Supercell, the Finnish company behind top-grossing iOS title Clash of Clans is currently making over $4 million a day according to the latest Facebook developer conference which took place in London few weeks ago. That’s a really nice amount of money if you consider that Supercell has two live games on the market right now, both of them only available on Apple’s platform.
One might call it a luck, however an observing individual can clearly see there is a lot of hard work behind their games. Especially when you look at Clash of Clans, which is sitting in top grossing lists (both for iPad and iPhone) for over 6 months, one may ask a question what alchemy is behind this successful monetization. Well, there are for sure certain patterns which make this game so compelling that people’s credit cards are jumping outside their wallets.
Well… surprise! Everything is about game design and game design is everything – it includes not only game mechanics itself, but also monetization, social aspects, competition, etc. Supercell did a great job by reverse engineering various casual building games and mid-core strategies, whilst pointing out the most appealing aspects from successful games as Backyard Monsters or Travian.
Every single detail in the game is designed towards monetization. Whether it’s a tutorial, repetitive payments, regular unit training or building your base, there is still a place for spending your money. However, Supercell is doing a great job by keeping their monetization under the pushy line, so game is also playable for the majority of people who won’t pay… they just need to wait more. Basically, there are two monetization methods – you can either speed-up your game progress or buy one of two soft currencies if you have insufficient funds.
Optimised for the first purchase and whales
During the tutorial, you are literally flooded by a huge amount of free gems (in-game premium currency that can be bought for real money) and what’s more important, you are willing to spend them because everything is so cheap. Speed-up costs few gems and you can even buy gold or elixir (two soft-currencies which can be mined) so cheap that you don’t even think about it. However, in later stage of your gameplay, costs are increasing and since your psychology about gems is already formed, there is a little barrier between you and the very first purchase.
Another strong aspect for monetization is a competitive level of gameplay which creates whales, people spending really big money. This is encoded deeply in human nature and if you want to be the best, you are willing to put your hand deep into your pocket. In fact, competitive gameplay supported by wide range of spending opportunities creates almost ‘natural’ environment for whales. I don’t know how much money can an average whale in CoC spend, but just for your picture – in one of our games we have a player who already put over $20 000 in it. And it’s not even a competitive game. So imagine.
The third very well-known psychological trick is based on price representation. You only see a price in real-world currency when you are going to buy gems. Everything else in game is then paid with gems. Just think for yourself – would you be more willing to speed-up that virtual imaginary building for $10 or for 800 virtual gems? When by the way you already know how natural does it feel to use them, because you were doing it whole tutorial. Those green little sneaky bastards…
There are two more little things you can notice about gems. A new player always sees a small pack of virtual currency first – because it’s cheap. Smaller price won’t scare him and in addition, it helps to undergo the first purchase barrier. The second one is amount of gems that can be bought. Packs with bigger numbers like 2500, 6500 or 14000 gems are much more appealing and ‘worthy’ than let’s say 250, 650 or 1400 gems.
Device optimisation – tablet is king
Even though Clash of Clans works on iPad and iPhone very well, anyone who played it on both of these devices must admit that tablet is king of user experience in this case. Supercell’s strategy from the very beginning was to shoot for tablets and it worked out great.
Reason behind this is however not only a gaming experience itself, but the purpose of a tablet in current society. Whilst iPhone is mostly a phone and working device, iPad still remains as a tool for entertainment. Laying on sofa and getting picked up every evening by family members, it is strongly perceived as the fun device. This means that majority of Clash of Clans players are fully focused during their gaming sessions. And also more willing to spend a penny or two.
Target group, marketing and retention
It is also well known that Supercell is targeting their campaigns on prospective payers. In other words, they are literally trying to buy rich people as businessmen or managers into their games. There are even special events in Helsinki for their dedicated players. In addition, paying users are getting a special care so they can feel even more special.
Another thing one need to admit is that Clash of Clans has really great campaigns and visuals. And what’s more important, they are continuously running their advertising over various mobile games sites and platforms as Chartboost, Facebook and many more. Supercell knows that modern game is more a service than a finished product. So they keep updating and buying new users. And man, do they catch you with really awesome and funny ads!
Let’s say you have player’s attention and maybe he even did his first payment. Now it’s time to keep him engaged with your game. Clash of Clans is doing a great job with push notifications. User is notified about every possible action that allows you to start another session and spend some money – whether it’s finished building, trained troops or attack on your city.
At the end of the day, combination of high retention, continuous user acquisition and great monetization strategy allows sustainable flow of players converting to payers. How does this Supercell’s strategy fit with your game design and marketing?