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Opinion: I've played Clash of Clans more than any other game, but now it's time to log off

Opinion: I've played Clash of Clans more than any other game, but now it's time to log off
As with everything in life, there are beginnings and there are endings.

Some can be excited and unexpected, while others are best when planned and measured.

That's what I'm thinking a year on from when I first started playing Supercell's Clash of Clans.

At the time, I didn't know much about the game, and certainly during the Canada-only beta in August 2012, no one expected it to have the commercial and cultural impact it's since generated as one of the most played and profitable games in history.

Equally, on a personal level, I've never spent so long playing a game, or indeed, spent so much money in a game.

Slippery slope

So let's get the money bit out of the way.

As with many players, my first purchase in Clash of Clans was the 3,000 gems required to buy an additional builder: a hard gate designed into the game during the early stages (around one month in for me) when you have a relative large amount of resources but are restricted by your lack of builders in terms of how quickly you can spend them.

In total, though, I've spent over $70, buying currency to speed up buildings and buy defences that provided significant new features.

Yet, as must be the case with such resource-based games, there’s only ever a brief plateau of satisfaction before another new unit or building update makes itself known to our envious brain.

This is most clearly seen in the update cycle surrounding your town hall, which is the core building that controls the levelling up process for your key resources - notably gold and elixir mining.



It's the most expensive building to level up, but once you've completed this, all that's happened is you've opened another layer of increasingly expensive upgrades, which quickly overwhelm the higher capacity resource production you've also unlocked.

Infrastructure costs

Of course, the city-building aspect of Clash of Clans is not the game itself.

It's merely the foundation on which you build your armies, either to play the single-player (effectively the practice) mode, or attack other players for resources and ranking; an element most fully experienced in the game's Clans mode.

To be honest, though, this was something I never found very exciting; preferring instead to act as a supplier of troops for the other players in my clan.


My base - not too good, not too bad

Not that I got much praise for it. The most 'exciting' thing that happened in terms of my clan-play in Clash of Clans was when some (no doubt) snotty-nosed imp kicked me out of the clan for not playing enough.

The very cheek of it!

Calculated swansong

So, even though I joined another clan, from that point on, my enthusiasm for the game was waning.

After a year of fairly regular play (at least once every couple of days), I was at the stage when any upgrade took days to complete.

Also, it was now almost impossible to organically collect enough resources to upgrade a building as, in the meantime, someone would attack my base and steal most of them; hence the only upgrade option available being to buy gems.



So, being of the analytic persuasion, I worked out how much it would 'cost' to upgrade everything in my base to its next level.

In in-game currency terms, the answers was 103.7 million gold, 45.65 million elixir and 10,000 dark elixir.

In hard currency terms that's 49,225 gems, which converts to $351.57; despite my relatively advanced in-game level, for me that was a surprisingly large number.

Learnings

Yet, time and money has not been wasted.

As a journalist, it's become clear to me that in order to have an informed opinion on free-to-play games, you have to spend time and money actually playing them.

Indeed, one of my most important conclusions from p(l)aying Clash of Clans is that any journalist worth their salt should not be expensing back their in-app purchases (or receiving free currency from the developer) as it totally destroys your perception of the value of virtual goods - the key aspect of the F2P business model.

It's also important to play some of these games for long periods of time to see how your motivations to play and pay rise and fall over the months. And, of course, to experience how developers update their games with new content and time-dependent offers to keep their long term audience interested.

So, in that context, will I be deleting Clash of Clans from my iPad?

Not quite. It's going into a new folder called 'Games I Used to Play'. I might dip back into it every so often, but my attention is demanded elsewhere.

The folder marked 'To Play' is now filled to bursting. 




Upgrade breakdownWalls: 215, of which 89 need 200,000 gold each to upgrade to level 7, while 126 need 500,000 gold each to upgrade to level 8

Cannon: 5, of which 3 need 800,000 gold each to upgrade to level 9, while 2 need 1.6 million gold each to upgrade to level 10

Archer Tower: 5, of which 2 need 720,000 gold each to upgrade to level 8, and 3 need 1.5 million each to upgrade to level 9

Town Hall: 3 million gold required for upgrade to level 9

Army Camp: 4, which need 2.25 million elixir each to upgrade to level 7

Wizard Tower: 2, which need 1.5 million gold each to upgrade to level 8

Mortar: 3, of which 2 need 800,000 gold to upgrade to level 5, while 1 needs 1.6 million gold to upgrade to level 6

Air Defense: 2, which need 1.08 million gold each to upgrade to level 5

Barracks: 4, of which 3 need 1.5 million elixir each to upgrade to level 9, while 1 needs 2 million elixir to upgrade to level 10

Dark Barracks: 2, which need 1.25 million elixir each to upgrade to level 2

Dark Elixir Drill: 1, which needs 1.5 milion elixir to upgrade to level 1

Dark Elixir Storage: 1, which needs 1.8 million elixir to upgrade to level 3

Spell Factory: 1, which need 1.6 million elixir to upgrade to level 4

Laboratory: 1, which need 2.5 million elixir to upgrade to level 7, plus 20.25 million elixir and 10,000 dark elixir required to upgrade units to their next level

plus 6 Elixir Collectors, 6 Elixir Storage units, 6 Gold Mines: and 3 Gold Storage units which currently don't require upgrading.




editor-at-large

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.

Comments

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fox trapper
good writeup! I may add though, that the most precious resource that is spent by pursuing CoC is time. I know, many regard it as not that significant - afew minutes here, a few there - but things start to add up considerably. especially, if you include the time when the game distracts you from other aspects of your life - you often start thinking - hm - time to do some more upgrades here, produce that resource now, check whether a builder is about to finish his job, getting up at night to start another building/upgrade etc.
I have only started the game but already I may stop it early in its tracks as I clearly see the threat of lots of precious time being consumed by the game. It's funny, no doubt. But is it really worth that much of effort and time?
Chris Fed
Hahaha, I know the feeling. Great write-up.

I did the same thing, $110. I started a new game to blog about it, wasn't going to spend anything, and just spent $30 to pick up the builders. Not spending anything else though and I'm just blogging about my adventures.

Congrats on stopping, afraid I've still got the fever!

Check it out - http://www.365daysofclash.com
Fraser Ross MacInnes Product/Design Director at Danke Games
Awesome article. But one thing I noticed was that you complained of falling victim to resource leak from raids. Surely that's merely an incentive to experiment with defensive base design? For me, my trophy count was acquired more through those awarded to me for successfully defending than for successfully raiding - which also reduced how much resource I lost between play sessions. I did get stuck in the 2 steps forward 1 step back pattern you describe but after studying some other bases, I was able to identify and fix the right weak points to tip the balance. Even so, I have now long since stopped playing after about 8 months of playing pretty intensively. In response to John Ozimek's question, I don't know if this is helpful, but I did read a couple of month's back that the top 2-3 players in the game tend to spend about 3000+ total to get to the base level they are at - I can well believe that. They have more patience and cash than I do - I think CoC's biggest sin is that it's an infinite hamster wheel - there is no grand over arching goal aside from self directed ones (i.e. I need to get to the top of my clan etc.)
Darius Tan
Very cool write up Jon. I've stayed away from CoC because I'm aware of my addictive personality.
John Ozimek director
Superb analysis Jon - it would be interesting to know whether, based on the ARPPU model of CoC, your $70+ spend ranks you as a significant spender. Many of the F2P games I have looked at or work with assume a much lower ARPPU, so certainly CoC seems to get a lot more money out of gamers. Personally, I have not played it as I have been wary of the amount of people telling me its F2P mechanics are very aggressive - and effective.
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