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Matej Lančarič's Squad Busters deep dive: Under the skin of 2024's biggest launch yet

UA and marketing expert Matej Lančarič examines the changes made throughout the game's development and its ongoing global launch strategy
Matej Lančarič's Squad Busters deep dive: Under the skin of 2024's biggest launch yet
  • “We don’t know the payback or the retention yet but based on the retention profile from Supercell games, this game should FLY HIGH”
  • “This soft launch version is a marketing vehicle to build up hype and maybe fix some last technical issues”
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They finally did it. After numerous games that have yet to pass the soft launch phase, Supercell has locked in on May 29th for the global launch of its new game, Squad Busters. This came as a surprise to many since the global release date was shared only a couple of days after the game went into soft launch. So, what’s been going on behind the scenes, and what can we expect from the next big Supercell game?

In this guest post, user acquisition and marketing consultant Matej Lančarič shares his analysis on Squad Busters' changes throughout the beta phase, the strategy behind the short-term soft launch phase, and how Supercell may tackle the upcoming global launch.

This article was originally published on lancaric.me


Supercell has announced the global launch date of Squad Busters, the developer’s ambitious new mobile game. Oh boy. I fucking love this game!

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The new mobile action game offers a unique PvP/PvE experience in which players ‘build and bust’ squads comprised of various characters from Supercell’s catalogue of games, including Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Brawl Stars, and more.

Players begin with just a single character but can unlock additional characters to join their Squad by exploring and fighting on the map.

As they earn coins, they can open chests that unlock these characters and upgrade them to become more powerful.

Combat is mostly automatic, although players control the general movement of their squad and can launch some special abilities and spells.

Squad Busters second beta test recap

Squad Busters finished its second beta test, and it’s a great game design exercise to compare the changes between the two versions. The main challenges in the first version were the repetitiveness of the main mode, lack of depth during gameplay, and too much luck factor in the first pick of the characters. I was able to play the game during this beta, and we even recorded a podcast about it!

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The luck factor was nicely solved with the addition of a reroll mechanic, where players can use a consumable to get a refresh on a choice of three characters once per match. This is especially critical in the very first pick of the match, as the first character determines how fast you can build up your squad compared to other players. It can still end up being a lackluster starting character, but by giving players the choice to reroll, the frustration is definitely mitigated to some degree.

As you collect more and more characters throughout the match, you start to form strategies around those that were very straightforward before. Now, they borrowed the merging mechanic from the auto-chess genre, where if you collect three of the same characters, they merge into a stronger one than the previous version.

Not only does the new character have more health than three combined and has an ability bonus, but you also lower your character count as every other character costs more gold per chest, which actually goes down with the merge. So now you have some interesting choices/ risks to take when choosing your character setup during gameplay.

Squad Busters soft launch version review

Character progression was radically changed. Currently, you merge these four stages of shards, starting from baby form, going all the way to ultra with a 10 to 1 merge conversion ratio.

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hey are upgraded through just shards and give you portal energy for the squad journey. You can also buy a lot of shards in the shop and even unlock completely new characters.

The progression gating mechanic is chest tickets, which you need to use to open a chest. Otherwise, you can play without getting rewards. Chest tickets are the best currency sink in the game currently.

The Star Drop system from Brawl Stars was also added to the game, proving that Gacha mechanics reign supreme. This is powering the chest opening now, where each click has a chance to upgrade the chest rarity. This also nicely connects to the streak mechanic, whereby being in the top five gives you a direct bonus in the form of better chances of chest rarity upgrade and more shards. This essentially makes the streak saver’s second-best gold sink in the game. On the other hand, I almost threw my phone against the wall when I lost my streak due to my stupid mistake in the game. FML!

Battle Bag was also added full of consumables, where players can now reroll the initial characters they get from chests during gameplay and open these chests without even having gold to begin with, with a rarity boost on top of it.

Mega units were also added as “consumable” characters, which can appear in the chest if the player has them in their inventory.

For each world in the game, there is a new collection of characters and mods.

Plaza comparison

In the second beta version, the decoration/building mechanic also allowed players to spend hammer’s currency (found during battles) on cosmetic and resource buildings. This may alleviate resource demand in the game's later stages, as there will probably be more champions demanding more gold and elixir to be fully upgraded.

