CLASH OF CLANS

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Just over three years old, Clash of Clans rakes in more than $5M 1 2 3 each day and consistently charts in the đứng đầu three grossing apps4. It’s the app that new trò chơi developers look lớn for inspiration.

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However, the future didn’t always look so bright for the game’s creator, Supercell. In mid-2011 the year-old company realized their web- và Facebook-first strategy would never generate the hit trò chơi they needed 5 (this was late in the Facebook game fad), so they quickly shifted lớn a tablet-first strategy và killed all their old games6. At the time, smartphones - and particularly tablets - were an unproven market, but their daring strategy worked out.

By mid-2012, Supercell had launched one tablet game và killed two, but they were getting closer to lớn the goal. Success finally came in May 2012 when the newly launched Hay Day quickly proved lớn be a hit. Following close on its heels, Clash launched in August 2012 & became the #1 đứng đầu grossing game in the US within 3 short months7.

So how did they do it? After building half a dozen failed games, how did Supercell uncover such success with Clash (and Hay Day)?

It all starts with the most basic game design.

Start with a strong chip core loop

After you strip away all the frills and extras in a game, you’re left with the vi xử lý core loop. It’s the foundation of the game. In Pac-Man the vi xử lý core loop is: (1) Avoid ghosts (2) Eat dots (3) Complete maze (and then repeat)8.

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Clash of Clans’ bộ vi xử lý core loop is actually pretty simple9. Everything revolves around harvesting resources: gold, elixir, and (later in the game) dark elixir. Using those resources, users can either build or battle before repeating the cycle. In the process, players steadily improve their “base” by upgrading various buildings (town hall, archery tower, gold mine, etc) and improve their rankings by winning trophies in battles with other players10.

Throughout this process, everything is interconnected. If you want a level 3 mortar, you need a màn chơi 5 town hall11. If you want a màn chơi 5 town hall, you need 150k gold12. If you want 150k gold, you need a cấp độ 6 and a cấp độ 7 gold storage unit13. This cấp độ of interdependence between game elements keeps the trò chơi exciting and gives users a long lifetime.

The brilliant success of Clash of Clans started in these structural, almost boring kiến thiết choices. Nothing here was particularly new (_Backyard Monsters_ was a remarkably similar predecessor from a different company), but new isn’t always better or even necessary. The Clash team crafted a game kiến thiết skeleton that was already proven lớn work và then they executed better on it than anyone else.

Growth Principle #1: Success is more about execution than ideation. Don’t feel the need khổng lồ fix what isn’t broken. (tweet this)

Improve constantly

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After completing the initial version of Clash, Supercell invested hundreds of employee hours simply playing their own game14. This soft “launch” (often called dogfooding) presented a low-risk opportunity khổng lồ uncover potential problems.15 Once they had learned enough from their internal launch, Clash moved to it’s first country launch.

Instead of just going live worldwide or even within one of the larger markets, Clash launched khổng lồ a smaller market where initial failure would be less risky. Since the initial target audience for Clash was the United States, they chose khổng lồ launch first in Canada where they could reach a similar but smaller audience.16

Even today with all launches successfully completed, Clash continues khổng lồ constantly test và iterate. Every few weeks, they create new trò chơi components designed lớn keep their đứng đầu players engaged, và they keep an automated simulation running to make sure the trò chơi remains balanced despite new or modified soldier types.17

Growth Principle #2: Constantly seek to lớn give your users a better product. (tweet this)

Look for không tính phí marketing

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App acquisition costs run high, particularly in the competitive world of gaming apps. Today, Clash is a proven powerhouse that can spend lots on acquisition because revenues are high, but money wasn’t quite as plentiful at the beginning. When Clash first launched, Supercell wisely focused on miễn phí marketing.

One free marketing tactic that drove a lot of downloads was getting featured within the tiện ích stores. Landing a featured placement in something lượt thích the iOS ứng dụng Store is based on editorial decisions by a team at Apple. Getting in can be challenging, but it’s completely không lấy phí and often very effective. By continually improving their tiện ích to be cutting edge, Clash made sure they were frequently ready when Apple’s editorial team wanted to lớn highlight some new iPhone feature like retina screens18.

