This analysis is written by Hadrian Semroud, Javier Barnes and Krishna Israney. Opinions shared are personal and do not reflect those of their employers.
Want to hear us debate Clash Mini? Head on over to the Deconstructor of Fun podcast or click on the episode below!
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Clash Mini is one of the three Clash games Supercell announced in April of 2021. The first of the three to hit the soft launch was Clash Quest. You can describe it as Legend of Solgard (published by King) with a Clash IP and some minor metagame tweaks. As expected from Supercell, Clash Quest is a polished game. But quite frankly, the game felt underwhelming both from product position and gameplay experience. This is why we never even covered it on Deconstructuctor of Fun.
The second Clash game was Clash Mini, which entered soft launch around three months from writing this article. If you haven’t been playing and following Clash Mini off the jump, here are a few facts to catch you up to speed:
The first two weeks' key metrics were quite positive. The strong golden cohort effect hints at a high interest from the core audience and a good early LTV curve. But beyond that point, Clash Mini sank in the charts. So at the moment, it seems that it hasn’t been able to keep players engaged (and paying) for a long time.
A key reason is that Clash Mini seems in a much earlier and rough state than other Supercell soft launches: Less playable content, less spending depth, and several unfinished systems (i.e. No reason to play leagues…).
- Metrics reacted well to their holiday season update, which introduced new units and quests; but the boost lasted just a few days. This points out that new playable content is consumed faster than in other SC games.
- One of the main problems in Clash Mini is the strong similarity with Clash Royale, the other Supercell auto battler whose gameplay and unit mechanics are very similar. To be worth releasing, Clash Mini not only has to become as effective at building LTV as Clash Royale but also introduce innovative gameplay that is able to engage veteran players. Therefore fostering that the audience flows between both games.
- In terms of gameplay, Clash Mini is a casual version of autochess oriented that removes the most complex mechanics of the genre (resource management, complex effects, huge roster…) and decreases match length to a few minutes. It is unclear if the simplification has left enough room to eventually provide more mastery depth, which is needed to maintain player interest in the long term.
- The game integrates progression and monetization mechanics that are missing in other autochess titles (power progression, unit collection…), but they have significantly less spending depth than in other SC games. The game will follow a seasonal model with regular content resets, rather than the linear progression through the Trophy Road model of previous Supercell mid-core titles. This is a very content-demanding model that may stress the limited content creation capacity of the cell structure.
- We predict a long soft launch filled with radical changes. Tapping on Clash Mini’s potential to become a billion-dollar game requires significant work on gameplay depth, content volume, and progression systems. Not just filling gaps and tweaking.
If you’re not familiar with Clash Mini gameplay, this video is as good as any to get you up to speed.
In 2019, Dota Auto Chess mod became insanely popular among hardcore players and invented a new gaming genre. For a while it seemed like it was the advent of a new industry defining trend, much like MOBA or Battle Royale had been.
Many studios (including household names like Valve, Riot, Blizzard, and Ubisoft) rushed to release their own autochess games in record time. But they innovated very little compared to the original mod.
Flashforward to 2021 and the hype is completely gone. No billion-dollar autochess hit ever came out. Most of those titles are either dead or discontinued and the most successful ones (Riot’s TFT and Hearthstone’s Battlegrounds) remain as side modes within more popular games.
A key reason is that all the successors followed very closely the original hit, and they didn’t solve the core issues of the genre, namely the bad long-term retention low monetization capacity, and inability to reach a broad audience.
As a consequence, autochess has remained as a niche concept that hinted at a strong potential but that nobody has been able to find a way to turn into a profitable product ready for mass adoption (at least in the West).
This makes it an obvious target for Supercell, a company whose trademark is to build deep games for the masses, and which already has experience in competitive autobattlers thanks to Clash Royale.
Clash IP diversification? Mini versus Royale
What is not obvious is if using the Clash IP has been the right decision for Mini. At a first glance, the synergies are strong, since the IP is well known among fans of mid-core
Design endogamy: The Valkyrie, Giant Skeleton and Miner share the same exact behavior in Royale and Mini, so veteran players will find no innovative ways to use them or mechanics to learn and master.
As it stands now, there’s a big chance that many players will feel they’re playing a watered-down version of Clash Royale since it uses the same units and similar gameplay dynamics but with simplified behaviors and less mastery depth related to the input.
This is an existential threat to Clash Mini since the lack of innovation in-unit mechanics was among the top reasons why Rush Wars failed to captivate players. And it destroys the opportunities of Clash Mini to complement Clash Royale by providing fans an alternative within the Supercell ecosystem when they churn from one of the games.
