Supercell Clash Royale : Monetization Strategy

This is my second post on Supercell’s latest famous game Clash Royale. In the first post I mainly described the depth of game design, its main components, screens design and matchmaking algorithm. In this part I am mainly figuring out what is the monetization strategy behind this game. The game has been among top 3 in grossing charts of AppStore and PlayStore since almost its launch, so what is making that happen?

Credits : http://clashroyale.com

First of all, lets define what is the motivation of a player behind playing this game, what does he want to achieve? I assume it would be to level up, to become a player of higher level. Levels are directly defined by the amount of XP you have, so the aim of game is to earn more XP. Which looks true, because everything you do in this game indirectly contributes to increase XP. You win the battle, that gives you trophies & chests, trophies opens up new arena, which unlocks new cards, you upgrade cards using contents of chests, which increases your XP, thus increases strength of your tower and you level up. The following table shows, how many XPs do you need to reach that level.

level-xp

The major & direct source of earning XP is upgrading cards (donating cards & achievements give negligible XPs). So it means, to level up you need to upgrade your cards. The requirement to upgrade your cards is more cards of same face and Gold Coins. Both these things are found in? Yeah! Chests. So we have hit the jackpot, Chests have the secret power hidden inside them that can help you reach the aim.

This is the list of highest rewards given by each kind of chest, I say highest because chests give amount of coins and cards depending upon the arena you are in. This table shows the rewards for highest arena player.

chests-coins-cards

Let us assume that you are an awesome player, it means

  • You are on the highest arena, so you receive highest reward from each chest.
  • You have already unlocked all cards.
  • You compromise with sleep and collect all 6 Free Chests everyday.
  • You play and win 10 crowns everyday to collect Crown Chest.
  • You are so lucky that cards receive from chests are always what you need, you never have to wait for right cards.

Out of first 240 chests, 180 are Silver, 54 are Gold, 3 are each Magical and Giant, Super Magical is rarely given to anyone. For the sake of simplification of daily average rewards, I will ignore the rewards of last 3 chests because they are so rare (Don’t feel cheated, I am already giving you maximum reward out of other 234 chests which accounts to lot more than 6 chests we ignored). An engaged player would be able to collect 4 Silver Chests and 1 Gold Chest daily. So, some maths now

  • Free Chest Rewards = 6 x ( 95 coins + 11 cards ) = 570 coins + 66 cards
  • Silver Chest Rewards = 4 x ( 75 coins + 11 cards ) = 300 coins + 44 cards
  • Gold Chest Reward = 1 x ( 245 coins + 38 cards ) = 245 coins + 38 cards
  • Crown Chest Reward = 1 x ( 645 coins + 76 cards ) = 645 coins + 76 cards
  • Total Chest Reward daily = 1760 coins + 224 cards

This table shows coins & duplicate cards required to upgrade a card and corresponding XP received on upgrading (Ah! Our aim)

level-coins-cards-xp

If you add up first 7 rows of the table you see that to upgrade a card to level 7 you need 1625 coins + 187 cards, in return you get 100 XP. So everyday you can upgrade one of your cards to level 7 and still have 135 coins + 37 cards left with you. Every 7th day you will have almost enough remaining that you can upgrade one more card to level 7, so you earn additional 100 XP every 7th day. That is the calculation we required. Remember our first table? XPs required to upgrade to a level? Now that we know a very lucky player can earn 100 XP daily and 200 XP every 7th day, how long will it take to reach respective levels.

The days required increase sharply after 8th level. It will take 14 days to upgrade all 16 Common cards to level 7. After that, upgrading cards become slower because of lack of resources. To upgrade a card to level 8 you need 2000 coins but you earn 1760 coins daily in luckiest case so you need to wait longer. This gap of coins required widens with further levels where you need 8k, 20k, 50k coins to upgrade single card, so upgradation becomes extremely slow and thus you don’t earn XP that quickly now. That’s why it would take lucky player around 5 years to reach highest level of the game.

Lets draw a graph of Coins required to upgrade, Cards required to upgrade, XP received on upgrade against Card levels. It is graphical representation of 3rd table of this blog above.

common-card-graph.png

Do you see how XP earned remains almost constant through out the upgrade but the demand of Coins required shoots up after 6th Level. It is thus almost impossible to upgrade cards after 6th level without buying the coins from store, this is where monetization wall hits users. You can earn 1000–2000 XP without paying real money by upgrading all your cards to level 6 using Chests rewards and become player of level 7 with those XP. But to move beyond it, either buy coins or slowly earn enough XP in several months/years.


Card Drop Rate : There are four categories of battle cards in game, Common, Rare, Epic, Legendary. They are named according to their rarity in game.

  • Rare is 10 times rarer than Common.
  • Epic is 200 times rarer than Common.
  • Legendary is 4000 times rarer than Common.

Our awesome player, who earns whooping 224 cards daily, may get 1 Epic + 22 Rare + 201 Common cards daily and 1 Legendary card every 20th day.