Similarly, when Clash expanded lớn Asia in 2013, they sought out cross-promotional partnerships with companies lượt thích GungHo Entertainment19. Much lượt thích the joint ventures popular in the affiliate marketing world20 (where two people swap ads to lớn reach new audiences), these sorts of đơn hàng are often free (because you’re trading something that isn’t money). Before you spend money, look for possible symbiotic relationships with others in the market.

Xem thêm: Cách Làm Khổ Qua Không Đắng, 6 Cách Loại Bỏ Vị Đắng Của Khổ Qua Cực Dễ Khó Ngờ

Growth Principle #3: Paid marketing scales easily, but don’t underestimate the power nguồn of free. (tweet this)

Use paid sale strategically

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As their cash flow grew, Clash did begin investing quite heavily in paid media (some speculate as much as $1M per day)21. However, they still avoided the “spray và pray” approach of just spending in every direction; even with massive revenues, Clash wisely focused on just attracting people who will likely become deeply engaged22 (what are known as “whales”)23. & they tested everything.

The most targeted ads run through platforms like Facebook where Clash can specifically filter their audience to people who are within the target age, income level, and who show interest in games. Often even more profitably, remarketing ads can be served to lớn former users who haven’t been active for a certain period of time.

In addition khổng lồ targeted online advertising though, Clash also has invested in more traditional formats lượt thích subway ads & even a popular Superbowl ad. Given the lack of direct tracking around these offline formats, it’s harder to lớn measure exactly when the economics become favorable, but they could well be ROI positive given the sheer form size of Clash’s target audience.

Growth Principle #4: Look for ROI positive opportunities for paid media that others might be ignoring. (tweet this)

Make onboarding seamless

In the AARRR cycle of growth metrics, the đứng đầu of funnel metrics have a more immediate impact và thus deserve earlier focus from companies. (If you can’t acquire users, you don’t even need to think about retaining them.) One of the trickiest đứng đầu of funnel steps is onboarding. Once you’ve convinced a user to tải về your tiện ích or start a trial, your sản phẩm has one chance khổng lồ make a first impression that will convince the user khổng lồ fully activate and come back in the future.

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Clash is a complicated trò chơi with a lot of moving parts for new gamers lớn learn. This could be a problem if they didn’t work so hard lớn make the onboarding flow smooth and easy. When a new user joins the game, they’re immediately sent into a tutorial. However, unlike some of the “swipe right for page two” tutorials that just tell you stuff, the Clash tutorial actually talks you through your first building, first army, và first battle. I will never understand why so many apps still use boring interstitials for onboarding (I always skip them) rather than building an interactive flow.

Beyond explaining things clearly, the Clash tutorial also simply avoids many of the more complicated trò chơi aspects that aren’t needed yet24. As a beginning player still trying lớn figure out how khổng lồ train troops, you don’t need lớn worry about joining a clan yet. So instead of handing new users a textbook on day one, they sprinkle the more complex concepts throughout the trò chơi play. Somewhere around day seven, you’ll notice the broken down castle near your property, & on reaching cấp độ 3 townhall25 you’ll be able khổng lồ rebuild that castle to join a clan. By teaching you what you need when you need it, Clash makes the initial tutorial shorter and keeps users engaged longer by continually unveiling new gameplay26.

Growth Principle #5: A good onboarding flow should teach what users need for day one. No less; no more. (tweet this)

Make daily engagement vi xử lý core to your product

Once they’ve activated users through the immersive tutorial, Clash uses more than a few well designed habit loops to bring people back. In Hooked, Nir Eyal describes these habit loops as (1) trigger, (2) action, (3) reward, (4) investment27. The trigger gets a user’s attention with something external (a notification) or internal (an in-product prompt). The kích hoạt is immediate (clicking the notification or following the in-product prompt). The reward should be variable (attacking another player in Clash isn’t guaranteed to result in a win). Và the investment is an action with no immediate reward (like training more troops or building a better town hall).