To become a game that’s relevant for a seasoned Royale player, there are several ways that Clash Mini could explore:
- Add gameplay twists to already existing Clash minis that make them different from Clash Royale. For example, the holiday update added the Musketeer and Prince minis, which reposition enemy units – a mechanic not used in Clash Royale.
- Introduce new gameplay systems that are not present in Clash Royale, such as a shared pool of units, deeper unit merge mechanics, a synergies system, or more slots in the deck. These new mechanics could be tested through events, and later incorporated into the main game if successful.
- Expand into the broader Supercell universe, bringing characters from Brawl Stars, Boom Beach, or Rush Wars. This would bring to the autobattler genre dynamics that have not yet been seen in other Clash titles.
Early performance: Promising start, but…
Previous mid-core hits from Supercell followed a similar early soft launch pattern: They quickly climbed to the top-grossing positions in the markets where they were released and remained there. Updates and improvements were primarily oriented to improve mid-term KPIs (beyond D30), to guarantee long-term retention and profitability.
Clash Mini followed a similar trend at the beginning, reaching positions among the top 50 top-grossing games on every single territory where it was released. But after a few weeks of success, it’s now quickly sinking in the charts without even the latest update has been able to bring it back up.
During the first two weeks, the grossing ranks pattern of Clash Mini was similar to Supercell’s successful titles, but it quickly lost steam after that. Source: AppStore.
The trend is even more dramatic if we check the evolution of its Revenue per Download (RPD). In the short term, Clash Mini was more effective at monetizing players than any other Supercell title in that time frame.
But contrary to other titles, that kept growing the value obtained from players, in Clash Mini RPDI went down quickly. This points out a problem on monetizing the audience beyond the first purchase, and/or keeping them engaged for long.
Despite the fast success, Clash Mini RPD has remained flat. Source: SensorTower
So, is this the same story as with Pokemon Go? A game riddled with hard-to-solve core problems that were fueled high in the charts by an early golden cohort, and then crickets?
While that’s a valid possibility, we recommend you not jump to that conclusion yet.
Clash Mini is in a very early stage
Previous Supercell games had worldwide launch quality from the very beginning since their soft launches aimed to assess their mid-term metrics (D30+). But Clash Mini is comparatively in a much earlier production stage than Boom Beach, Clash Royale, Brawl Stars, and Rush Wars were when they first hit the store.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that it doesn’t perform well after just a few weeks: There is nothing to unlock, master, or repeatedly pay for, other than the starter bundles and the seasonal pass.
Rather than assess the mid-game and beyond, Clash Mini’s soft launch seems oriented to have an early confirmation that the concept has scalability potential by testing the early LTV curve.
The real question is if Clash Mini’s foundations have the potential to grow into something that engages players for more than a few days. To answer that, this article does an in-depth analysis of its different areas.
Clash Mini features several mechanics aiming for conversion (content bundles, battle pass…) but no reasons to pay repeatedly.
A miniaturized Autochess for everyone
We summarize the changes that Clash Mini performs to the core autochess experience to make it more accessible in three areas:
- Faster battles and shorter match structure, to build an intense experience that doesn’t feel passive despite being a turn-based auto battler. The shorter match structure also means that the outcome of every single battle becomes more decisive.
- Externalization of the teambuilding, which is selected outside of the battle in a way to the deck building of Clash Royale. This decreases the number of player decisions during the match: When a match starts, the strategy is already defined, and the key decisions are on unit placement and summon order.
- Removal and simplification of most gameplay depth layers, to make the game more intuitive and easier to learn, although at the cost of having fewer things to master.On top of a smaller board, Clash Mini features no equipment system, no stat-based synergy system, no shared pool of units and a simplified balance logic of unit selection rolls and resources.
The end result is that currently, Clash Mini offers a gameplay that’s significantly more casual than Clash Royale. This is a problem, as it means that the game may be too shallow to retain mid-core players for the long term.
Rather than an accessible version of autochess for mid-core mobile players, which are the ones naturally attracted to the game premise, Clash Mini’s gameplay seems oriented to a more casual player profile.
Ultimately, our opinion is that Clash Mini’s gameplay is currently missing the target: While it’s evident - based on the good early results and player interest - that Clash Royale’s audience would react positively to a Supercell-style mobile-friendly autochess; it’s quite unclear if there’s an audience for this genre among the casual spectrum.
Clash Mini’s gameplay is less complex and less skill demanding than Clash Royale and Brawl Stars. This means little room for mastery, and may endanger its ability to engage midcore players for a long term.