In the soft launch/global release candidate, there is only a placeholder!

Written with the help of Jakub Remiar

Global launch strategy

It was quite surprising to everybody when Supercell announced that Squad Busters is going GLOBAL!

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First of all, there is zero chance this was decided on day three when it was announced. It was already decided before this game went to ‘soft launch.’

This soft launch version is a marketing vehicle to build up hype and maybe fix some last technical issues. Really nice synergy effect between all games to increase the pre-registrations and give out nice rewards!

It is definitely not a proper soft launch to measure KPIs and improve builds.

What about user acquisition?

There is a big overlap with Brawlstars; let’s take inspiration from that game. Brawl Stars just surpassed March revenue, and it’s definitely going to earn more than $80 mil a month in IAP revenue.

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Countries

US specific campaigns
KR only - fully localised

  • Metro + TV ads similar to Last War or Rush Royal
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DE specific (DACH)
JP specific

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Tier1 bucket - FR, IT, PL, ES, BR, CA, NL
Tier2 bucket - TW, CZ, TR, UK, BG, HK
ROW

Platform split

70% iOS vs 30% GP based on the soft launch data

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But wait? Isn’t iOS dead? Ehm no. Just shut the f*ck up if you don’t know anything about UA. It’s embarrassing.

Anyway, the iOS – SKAN conversion schema

  • Revenue schema based on the D1 payments (spend depth)
  • Special offers and season passes are top IAPs based on the CA store

 

UA channels

TikTok should be absolutely the biggest channel. Remember the we are warriors case study? Sam was talking about the TTCC videos and going a bit ‘viral’ on TikTok.

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Tapping into the TikTok Creative Challenge to source UGC-style creatives directly from the creators themselves. TTCC is a TikTok Creator Monetisation Program that empowers creators to craft brand ads that bring their unique and authentic perspectives to the forefront.

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To expand into global markets efficiently, prioritise the production of creatives in local languages, emphasising the importance of preserving an authentic TikTok experience for users in different regions.

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Leverage the TikTok Creative Exchange program, specifically reaching out to creatives in languages such as Korean and Japanese. You know where I am heading with this, right? I already mentioned KR and JP as a standalone strategy, + TTCC is super big in the US. So here we have the 3 biggest GEOs covered.

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Also, to give you some context, TikTok is currently one of the best-performing channels, especially on iOS. This brings me back to the 70% iOS budget split I mentioned before.

AppLovin

  • iOS mainly with playables (But real playables, not the shitty playable used in Brawlstars)
  • D0 IAP ROAS -> D7 IAP ROAS campaign
  • US+T1 then WW
  • JP + KR separately
  • GP should follow shortly after

Google

Based on Google Ads transparency, they run both iOS + Android campaigns on Google for Brawl Stars.

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So we have 3 big spenders + 4 smaller ones:

  • Meta
  • Moloco
  • Mistplay
  • Mintegral

Creative strategy and concept ideas

Who would win?

10 different units on the left vs one fused or mega unit on the right

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Mass Battles (A.K.A. running away from the battle)

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Multiplier (gates – might be a bit of a stretch) mechanics

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Narrative / story-driven

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Progression-based Day one vs Day100?

Brawl Stars inspiration

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Noob vs pro?
Lame gameplay vs super high-skilled gameplay
UGC shit
Humor

I love the Chicken Simulator video from TikTok. Exactly the fun they could use.

Final words

Start with 250k/day and scale to 500k/1mil and then to 2mil/day based on actual numbers. We don’t know the payback or the retention yet, but based on the retention profile from Supercell games, this game should FLY HIGH, let’s look:

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I intentionally left Influencers in the channel mix. They are a special category in this case. There is already the Supercell partner program with incentives and promo codes. This would include alternative UA channels with mall takeovers and more branding exercises/activities.

Brawl Stars demo also suggests this whole strategy could work.

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Squad Busters review


This article is part of our Road to Helsinki series, where we put the spotlight on the Finnish and Nordic games industries ahead of Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki on October 1st and 2nd.