Arenas Analysis

After the tutorial arena, there are 7 more arenas for a player to upgrade into. Arena of a player is a factor of number of Trophies he has, as soon as he crosses the trophies threshold, he is upgraded to that arena. How do you earn trophies? By winning battles, which is the core part of this game. But if you lose a battle, you lose some trophies too. The resources a player earns from chests depend upon the arena he is in. Lets divide arenas into three categories, Lower (Tutorial, 1, 2), Middle (3, 4, 5), Top (6, 7), the Lower arenas are easy to cross and game rewards you enough that you can quickly jump.

Lets try to figure out how long it might take to build a competitive deck in Middle arenas. This is highly subjective, there is no official definition of a competitive deck. Winning a battle is largely a matter of skill and timing, if you strategize well you may defeat a strong opponent with a different deck. But for the sake of calculation, I will choose 13 cards that generally players have in their battle deck in Middle arenas.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 7.37.51 pm

For this deck to be competitive enough, cards need to be upgraded to decent level, say level 2 for Epic, level 4 for Rare, level 7 for Common. Lets calculate the resources required for this upgradation.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 5.36.16 pm

So to build a competitive deck comprising of those 13 cards, we need 12 Epic duplicates + 68 Rare duplicates + 935 Common duplicates + 12125 Coins. Now, if we take the average of rewards to know the resources given by each type of chests in Middle category arenas, this is what it looks like

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 5.50.41 pm

An engaged player collects 4 Silver, 6 Free, 1 Gold, 1 Crown chests, so he earns 6 Rares + 114 Commons + 848 Coins daily. Epic is not guaranteed but according to card drop rate we can assume 1 in every 200 cards is Epic. So lets assume an Epic card is rewarded every 2nd day.

User can collect 12 Epic in 24 days, 68 Rare in 12 days, 935 Common in 9 days, 12125 Coins in 15 days. Since all these events occur together, it will take user 24 days to build the deck. This calculation has a big assumption, user receives a necessary card everytime. In Middle Arenas, there are 10+ types of cards available for each of the card categories. If rewarded cards are uniformly distributed, the chances of receiving a card of your choice is 10% so the number of days to build that competitive deck will now take 240 days.

Lets do same calculation for Top Arenas, The competitive deck comprises of these 15 cards

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 5.42.23 pm

The resource calculation has been done by considering already upgraded cards in Middle Arenas. Player further needs 6 Epic + 225 Rare + 561 Common + 15675 coins. Chests rewards is higher in Top Arenas, average reward looks like this

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 5.51.46 pm.png

Engaged player gets 3 Epic in 2 days, 7 Rare daily, 155 Common daily, 1153 Coins daily. So it will take him 37 days when every rewarded card is of his choice. In Top Arenas there are 15+ types of cards unlocked for each card category, so uniformly distributed rewards system will make him wait for 555 days before building competitive deck.


Sustainable Economy

The core game is to fight battles, win trophies & unlock new arenas. But complementary meta-game is building battle deck. The economy is highly interdependent. Win more battles to earn more trophies, move to higher arenas to unlock more cards, upgrade cards from rewards to strengthen existing cards and battle again to win more games.

The meta game keeps the users engaged, because it has no specific goal. It is a quest to build balanced deck for next battle. As the user goes up in the arenas, he has to upgrade cards to make them powerful to beat strong players otherwise he loses further battles so meta game becomes as important as core game.

Game does a good job of keeping users count in a limit on specific arena levels. The trophies won or lost after a battle depends upon the strength of opponent. Defeating a weaker player gives less trophies compared to defeating a stronger player than you. Similarly, losing to a weaker player subtracts more trophies from your count while losing to a stronger player subtracts less trophies. I do not know for sure, but battles are a great way to create sink. Trophies are said to be transferred from loser to winner, but we do not know for sure if exact number of trophies are transferred or game eats 1–2 trophies (as rake?) and transfers the remaining to winner, that is just suspicion.

There is one more very interesting strategy that game uses to keep users on arenas for a longer time. When you win a battle, you are matched to a slightly stronger player in next battle. Chances are you may lose to that player, but if you don’t, you are matched to even stronger player in next battle. This continues unless you lose a battle, after that you are matched to a player who is less stronger than you are. This matching keeps the player oscillated between the stronger and weaker players. In order to progress to higher arena, player has to defeat stronger players often, only then he can accumulate trophies. To defeat stronger players, you need cards of higher levels (requires card upgrade) and strong tower strength (requires XP which are earned from card upgrades). This data is from my 25 consecutive battles that I noted 2 weeks ago,

myprogress

You see how I was matched with opponents for next battle when I lost or won current battle, this is exactly what I was talking about. Notice other pattern of oscillation? I slowly earned 114 trophies in 9 battles, and then lost 7 battles (I had almost won two of them but lost at the very last second) to go down in trophies collection and then further started to win to go up. This oscillation, all credits to the matchmaking, keeps the user in arenas for longer time unless he has strong cards & skills enough to beat stronger opponents.

But what happens if you are unable to win many battles so you don’t have chests to upgrade your cards, are you forced to buy? Actually, no. A player without doing nothing can collect 6 Free chests everyday, which are slightly more rewarding than Silver chests and if you can defend 10 towers (it should take 5–7 battles), you get a Crown chest which are more rewarding than Golden chests. This keeps the game going for many users who are still struggling on lower arenas.