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Why is Clash Royale running out of steam?

Torulf Jernström on what's next for Supercell
Why is Clash Royale running out of steam?
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Torulf Jernström is CEO of Finnish developer Tribeflame.

His blog is Pocket Philosopher.

You can read all his weekly columns here

Anyone with any interest in mobile gaming will know Supercell released their 4th game, Clash Royale 3 months ago.

The game has been another super-hit, and is for once something new and fresh on the otherwise quite stale top (grossing) charts.

There are several things that Clash Royale did beautifully, but it also has some weaknesses.

It is by now dropping on the charts that it dominated.

Positive criticism

Let’s start with the good stuff

Instead of an energy mechanic, they invented a new chest system.

You win a battle, and you’re rewarded with a chest. Some chests take 3 hours to open, others 8 hours. It all results in a great pacing of the game, without the annoying “artificial” timers so often found in F2P games.


The core game is very easy to play, deploying troops with a simple drag. Still, it has a lot of depth, with some 50 cards - carefully designed to complement and counter each other.

There is an elegant gacha mechanic in finding the cards, and a double cost of gold and cards to upgrade. It makes you want to spend on the missing resource.

Synchronous multiplayer gives a completely new level of engagement, previously rare in mobile games.

A hit

Quite deservedly, the game shot straight into the #1 top grossing position in most countries.

It kept that up for a few months, but is by now dropping below Clash of Clans into positions #5-6. That’s still really, really great, but raises the question of why?

One reason is that the game starts to get grindy after a while. In a sense, all mobile F2P games do that, but personally I noticed it more in Clash Royale.

The core itself, with its inherent ~50% win rates felt like arm wrestling someone equally strong as I am. Which means that it quickly gets exhausting instead of fun.

I would prefer a greater variance where I either screw up and get crushed, or clearly crush the opponent.

Personally, I would prefer a greater variance where I either clearly screw up and get crushed, or clearly crush the opponent.

Asynchronous games can hide the problem by letting the attacker (who is active) win way more often than the defender (who is offline).

The Arena system also has both good and bad sides.

It gives players a very clear progression path. The problem is that it is a very linear and one-dimensional progression.

My progress along that path will quickly slow down, and if that’s what I care most about, I will feel as though I do not progress at all.

In contrast, in Clash of Clans I cared about all of my buildings (and walls!), which meant that I felt I was always progressing with something.

One odd part about the game is that the basic play cycle does not loop the player through the meta-game parts where you upgrade cards.

Usually, it’s a good idea to return the player to the upgrade screen after each round in the core game, but Clash Royale does not do that. It just leaves you on the main Battle screen where you can start the next battle or open a chest.

What's next?

My top guess for why Clash Royale is dropping in the charts is still none of the above.

It is that the first month on the App Store got such a tremendous boost that it just could not keep that level over the long-term.

Clash of Clans built a huge fan base over the last 4 years. When Supercell launched another game under the Clash brand, there was a ready audience for it. Competitive players who care about the brand and about their own performance in the games.

I feel fairly certain that a large part of the committed (and high spending) Clash of Clans players immediately downloaded Clash Royale when it was released.

My best guess is Clash Royale will keep dropping before it settles on a sustainable level.

After only a few rounds of testing, they figured out that the game was fun and competitive. They then proceeded to desire an early advantage compared to their friends (who also came over from Clash of Clans), and opened up the wallets to get a head start.

Apparently, some three quarters of early Clash Royale players were also Clash of Clans players.

I would bet that it was this immediate inflow of high spending fans that quickly drove Clash Royale to the top. This effect is now diminishing.

Some of the top spenders might already own the “perfect” deck of Clash Royale cards, and will need an update with more content before they can spend more.

Therefore, my best guess is that Clash Royale will keep dropping awhile more before it settles on a sustainable level - likely still quite high up on the charts.

Of course, continued development of the game can very well make it rise back up. I wouldn’t want to underestimate the good guys at Supercell.