Mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower recently revealed that mobile game developer Supercell’s game Clash Royale grossed more than $1 Billion in revenues in its first 12 months.
For all you noobs, here is a (overly theatrical) primer on Clash Royale :
But if you are one of the hundreds of millions of gamers who have played Clash Royale (and continue to be addicted beyond remedy), news of the game’s success is hardly surprising.
Games are often seen as a business characterized by that rare hit in a sea of misses.
But to trivialize Clash Royale’s blockbuster status as being equivalent to finding that lucky lottery ticket would be a huge mistake.
Having played Clash Royale for hundreds of hours over the last few months (At work, I have actually used the line, “I am playing this for a deep dive into the gaming space”), here is why I think Clash Royale makes for an excellent case study on designing a great product
Want to know what I dislike about most mobile games?
Most games take too long to load, and in many cases, a loading screening leads to…an advertisement that loads slowly.
With Clash Royale, you can start playing any game in less than 10 seconds from the time you tapped on the app’s icon.
Particularly impressive given that every game is you playing against a real-life human opponent from anywhere in the world.
Why is this so important ?
Because mobile users are a particularly impatient lot, with Kissmetrics finding that about a half of all users abandon a page that takes more than 10 seconds to load.
While consoles still remain my preferred option for a “complete” gaming experience, there is no matching Clash Royale for its ability to offer an instant fix.
Earlier this year, I had travelled to a relatively remote part of India. For all the promises made by Indian telecom operators, they hadn’t yet found a way to deliver either 4G or even a 3G network there.
Under the constraints of a rather slow mobile internet connection (Which,I presume, was 2G), I found it rather difficult to use either Facebook or LinkedIn.
In fact, during the entirety of my stay, other than the Google App, only two other apps which required an active connection were functional to a satisfactory degree.
The first was Whatsapp.
The other was Clash Royale.
To put this into perspective, I was playing live matches of a feature-rich game against opponents all over the world over a 2G internet connection.
All I could think of was, “What wizardry is this ?!”
Many in the startup ecosystem in India today talk about designing products for “Bharat”, the next 100–300 Million mobile internet users in our country.
Ironically, a Finnish gaming company might be the greatest showcase of this vision.
The other day, while waiting at the billing counter at a department store, I decided to play a quick game of Clash Royale.
(After all, it takes less than 10 seconds to start a new game.
Also, “I am playing this for a deep dive into the gaming space”)
As soon as Clash Royale’s opening jingle played, the cashier at the counter asks me,
“Clash of Clans khel rahe ho kya ?” (“Are you playing Clash of Clans ?”)
For those of you who don’t know, Clash of Clans was Supercell’s most popular game until Clash Royale stole that spot).
The cashier wasn’t really at fault though. The fact is that all of Supercell’s games have a similar underlying musical jingle with each game carrying its own distinctive theme.
How many brands could you recognize within the first second of their signature sound ?
Only a handful of companies/products have truly nailed the power of Sonic branding : Intel, Nokia, Apple and the Windows operating system come to mind.
Supercell seems to be heading in that direction.
As for the cashier, he gave me an interesting lecture on how he had tried Clash Royale, followed by a debate on why Clash of Clans was the better game.
Yes, that’s how us gamers roll.
Free and yet complete
So how much have I paid thus far for playing hundreds of hours of live-matches of Clash Royale ?
A grand total of Zero Rupees
During this time, I have never been served a single ad. The only prompts for in-app purchases came up when I desperately wanted to open a chest and did not have enough gems to speed things up.
Mobile game developers face a dichotomy that seemingly represents an existential dilemma : Their games need to be fun and enjoyable. They also need to make money.
How has Clash Royale (or Supercell) solved this dilemma? By exploiting the power of price discrimination.
I have never payed a rupee to play Clash Royale because I don’t mind losing a few games (OK I confess, I have been losing a lot of games since I reached Arena 7).
But by sticking around, I offer other players (Especially those paying up hundreds of dollars for gems and magic chests) the greatest experience in the world :
Utterly pwn other free-loading noobs like me
$1 Billion in revenues within the first year is clear evidence that enough players see value in that proposition.
Now, if you'll excuse me : I have to do a deep-dive into the gaming space.