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Clash relies heavily on notifications to bring users back initially (“your building is finished” or “your troops are trained”)28, but as you become more engaged the trigger becomes more intrinsic29. Supplies (gold and elixir) must be “harvested” to lớn central storage or else the harvesting machines will overflow và stop collecting more. Other players can only attack when you’re offline, so if you’re saving up supplies for a large purchase you’ll want khổng lồ log in often lớn keep other players at bay30.

Once users are in the game, Clash encourages specific actions (mostly khổng lồ attack other players), and the rewards are naturally variable (sometimes you win; sometimes you lose). And on the investment side, Clash provides a nearly endless runway khổng lồ continually upgrade and showroom on to your trang chủ base.

All of this culminates in an average of 12 sessions per day per user across ClashHayday & millions of daily battles between users on Clash31.

Growth Principle #6: Good engagement radiates from the product’s core; it’s not a layer you can wrap around the outside. (tweet this)

Build everything with revenue in mind

Like Vegas casinos, Clash makes most of it’s money off whales - players who are willing to lớn spend large amounts of money on the game. The majority of users only spend the occasional Washington32 33, but some of the highest spenders can drop up to $12k34. To lớn develop these whales early & often, Clash weaves incentives & prompts throughout the entire fabric of the game.

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1. Introducing the concept. When you’ve first downloaded the game, you will have 500 gems (in-game currency)35. During the tutorial, you will be told khổng lồ spend some of these gems to lớn speed up building or troop training. As you leave the tutorial, you now feel like gems are a natural part of the game.36

2. Building the habit. Moving into actual trò chơi play, you quickly run out of gems, but if you’re like me you’re probably not ready lớn buy anything yet. After less than an hour of play, I’m still figuring out whether I lượt thích the game - definitely not ready khổng lồ invest anything yet. Clash knows this, so they sprinkle a few miễn phí gems literally in the bushes on your settlement. As you clean up the scattered stumps và bushes, you’ll occasionally uncover không lấy phí gems.37 Of course, this helps build the habit of using gems to lớn speed up the game.

3. Prompting purchase. The entire game can be played without any use of gems, and the upsells khổng lồ buy gems aren’t even all that annoying. Everything is user triggered: If I vì nothing, I won’t see any prompts to buy gems, but if I train troops, I’ll see a little reminder that I can spend x gems to lớn finish now. If I try khổng lồ build my archer tower while all my builders are busy, I’ll see a gentle prompt khổng lồ spend x gems khổng lồ finish a building and không lấy phí up a builder for my next project. If you don’t have gems, clicking to spend gems will load a prompt to lớn buy gems - which can be done in moments through in-app payments.38

Gems are not money. We hate spending money (at least I do). If Clash asked me lớn spend $10 khổng lồ speed up building, I’d feel far too guilty to agree, but if I have the option lớn spend 800 gems to speed up building I could very well go for it. As humans, we have a lot of feelings & emotions around money, but if you just provide a small separation between actual money and in-game currency we feel much better about spending it.39

Growth Principle #7: Revenue must not be an afterthought; make it bộ vi xử lý core to your sản phẩm design. (tweet this)

Looking forward

With three years of chart topping success, Clash has already outperformed and outlived most mobile games (see Flappy Bird or Trivia Crack which both lasted for about two months). With frequent updates & solid sale strategy, they have managed lớn attract & keep a steady stream of users.

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Over the years to lớn come, Supercell will have a choice to lớn make. Lượt thích most of the gaming industry, they can build different games with the hope of attaining similar success. Or they can continue heavily sale Clash by reengaging former users like myself once the stream of brand new users slows. From the look of it, they seem khổng lồ be trying both options.

Way back in the early days, Supercell’s CEO pointed to Rovio, the maker of Angry Birds, as a source of inspiration40. Today, Supercell must prove that the student can excel the teacher. After years of brilliant success, Rovio’s operating profit dropped 73% last year41 as they have struggled to either maintain the glory days of Angry Birds or create similarly successful games.42

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