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"Squad Busters is a love letter to Supercell IPs"

Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen, Squad Busters game lead Eino Joas and marketing head Rob Lowe discuss the game's origins and why it's heading for a global launch on May 29th

This article was originally published on April 25th and has been republished to coincide with the global launch for Squad Busters.

It’s taken nearly five and a half years, but Supercell has finally given the greenlight for its sixth global launch: Squad Busters.

The 10-player squad-building action game has impressed enough that the Finnish studio believes it could be its next big hit, with a May 29th worldwide release date pencilled in.

All of Supercell’s games - Hay Day, Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, Clash Royale and Brawl Stars - have generated more than $1 billion in lifetime revenue, so expectations are high.

A lot is riding on the launch, too - the company’s revenue has been in decline for years. It’s a situation that prompted a restructure and hiring spree to adapt to the modern industry and put the world’s most famous mobile developer back on top. Supercell needs a new hit.

High bar

Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen says the decision to launch is “obviously a super exciting moment for all of us”.

“Most people who know Supercell know they are famous for killing a lot of games,” he states. “And The reason why our game teams kill so many games is that they hold themselves accountable to a very, very high bar of creating great games.”

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Paananen says he has mixed feelings about that high bar - on the one hand, he would have liked the company to release a game sooner, but he’s proud to have teams that hold themselves to the quality bar the company has set itself.

“So you can imagine how it feels to us right now because we've been waiting for this moment for a very, very long time,” he says.

Squad Busters’ origins

The core concept of Squad Busters has always been an IP mashup, to bring together its franchises into one game. Supercell had hoped to launch the game, which was in development under the codename 'fun', as it turned 10 years old - which would mean the title should have released around 2020.

“Unfortunately the game team behind that game couldn't make the game work, and it didn't meet their quality bar, and, ironically, it wasn't fun,” says Paananen. “So, eventually, they decided to kill that game.”

“This game truly meets, and not just meets, but exceeds, our bar.”
Ilkka Paananen

But from the ashes of that “crushing moment”, the team had another idea for the IP mashup, giving it the working title ‘Squad’. Years later, following a public announcement in January 2023, subsequent beta tests and a soft launch, the decision was made to release globally.

“This game truly meets, and not just meets, but exceeds, our bar.”

“Love letter”

Supercell Is no stranger to tapping into its highly successful IP. Clash Royale, of course, used the Clash IP as the company’s fourth major launch, while it also tried to tap that well for cancelled soft launch titles like Clash Mini, Clash Quest, Hay Day Pop and Space Ape’s Boom Beach Frontlines.

The nature of Squad Busters also leaves open the potential for external IP partnerships down the line, says the team.

PocketGamer.biz asks whether there was any pressure to lean on the company's franchises for a successful launch, given the time since Brawl Stars’ global release and the current mobile market challenges - namely app tracking transparency upending the user acquisition landscape.

“It's actually quite the opposite,” states Squad Busters game lead Eino Joas. “This game is a love letter to Supercell IPs.”

Supercell’s Rob Lowe, who heads up marketing for Squad Busters, says, however, that from a marketing point of view, there is obviously an advantage to having an established fandom and community. He says the amount of engagement and number of downloads it’s already seeing for the title “is incredible”.

“Supercell worthy”

As Paananen says, the company has an exceptionally high bar for titles to cross before they get to a worldwide release. Joas says the team is “very confident” about its chances, and believes Squad Busters has one of the strongest teams the company has had working on the title.

Joas himself has been a game designer on Boom Beach and lead on Clash Royale and Clash of Clans, before taking on the role of chief game lead at the company. But he was convinced to join the Squad Busters development team around the time of the second beta test, when the team “started seeing the magic happening”.

“I was in the leadership team of Supercell at the time, managing the game teams, and then the team leader of Squad Busters at the time actually requested from Ilkka that I join the team to take this game forward. And we've been on that journey since then," says Joas.

“So, I have a lot of faith in this and I think the company has a lot of faith in this.”

Squad Busters appears to be the culmination of Supercell’s history and game development culture - it brings together all of its IP, it was born out of the ashes of a game it killed, and the team was built through people like Joas moving roles to join a project he believed in.

“This game is a love letter to Supercell IPs.”
Eino Joas

There are also lessons learned from other games too - which is what Supercell’s philosophy centres on. When it kills a game, it pops the champagne to celebrate the lessons learned.

“I think all the sorts of things that are happening in our various games are affecting how we make games, because people reflect, they change, and the industry changes all the time, and I think we're always learning new things as we develop games,” says Joas.

“I think you can see, for example, in Brawl Stars, they've had a great run recently, and we believe that that's because they've actually pivoted the focus back more on serving the widest possible audience, and that's been a core thing that's influenced our thinking as well.

“We really believe that we need to make games for the widest possible audience to really make them Supercell worthy.

“But there's a lot of things that influence us every day, and we're getting a lot of learnings from all of the games.”

Come May 29th, we’ll see whether those learnings and the long wait for Supercell’s next game lead to another $1 billion blockbuster.