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Will Clash Royale's success herald a wave of synchronous PVP imitators?

Mobile Mavens on clones and eSports
Will Clash Royale's success herald a wave of synchronous PVP imitators?
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After Clash of Clans launched in 2012, it quickly became the blueprint for an enormous number of mobile strategy games - and its influence is still felt strongly.

Now Clash Royale is estimated to become a success on a similar - if not higher - scale, with Newzoo predicting $1 billion-per-year revenues, can we expect to see a similar wave of real-time PVP titles heavily influenced by Supercell?

Calling on the expertise of our Mobile Mavens, we ask:

  • Just as Clash of Clans spawned a stream of cookie-cutter strategy titles, do you anticipate a wave of synchronous PvP mobile games in the wake of Clash Royale?
  • If so, what impact will this have on mobile eSports?
Adam Telfer

Adam Telfer

Consultant at MobileFreeToPlay

Yes, I think there will be a wave of Clash Royale clones. Haven't we already seen one out of China?

But I think anyone paying attention to the eSports scene can see that Clash Royale is gaining momentum. They had a tournament just recently.

Any time there is a big success like this you can quickly anticipate that others will be trying to emulate the success. Whether they themselves will be successful or not is a different question.

I believe more bite-sized session sync multiplayer games will be around the corner. I'm excited to see what new types of gameplay is possible.

Its important that new incumbents take reference from Clash Royale. Understand what was important to their success:

  •  A shifting meta which gives no clear answer as to what the best deck or strategy is.
  •  Real upgradable stats with value felt during the battle. (This allows Clash Royale to get away from selling content like Hearthstone).
  • Short, impactful battles that shift momentum quickly. Not long session battles or ones where the winner is decided too early.
  • A strong metagame that lasts for years. Clash Royale's design is just the beginning.

“I foresee more rich YouTube stars.”
Adam Telfer

Getting this right is no easy task.

To try to answer your second question: What will the impact on mobile eSports be?

Well, for any new incumbent to be taken seriously they will need to build up momentum in the eSports world, so each game will fight for relevance. This will grow the mobile eSports community.

I foresee a lot more rich YouTube stars.

Richard Hazenberg

Richard Hazenberg

CEO at Lunagames

Pretty sure we'll see many! Our Lunagames spin-off Destruction Crew is close to releasing its real-time multiplayer Demolition Derby game, so if a small studio like us is going that direction I guess many are.

On the eSports side, I think the market and specifically eSports platform providers will benefit from a standard recognised by consumers.

eSports platforms can adopt (borrow) recognisable best practices and make this available for a broader set of developers and games.

Scott Foe

Scott Foe

Chief Product Officer at Ignited Artists

Actual quote heard from Vice President of Product at large mobile games publisher three months before Clash Royale went bananas: "PvP will never work on mobile."

Of course PvP can work on mobile, and it cracks me up that, for thirteen years, the industry has been throwing the beautiful PvP babies out with the Nokia N-Gage bathwater.

All of these lessons had been learned thirteen years ago. Of course PvP can be hugely profitable on mobile - and Clash Royale is the ultimate validation of that.

“Keep your sessions lightning fast.”
Scott Foe

Keep your play sessions lightning fast, your free-to-play merchandising slick, and you can win the market.

Note to all the people holding the purse strings in large organisations: You hold the purse strings because you're conservative politics players, not because you're visionaries. If you carpet bagged an executive position at another company, that's a sign that you were never visionary.

Saying something "will never work" is just begging for somebody to show you it working while eating your lunch - especially when that something worked over a decade ago.

William D. Volk

William D. Volk

Chief Futurist at Forward Reality

PvP has been wildly successful on mobile in social casino games from the get-go, most notably Poker.

Heck, I first worked on a PvP game in 2004 as co-designer on Bonus Mobile’s game in partnership with the Wayan’s Brothers: The Dozens.

Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

It's great to see mobile multiplayer being taken seriously - its not a new thing by any means, we had a full 3D first-person shooter called Lock 'n' Load back in 2004, after all.

Real-time PvP has existed in mobile since the Java days
Real-time PvP has existed in mobile since the Java days

However, Clash Royale's style of swift, seamless matchmaking which handles drop-out players well (effectively rewarding the remaining player) as well as smart play times, makes this a very playable experience.

And as it appears to be making oodles of cash, of course we will continue to see huge numbers of me-too games.

“I hope clones are smart enough to add their own game design on top.”
Oscar Clark

But I hope at least some of those clones are smart enough to add their own contribution to game design on top.

