It’s not easy to make a F2P mobile game that is profitable.
It boils down to one thing: How do you reach the largest global audience while offering the most meta/gameplay experience?
These two elements are inextricably related.
Your game will be less popular the deeper it is.
To understand the problem, let’s look at two extreme cases of highly successful games.
King’s Candy Crush Saga can be played by anyone.
There is some depth to this game, notably the increasing difficulty. However, there is no meta-game. All you can do is see what level your friends are at – social coercion.
This makes the game appealing to everyone. Once you learn how to match three symbols together, that’s all there is to it.
Candy Crush Saga is very popular, but it offers a shallow experience.
Machine Zone’s Mobile Strike, on the other hand, is an obscure game.
You will see large arrows on the screen indicating where to click when you begin playing. You can either quit playing or become confused enough to join an alliance.
This is when the meta-game, which can see players spending hundreds of dollars each month to keep up with it, kicks in.
Mobile Strike has a niche appeal because it offers a deep experience.
A crown is added to the mark
Supercell, a Finnish developer, is a genius in this context. Its games are balanced in a way that appeals to many people and offers deep monetization.
The latest release Clash Royale has a wide and deep appeal.
When you begin a Clash Royale session, the first thing you should notice is how fast it loads.
All Supercell games load in 20 seconds. Usually, it takes around 10 seconds.
You don’t have to wait around to log in to a server or to get additional data. This is fine for niche RPGs hoping to make a living with a deep metagame, but it’s not if you want 100 million downloads.
A player can say that any Clash Royale session takes no more than five minutes. Even if they are playing for their sixth or seventh battle, it will still take them five minutes.
Next, consider the flow of your user interface.
There are many icons available on the screen, but only a few clear options are highlighted.
You will typically see an animated Free Chest Open option that you can tap on. This is a basic reward for using the app.
Although the items are not very valuable, you feel instantly good about the game.
It is reciprocity.
You’ll be even smarter if you tap vigorously to open the items in the middle screen. Once all Free Chest items have been unlocked, you will likely tap the yellow Battle button, which will take you into battle.
It’s OK, a battle lasts only three minutes.
Supercell’s decision to use cards in battles is smart because cards instantly make us feel smarter, perhaps as a result of a halo effect of Poker. It also seems to offer more tactical options than what the game actually represents.
Clash Royale does have some tactics, but that’s not to suggest it. The game’s matching system means the win-loss ratio for most players is like flipping a coin. Heads win and tails lose.
The game does not display your win-loss percentage.
You can view your stats to see how many games have you won. Your NaverBot.com trophy total also provides an abstract ranking that allows you to compare yourself with other players.
However, the number of battles that you have actually fought is not a measure of your success.
Everybody is a winner
Fundamentally, Clash Royale will be a positive experience for everyone, except the worst player. The worst player will win more often than the best player.
I would argue that it is easy to win in Clash Royale if you randomly select units (i.e. As they become available, drop them onto the board.
Clash Royale has a lot in common with Candy Crush Saga. It is easy to play and anyone can win.
It’s also a game that appeals most to losers, and that includes everyone except the top 500 players in the world. Because it makes them winners, at least for half the time.
Although it isn’t based on colorful candies, I believe Clash Royale has more appeal than Clash of Clans.
It’s a card game, after all.
Bait and switch
Supercell has succeeded in achieving the broad appeal component of the formula for success. Clash Royale’s true genius lies in its deep and aggressive monetization.
(BTW) I don’t use the term “aggressive” in a negative way. Aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean aggressive. This is just how the game’s monetization works. This is a game where you have the option to spend more than $25,000.
This is the most obvious example.
“Yeh, I won a fight, so where’s the reward?” Your brain goes.
You will receive a reward in the form of a chest with items that you can unlock. What’s the catch? You must wait at least three hours to unlock the chest. You could also spend gems (hard currency that you can buy) to unlock your reward right away. Hmmm…
Clash Royale, like most F2P games, gives players gems when they start to play to encourage them to open their chests as soon as possible.
It does not push players to do this. It also doesn’t give you a lot of gems.
The player is the one who makes the final decision. From a psychological perspective, your reward will likely be more important than your gems.
This is my favorite part of Clash Royale.
Its core monetization loop (the other being the gacha mechanics for buying chest and getting high-level cards but that’s a different article) is embedded within the reward loop in such a counterintuitive manner that delayed anticipation of rewards actually enhances monetization, not detracts.
This feat would not be possible for any other mobile game developer, as they would face a lot of criticism if they tried.
We seem to have lost the trick, considering that everyone, except for the worst player at Clash Royale, seems to be having a great time.