collect each day is limited. If a player wants to continue attacking, he will have to pay.

The change shifted the focus of players from endless number of exhausting attacks (to gather resources), to a more strategic kind of thinking on how to attack a base and shred it to pieces.

As expected, the players complained about the limitation of three attacks a day and claimed that the game developers just wanted to make money. Supercell stood by their decision:

“ The loot cap is here to stay. Balancing the Builder Base economy was a big and complex challenge. The team tried many different options before deciding on the current loot limit system, and we feel confident it’s the right choice. However, it’s no surprise to us that it has been generating some strong reactions.”

Effect on revenue

Within two days, Clash of Clans’ revenue rose from $300,000 a day to $900,000. After two weeks there was a decline, but the game eventually stabilized at $450,000 a day (50% increase from the original state).

Dave Their, from Forbes magazine, wrote:

“Supercell was never going to make Clash of Clans 2. It’s not how the mobile market works: you’re better off growing a user-base with a successful game than starting from scratch, and Supercell has wisely chosen to release related but non-competing games instead.
This recent update gives players newer and older alike a chance to start fresh with new, refined mechanics that make some much-needed improvements over the relatively ancient base game.”

Copying the model to Clash Royale

Supercell realized very quickly that they’ve been sitting on a gold mine and decided to duplicate the success to their leading game — Clash Royale. They removed the risk of losing ranking through 2V2 games while keeping all the benefits.

Since this is the most profitable mobile game in the world, they decided to take a subtler approach and offered the new feature to 6 days only. At the moment, it seems that the impact on revenue is minimal, but the 2V2 feature just opened again a few days ago for a whole month, so soon we’ll be able to see if this feature becomes permanent.

The writers are Product Managers at Playtika

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