Clash Royale is very playable - as long as you have a connection. It's also off to a flying start, which means there is an incredible number of players and you will always find a match to play.

But not all games can scale to the level of a Supercell game. Many developers will find gaining critical mass difficult, and that might - just might - save us from an all out attack of the clones.

I'd better stop there before I go on about asynchronous play, or worse, still why I'm a big fan of the Massively Single Player game.

Will Luton

Will Luton

Founder/CPO Village Studio Games

At A Thinking Ape, we’ve been doing synchronous MMO PvP for six or so years on mobile in a manner that is very different to Clash Royale.

So I hope that besides just seeing a bunch of Clash Royale clones (inevitable) we’ll also see some neat mechanics coming.

Devin Nambiar

Devin Nambiar

Head of Product and Partnered Development at Electronic Arts

Working in Beijing, I've seen developers here jump on cloning products with reckless abandon.

As Adam noted, cookie-cutter clones have been especially rampant in China, and the speed at which these developers ship product gives new meaning to 'fast follow.'

A Chinese <em>Clash Royale</em> clone alongside the real deal. Photo credit -
A Chinese Clash Royale clone alongside the real deal. Photo credit -

That said, whether these clones will be able to scale like Clash Royale is another story, and they definitely won't benefit from the Apple and Google love that helps make Supercell's titles such massive hits.

This critical mass is important, since it creates the requisite PCU to make matchmaking seamless.

“It's unclear whether clones would be able to balance the game as well.”
Devin Nambiar

Additionally, it's unclear whether clones would be able to balance the game as well as Clash has, or have the dedication to follow changes in the meta then respond with nerfs and tweaks. This reflects Supercell's passion for the product, not just for the revenue streams it brings in.

In terms of the impact on mobile eSports, I'd go back to my comment on scale.

We've already seen a massive audience for the first Clash Royale eSports event, but I don't think this is necessarily because of an existing eSports audience ready to welcome Clash Royale as much as it speaks to the IP pull and popularity of the Clash franchise.

That said, I think it will create a great positive momentum shift for other popular synchronous titles to dip their feet into eSports in the future, and I'm extremely excited for the possibilities. Vainglory, anyone?

Torulf Jernström

Torulf Jernström

CEO at Tribeflame

I agree with all the rest: there will be a lot of synchronous multiplayer games coming out on mobile soon. A whole bunch of them will be Clash Royale clones, and another bunch will try to use synch multiplayer on other genres.

Sadly, I think a lot of them will fail. If we look at the successful synchronous multiplayer mobile games out there right now, we have Clash Royale, Hearthstone and, to some degree, Vainglory.


All of them are, in their own way, exceptional. Clash Royale and Hearthstone benefited from massive brand awareness from day one, while Vainglory has had some really, really serious investment and help from Apple behind it.

These are not things that any mobile developer can rely on, to say the least.

Clash Royale's eSports success will not make it easier for other mobile games to follow suit.”
Torulf Jernström

Yes, there will be more synchronous PvP games, and likely one or two will be successful, but I think they will still be vastly outnumbered by the successful asynchronous PvP titles on the top grossing charts.

The asynchronous games still have some clear advantages: session lengths are much easier to control when there is not another human involved, and you can let the active player win a majority of their games - just to mention two.

Most synchronous PvP titles will continue to struggle with the Starbucks Test, and my bet is that the majority of the top grossing charts will continue to adhere to this rule.

As for eSports, I think that Clash Royale has a good chance of building up a following. That does not make it any easier for other mobile games to follow suit; rather the opposite.

Jon Hare

Jon Hare

Owner at Tower Studios

PvP is one of the most interesting areas of mobile gaming and one of the most innovative.

While in 2010 we were focussing on leaderboards as the main dynamic to drive players, then achievements, then "look at the size of my city," now as F2P matures we are focusing on PvP as a gladiatorial means of unlocking more content in our single player game world.

In Clash Royale, I do not care so much if other players see my progress - I care what I see, and I only really want to interface with others in battle to test myself.


I think it is reasonable for us to be hopeful for continued progress in this area over the coming years as more and more twists on game dynamics emerge intertwined with in-app purchases.

With China there are major things to bear in mind regarding their culture that makes them consume and make games differently. In China, like many Asian countries, Pay to Win is cool as a player.

Showing that you have enough money to by the Mega Sword and destroying everyone in your path is an act of pride, not cheating as we tend to see it in the West, and game makers should bear this in mind - possibly monetising differently for different markets.

