Interview

Five years on: Supercell on the evolution of Clash of Clans

Five years on: Supercell on the evolution of Clash of Clans

Supercell was only founded in 2010, but since then it's made quite the impact on the mobile games industry.

So much of one in fact that it's been acquired twice in multi-billion dollar deals, the second time by Tencent for $8.6 billion.

One of its biggest successes, and one of the most successful mobile games of all time, is Clash of Clans, which celebrates its fifth anniversary today (August 2nd 2017).

A lot has changed about the game in that time. But one thing remains constant: It's still being played by millions of avid fans the world over.

To find out how Supercell runs such a signifcant game and how it has kept those users coming back over such a long period of time, PocketGamer.biz caught up with Clash of Clans Senior Server Engineer Jonas Collaros to get the lowdown on the title's life so far.

PocketGamer.biz: With Clash of Clans now five years old, how do you reflect on its performance - from launch to the mature title it is now?

Jonas Collaros: One of the most surreal things about working on a game like Clash of Clans for five years is that, despite all that has happened and how much of a cultural phenomenon the game has become, we're still fundamentally developing it the same way.

We are still a group of roughly 10 to 15 passionate developers, all sitting in the same corner of an office in Helsinki, trying to do what we can to make Clash of Clans the best game it can possibly be.

We're proud to see Clash of Clans still going strong after five years, though the team strongly thinks there are still many more to come.
Jonas Collaros

Of course, the game has been very successful and we owe that to our players. Clash players are some of the most dedicated and passionate in the industry. We're proud to see Clash of Clans still going strong after five years, though the team strongly thinks there are still many more to come.

How big is the team currently handling live ops on Clash of Clans?

The game team itself is still working to integrate live ops in a smart and renewable way. This means that we have been directly involved with developing our live ops tools, as well as the planning and scheduling of events.

Every game is different, so we're trying to find what approach to live ops works best for us, but we would like to open that control to other community leads later to help spur on more events with more local relevance.

How important do you consider customer support and updates to be? How have significant updates, such as the recent Builder Base update, been responded to by players?

We consider customer support to be incredibly important. Supercell's customer support infrastructure is the most expansive and intricate in the company. This is especially the case with games that are never done like Clash of Clans. Updates are the life-blood that sustains these games in the long-term.

Altogether, the response to Builder Base has been fantastic, and these support channels are invaluable to ensure we can find all major bugs and issues. That said, we typically look more to our community channels to engage player feedback about content and gameplay.

What steps have you taken to ensure that Clash of Clans maintains a sizeable and active player base all this time after its launch?

We must maintain a big-picture perspective, but also a nuts-and-bolts understanding of how all of our game works.
Jonas Collaros

Our approach to this is what it's been from day one: try to make Clash of Clans the best game we can. In our industry, it can be sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that, for our players, the bottom line is a fun, quality game experience that they can play day after day for years.

Of course we can - and do - leverage analytics, coordinate marketing efforts and use tools like live ops to help us understand our game and reach our players better, but nothing will ever substitute continuing to deliver great game experiences that our players love.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is a softball answer, either - this is, by far, the hardest job we have. It involves playing and immersing in our own game every day, relentlessly taking in and following up on player feedback, engaging personally with community influencers and top players.

We must maintain a big-picture perspective, but also a nuts-and-bolts understanding of how all of our game works, how all of our players feel, what they want, and what the game needs the most. Everything else is a toolset to help achieve this goal.

To what do you attribute Clash of Clans' consistently impressive grossing performance and how do you sustain it?

Develop for universal appeal and approachability, constantly update to keep players engaged, involve our community to keep it as expansive and alive as possible, and keep delivering things they want and love.

Any KPIs such as downloads, DAU or retention you’re willing to share?

We typically are a bit tight-lipped about our KPI's. We want to be judged on game quality first - that's how our players make their decisions, after all.

We've seen some of our highest daily active user figures ever just this year.
Jonas Collaros

That said, it is noteworthy that we've seen some of our highest daily active user figures ever just this year. Also, roughly 90% of our active players have played the new Builder Base mode. That is a figure we're very proud of as it shows how eager our players are to see Clash of Clans continue to grow in new directions.

What lessons have you learned/are you still learning from Clash of Clans? Is there anything about the game that, in hindsight, you'd now handle differently?

A big and ongoing effort for us has been to improve communication between the development team and players.

We try to keep player engagement at the forefront during development. We want players to enjoy our games as much as we enjoy the creation process; however, we have learned to be more open with our communication regarding game changes.

Finally, how has your experience with Clash of Clans informed where you are/what you're working on now?

Working on Clash of Clans is both a humbling and insightful experience. You learn how much a game lives and breathes outside of the walls where it is developed. You learn how differently you have to approach developing a single game that you want people to play for five years, 10 years, or longer.

Also, the magic of a hit game becomes a bit demystified as, time and time again, it simply comes down to developing the best game possible and hoping it strikes a chord with as many people as possible.

Some of that is in your control, a lot of it is out of your control, and you have to learn how to just make the soundest, smartest decisions you can and hope for the best.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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