Comment & Opinion

Why the App Store doesn't need any more Clash of Clans clones

Why the App Store doesn't need any more Clash of Clans clones

It wasn't so many months ago that all mobile developers were talking about was going "midcore".

Thanks to the success of Clash of Clans, the argument was that a new audience - tens of millions strong - had been created, who wanted a new form of gaming.

They weren't going to play (or at least pay) for Candy Crush Saga, not did they want to engage in heavyduty guild action a la Game of War.

Yet, no-one was really able to define what midcore actually meant.

Maybe that's why all mobile developers are talking about is going hardcore.

Strangely, however, no matter what label is used, all the games look remarkably similar.

Break the mould

The reason seems to be that in a market where the top grossing charts are largely dominated by the same old faces, developers aren't taking on the mobile giants head-on, but trying to steal their audiences with me-too products.

Unity CEO John Riccitiello recently commented on this absurd state of play in which “95-98 percent of the games being built today are in fact subscribing to the same design conventions,” and it's a point worth considering.

While playing Gameloft's Siegefall for my IAP Inspector column, I was struck by just how identical it is to the subject of my last entry, Rival Kingdoms - which is itself derivative of Clash of Clans.

On mobile we seem to overlook this, focussing instead on the tiny differences in each game.

But let's just be clear: from mechanics to UI, these are effectively the same games. On PC or console there would be an uproar about cloning, but on mobile it's par for the course.

Onwards and upwards

The games dominating the mobile marketplace - still led by the seemingly evergreen Clash of Clans - are essentially training-wheels strategy games.

But what if a player's appetite is whetted by that sort of gameplay, but they want to graduate to something with greater complexity?

Well, to be frank, they're unlikely to find what they're after on the App Store. Those who want more of the same are always well catered for, but those who seek deeper experiences are left to seek them elsewhere.

Surely it's unsustainable for so many games to be competing for a slice of the same pie?

Why would a long-term Clash of Clans player abandon it in 2015 to play Siegefall?

Why would a long-term Clash of Clans player abandon it in 2015 to play Siegefall instead? Where's the compelling difference?

Of course, there are examples of truly distinctive hardcore games on mobile. The most high-profile example is Vainglory - although it's experienced little commercial success so far.

However, I'd argue that this has more to do with MOBA being a hardcore genre whose popularity is exclusive to PC.

Whether the genre can work intuitively on a touchscreen is one problem, as is whether committed PC players are even interested in mobile gaming.

Real choices

And this reinforces why we see so many very similar strategy games.

Strategy is one of the few mid/core genres that's proven to be highly successful on mobile.

Everyone makes strategy games despite the fact there are so many mobile strategy games available, it's very hard to stand out.

It's not impossible, though.

Perhaps the best example of this like-but-different approach is the Nexon-published and Big Huge Games-developer DomiNations, which brings some of the latter's experiences with Civilization-style PC games to bear on the mobile strategy genre. 

It hasn't been a massive success, but it doing surprisingly well

DomiNations is different enough to stand out in the mobile strategy genre

And it's something we need more of. 

As the mobile gaming market matures, it's important for players to be given a choice. Not the choice between different brands of identikit industry-standard products, but something genuinely new.

After all, Clash of Clans won't be the world's top grossing game forever,and, hard as it currently is to imagine, maybe mobile strategy won't be the top grossing genre either. 

Features Editor

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


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Blep Blops
(I did not read this article)
I think its sad that when trying to find RTS (real time strategy) games you just find CRAPPY clash of clans clones (witch I feel is not truly RTS games)

I feel its stupid everyone just makes clash of clans clones INSTEAD OF making something "original"
Pat Soap
So, you're putting down rival kingdoms and praising #Bugnations.. Great, how much did they pay you for this fluff piece?? Or Is it because most players left bugnations for RK? All anyone needs, is to check out the forum for bugnations and read the hate.. Absolutely 0 support, constant server down times, list of bugs and issues that haven't been addressed since their limited release in Asia 6 months prior to global launch. No global chat, no alliance wars, people lose their high level nation For some other, lower level nation. Their moronic league system that will have you get constantly raided by players 30 levels higher.

Hackers running rampart with Industrial Age units.. An age that hasn't been released yet!
You bring upIap?? They offer a 20$ package that unlocks cannon technology and gives you 3 cannons.

Rival kingdoms has events, incentives for players to get rewards, global chat, great support, Terrific interface. And since switching from bugnations to RK I'm glad I'm done with that piece of crap.

Lesson learned Comparing these two games is how to be successful with RK and fail if you put out a trash product like bugnations
Blep Blops
Matt Suckley Staff Writer
I didn't put down Rival Kingdoms at all, I think it's very good.
Pat Soap
Oh, and I forgot to mention.. Check out all the posts on their FB page and forum threads how many people got refunds for Iap purchases in bugnations from Apple and Google store. I'm one of those people

And reading your snippet how you're bad at playing games, but hopefully better at writing about them I must disagree. You're bad at writing about them as well, putting out garbage like this.
Fraser Ross MacInnes Product/Design Director at Danke Games
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the games industry is founded on constant revisionism - the same ideas incrementally iterated upon endlessly. It's hard to argue that the average shooter/racer/action adventure game on PC/console is significantly different from the next from a mechanical point of view (most differentiation seems to come from setting/fiction these days on those platforms within the genres mentioned).

I also think that past a certain point, it's completely unfair to brand an entire stable of products as mere clones of the founding product of that genre. Because that's what genres often are - their founding successful product plus all of the resulting imitators. At this point, CoC is as legitimate a genre as 'Tower Defense' but because the CoC brand is too strong to be used as a more general identifier we have resisted christening it as a genre and instead suffixed the word 'clone' to any asynchronous PvP attack/defend, base-building strategy game.

On the other hand, I'm also a bit burnt out on the CoC genre and I think it's due to the mobile market's insane product volume. With hundreds of releases per week we see this iteration cycle and revisionism being sped up to the point that it's almost impossible to spot the incremental differences from product to product within a given quarter. The trends (such as winning streaks in Rival Kingdoms, Empires and Allies et al or forced hard to soft currency conversions to lift upgrade gates) only emerge over longer periods, so unless you are leaving big gaps in your play time between products, they are somewhat inscrutable.

Anyway, I have a Vault to manage...