“Creatively worthless clones will continue to flood the market until Apple and Google change their tune.”
Jon Hare

As game makers in a recently-communist country the Chinese have no concept of commercial artistic integrity - artists are seen as classical artists and probably often poor - technology is seen as a modern, factory-like industry.

There is no major imperative to originate, purely to clone and fabricate more cheaply - after all, $1,000 goes a lot further in China than it does in the West.

Unfortunately, creatively worthless apps like this will continue to flood the market until such time as Apple and Google change their tune and focus on software innovation, curation and quality rather than boasting about the number of apps downloaded by any Tom, Dick or Honghui into their app stores.

Sooner or later, probably when they are threatened by a new platform with a bit more publishing nous, they will learn to be embarrassed of the millions of cheap copies, never downloaded, no longer fit for purpose, piling up like rusty old cars in an online junkyard.

Nicolas Godement-Berline

Nicolas Godement-Berline

Head of Operations

There are already dozens of Clash Royale fast-follows in development, with concepts ranging from pure clones to different combat mechanics and/or theme setting.

It's likely that some of those will do well, though I doubt any can overcome Clash Royale at this point, much like Clash of Clans was never truly challenged on its home court.

PvP used to be pretty tricky on mobile for 2 reasons:

  • Network latency
  • Your friends might not be sitting on the toilet at the same time as you.

Clash Royale solved that beautifully by using clever tricks to reduce the impact of lag (such as unit spawn timers, for instance) and making the concept about playing against strangers.

<em>Urban Rivals: </em>proof that not only big communities are active
Urban Rivals: proof that not only big communities are active

I haven't seen evidence that you need a lot of players for PvP to work, quite the contrary in fact. There are PvP games in Japan with only a few 1000s DAUs, and here in France Urban Rivals retains a small yet active fanbase.

“Another mobile eSport will also take off after Clash Royale, but it won't be like Clash Royale.”
Nicolas Godement

So will Clash Royale usher in the grand rush of eSports on mobile? Yes and no. I'm pretty sure there will be more competitive titles on mobile.

There's always been an audience, now there's a format and market proof. However, I doubt any will be too similar to Clash Royale. If PC is any indication, there's only room for one or two huge eSport titles per geographic area (with the exception of MOBA).

Counter-Strike and Team Fortress rule FPS in the West, while Crossfire is king in Asia. Starcraft is the RTS eSport title. World of Tanks doesn't have a challenger.

Clash Royale will take off as an eSport. Another mobile game will also take off at some point, but it won't be like Clash Royale.

Jas Purewal

Jas Purewal

Lawyer & Partner at Purewal & Partners

On mobile eSports generally - and speaking as an advisor to a number of eSports organisations including some of the top global teams - it feels like the jury is still out.

Almost everyone’s focus is on the well-known PC games - that’s where the money is, that’s where the eyeballs are and the attention is.

For a team to invest in a new game which is unproven in eSports is risky and unusual, particularly given the more clear investment case in say Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or League of Legends and how much further those top games are still going to go in 2016 and beyond.

Top eSports team G2 has competed on mobile with <em>Vainglory</em>
Top eSports team G2 has competed on mobile with Vainglory

Investing in new games does happen (for example the top eSports team - and my client - G2 has a successful Vainglory team in addition to other teams in the top eSports), but it is not the norm.

More generally, eSports and the teams in particular are tremendously resource-constrained right now, all of which necessarily invites more short-term thinking when it comes to new games.

I am in all in favour of, and believe in, new niche titles becoming popular in eSports, including titles on mobile - but we shouldn’t kid ourselves how hard that would be and how much engagement with eSports businesses it will require.

Marcelo Careaga

Marcelo Careaga

Head of Production at Miniclip

I may be a bit late to this, but I want to add a couple of things from the perspective of being at a company that's been pushing synchronous in mobile for a bit too.

It certainly used to be the case that network latency and connectivity problems would make turn-based the only alternative, but those barriers have been falling steadily over the last couple of years.

Synchronous PvP is perfectly possible on mobile, not just by using tricks to hide possible synchronization issues, as Nicolas mentions, but also in very direct arcade-like competition.

Miniclip's <em></em> has been a breakout synchronous PvP hit
Miniclip's has been a breakout synchronous PvP hit

The running success of on mobile last year or our Basketball Stars recent launch, for example, were big examples for us that being able to compete in real time is a great drive for long-term engagement.

There are several game genres or categories that are perfect for this type of competition. Clash Royale is definitely tapping one of them massively, but even if the tendency on the mobile market is for cloning successful games, there's a lot of space for adapting that synchronous PvP approach to other themes and mechanics.