- Faster battles and shorter match structure
Contrary to that hyper-hardcore approach of other autochess games (where a single match can take up to an hour), in Clash Mini, a single match takes around 2-4 minutes, which is the mobile-friendly sweet spot that most Supercell games aim for.
This is achieved through two main ways: The first being that the rounds between the recruitment phase (where players actively introduce all the inputs) and the battle phase (where the player watches passively and generates strategic insights) are extremely short.
This means that the game feels dynamic and gives few opportunities to players to divert their attention, therefore avoiding the main handicap of a turn-based game with passive stages.
The 15 seconds of the recruitment phase are fairly intense in terms of decisions. And the battle finishes very quick, asking again for player interaction. These timings are not very far away from a mana demanding combo in Clash Royale.
The second factor that accelerates the game is the lesser number of rounds per match: In other autochess games, a single match involves multiple battles against each of the players. This allows the dynamic of monitoring and adapting to the teams of the opponents, but also takes a lot of time.
In Clash Mini, the two different game modes (Duels and Rumbles) have been designed to require less rounds while maintaining those fun dynamics to some degree:
- Duel mode is a 1vs1 match where the winner is the first player that gets 3 victories, so it caps the max rounds to 5. On top of allowing easier comebacks and being easier to win, this mode generates very interesting mind games with the opponent, as the player that can predict the team evolution and placement of the other will have the edge.
Rumble mode is way more challenging. It pits 8 players against each other but they’re structured in elimination groups and a final, so it’s faster than classic autochess. The ability to closely monitor the enemy team evolution is lost, but it still involves a degree of mind games and requires to quickly readapt the team to each new enemy.
In Rumble mode, players are separated into 2 groups. After 3 rounds the top 2 players of each group get to the final, which are elimination rounds. So the cap is 5 rounds maximum.
2. Units & Deckbuilding: Borrowing from Clash Royale
The core gameplay of other autochess games is based on analyzing ongoing battles to extract insights about their teams. And then navigating through multiple layers of complex stats to make decisions about the team composition during the recruitment phases.
In Clash Mini, the bulk of those decisions happens outside the match, since players use a small deck that limits which units will be available to them.
While this makes decision-making more casual-friendly, a selection of only 5 minis in a small board is so limited that it removes decision-making and ends up generating matches that focus exclusively on the mind games of unit placement, since there’s no capacity to build alternative strategies within a single deck.
This is also reinforced by the fact that Heroes don’t have a lot of gameplay versatility, which restricts a lot the chance of alternative deck builds: the main logic is to choose the minis that better synergize with the Hero.
Clash Mini’s decks are composed of a Hero and 5 minis, which is not enough to allow alternative strategies and means that a deck focuses on just a couple of synergies.
Gameplay wise, the difference between Heroes and normal minis is quite subtle: Unlike normal minis, Heroes can’t be upgraded inside the match and are slightly more powerful, so they more-or-less determine the general strategy of the deck.
Contrary to Clash Royale’s Champions or Clash of Clans’ Heroes, where the special units have very unique dynamics (like an active skill), in terms of mechanics the Clash Mini Heroes are not that different from normal minis: All Heroes have a charged ability, but so domany of the minis.
Decks are built around the Hero: For example, decks around Shield Maiden (a tank that turns enemy DPS against them) focus on healing it. Decks around the Archer Queen focus on defending her with tanky melee units.
Unlike Heroes, normal minis are upgraded during the match, by merging them with another copy of the same unit (so there can’t be two instances of the same unit on the battlefield). There’s a point of P2W in that: How much a mini can be upgraded inside the match depends on how much it has been upgraded outside of it.
Sadly the game features very little playable content, with only 28 units, which is about half of what Clash Royale had at this point. And their capacity to entertain it’s smaller since they’re mastered faster than in that game and they don’t feature synergies that aren’t already present in other SC games
Upgrading units during the match increases some of their stats a bit and unlocks a gameplay perk.
Clash Mini features a limited number of units, with behaviors that are quite simple and don’t have a lot of room for mastery.
3. Less and simpler gameplay layers
One problematic consequence of the limited deck size is that it removes the meaning of the mana and roll systems: With only 5 possible results, chances are that rolling will get you what you wanted and you’ll have enough mana to summon it. This requires little skills of probability management from players.
But it’s not the only key thing missing. Other autochess games feature several advanced gameplay mechanics, which constitute their top layers of mastery. The most important ones are:
- The shared pool of units, which allows skilled players to deny key units from enemies by claiming them first, and forces them to identify which team setups are not viable anymore because the opponents already own the key pieces.
- The synergy system, which grants stats bonuses and perks the more units of a certain faction are placed on the board and therefore forces players to carefully manage their roles and resources in the search for specific collections of units.
