Clash of Clans, the art of becoming a blockbuster … and a cash machine

by bold-lichterman

What is the game mainly played on mobile that, potentially, will bring in 2 billion dollars in revenue in 2015 to its creators?

With a 130% growth in turnover in 2014, to 1.55 billion euros (compared to 519 million in 2013), SuperCell, the publisher of mobile and web games Clash of clans, is on the way to achieving this feat. For sector specialists, the Viking madness will not stop there. Is it the awakening of barbaric and good-natured instinct that alone generates these results? Launched in August 2012, the game is based on an offensive sales strategy and, above all, on a skilful mastery of time in the player’s game.

The designers of SuperCell have, in fact, succeeded in their bet: maintain the addiction, – by using the recipes used by other essentials (such as Candy Crush Saga, Puzzle & Dragons, Angry Birds), and regularly distill moments of satisfaction for the player.

And this, while the rules are particularly simple: it is about building a village and going to attack those of others. Only, to progress, you have to spend hours there. Suddenly, to maintain motivation, the player is rewarded, makes important decisions, or “learns the value of perseverance” …, say the practitioners.

A turnover based on the impatience of the players

Obviously, this slowness comes at a price; it is the formula of “free-to-play“. To advance more quickly in the game, you can for example acquire gems in order to purchase additional equipment. These can be obtained against hits, or bought for euros via iTunes or Google Play. Buying between 1 and 500 gems costs 4.99 euros, between 501 and 1200 costs 9.99 euros, and so on up to 14,000 gems for 99.99 euros.

Clash of clans is therefore above all an income generating machine. With Candy Crush Saga and Puzzle & Dragons, the three games generated $ 4.3 billion in revenue in 2014 alone, according to Superdata. To the point of seriously attracting investors. A subsidiary of the Japanese telecommunications group SoftBank – game publisher GungHo Online Entertainment-, holds 73.2% of the capital of SuperCell, following a new investment of 1.5 billion dollars. Suffice to say that the Japanese are not only there for a story of fortified virtual villages, but because the formula is replicable, and profitable.

Commercial success based on less than 5% of paying users

The fact remains that, in order to function and generate billions, the free-to-play must be based on a very broad user base, as the vast majority of Clash of clans does not pay.

“For a hundred free players, around 5-10% become paid players and between 2 and 5% regularly. It is on these few percentages that the entire economy of mobile video games is created ”, explains Julien Villedieu, general delegate of national video games union (SNJV). And adds: “The lifespan of these games is determined by the company’s commitment to keep it alive. It is about creating a virtuous circle: the more the company invests the more players it acquires and vice versa ”.

So it takes a lot of followers of the game to turn it into blockbuster profitable. For this it’s all about marketing tips and massive visibility both on social networks, but also on television, on which Supercell beats each month with new films, which feature the characters of the game. 12.8 million “ I love On Facebook, the game has succeeded in recommending and sharing.

For the 2015 SuperBowl, the most expensive advertising showcase in the world, Supercell spent $ 9 million to spend her spot with movie star Liam Neeson.

To “guide” creatives and developers, the marketing department is also responsible for collecting as much information as possible on player behavior. Supercell even employs data analysts to do the job.

Another key to success, a permanent investment to develop the exploitation of the game, a marketing budget that far exceeds that of production. SuperCell is careful not to reveal the exact distribution of its expenses within the framework of Clash of clans.

The Finnish publisher applies this model to other massively multi-player games: Hay day, launched in 2012, and Boom Beach, launched in 2014. The free-to-play also inspires the French, like the Pretty Simple company in its game Criminal case and from Montpellier from Scimob in the game 94 seconds.

Creation: June 2010

The head office : Helsinki, Finland (+ offices in San Francisco, Seoul and Tokyo).

Market : video games

Manager: Ilkka Paananen

2014 turnover: 1.55 billion euros