- The equipable items, which grants an additional layer of team specialization and add more pressure on the management of resources.
None of these are present in Clash Mini, which makes everything more friendly but at the cost of losing the elements that should differentiate true masters from beginners.
Ultimately, what this leads to is that most of the depth is currently focused in
- Mastering unit placement to maximize synergies. This is fun but very limited by the fact that the board size allows few units, and ultimately few unit placement combinations.
- Playing mind games that trick the enemy into placing their key units in useless positions, while you hide your own vulnerable units. Which is fun and very poker-like, and leads to fun moments when the placements are revealed, but doesn’t scale too much in terms of mastery.
Other than that, the only gameplay layer that is quite unique to Clash Mini is the Special Boards that feature one tile with a special effect (grant healing, charge the special…). This adds an extra factor to take into account on the mind games, but ultimately is not too relevant and it feels repetitive and shallow in a few matches.
New game boards with Tiles that heal Minis or charge their Super abilities are some of the Tile modifiers unlocked through League progression.
Overall, we consider that adding more mastery depth for the game, in order to keep players engaged for a longer time, should be one of the top priorities for Clash Mini. There are some ways how we anticipate this could be done:
- By making the game landscape, which would allow a bigger board and allow to increase the amount of units per deck.
- By introducing an item system for Heroes or similar specialization mechanic that would allow multiple alternative builds or strategies with each hero.
- By adding a layer of shared pool of content, which introduces - albeit in a simplified way - the deny mechanics from other autochess games.
- By introducing new keywords (On Ally death, On Stunned, etc) and more complex mini behaviors that allow more synergies, especially those that aren’t present in other Clash games.
Progression & Monetization: A whole new seasonal model
Contrary to the progression-less and cosmetics-based monetization of other autochess titles, Clash Mini’s progression includes power progression and a player collection which is progressively unlocked: By completing daily quests, the player collects gold and chests that grant unit fragments. These fragments unlock new minis and upgrade them.
In Clash Mini, content progression is achieved by completing quests, not by acquiring trophies like in other SC games. Trophies only allow progress through leagues, which don’t serve a clear purpose right now.
This model may seem similar to Clash Royale or Brawl Stars, but there is a key difference: In those games the player follows a long linear progression structured around the Trophy Road and maxing out the content. This can last for months, since there’s a huge upgrade depth.
That progression goes on until the player reaches the Leagues section at the later steps of the road. At that point, the game truly becomes a game-as-a-service: trophy resets, meta rotations through rebalances and new content.
In Clash Royale and Brawl Stars, most content is unlocked by accumulating trophies. This regularly alters the set of dominant strategies. And means that a player that reaches the Leagues stage is a seasoned veteran.
While this system has proved to work on past titles, it is also very difficult to sustain: Because so much content accumulates in the endgame it becomes increasingly difficult to add new and balanced fresh content.
So games within this model eventually become stagnant and extremely grindy: The new cards and brawlers progressively become more scarce and less innovative. And the long term goals become completely focused on grinding resources for the latest upgrade levels rather than on discovering and mastering new and exciting gameplay mechanics.
Nowhere is this more evident than on Clash Royale, where in words of the dev team:
Source: Clash Royale Community talk Level 14 and Slash Royale (Official Post), Reddit
What’s different with Clash Mini?
Instead of a strong onboarding and weak endgame, Clash Mini already starts in the endgame/metagame cyclical stage, and will sustain it with seasonal resets of the player inventory (more on these Seasonal Resets later).
, where competitive players need to obtain the artifacts promoted each season, which forces them to regularly buy the Premium Pass and continue to be engaged.
When it comes to specifics, Clash Mini supports this new model through 3 major changes:
- The introduction of a temporary Season Road instead of a permanent Trophy Road.
- A simpler unit upgrade system that relies a lot on orthogonal perks, that will allow changing the gameplay every season.
- A reset system that will remove part of the player inventory with every new season.
- Quest System: Season Road instead of Trophy Road
Instead of a permanent Trophy Road for content unlocking, in Clash Mini, the main reward and progression mechanism is based on the Season Road.
Completing quests progressively unlocks rewards in the Season Road, with the usual free and paid tiers. Among the rewards there’s an exclusive mini in the free tier. On top of pass progression, Quests also grant unit fragments and gold that can be used to buy more fragments and hero upgrades.
With this, Supercell aims at a higher conversion in the premium tier, since the pass is now not only an accelerator but the core progression system of the game.
The main reward of the quest system is progression over a seasonal pass system that resets every season.
Quests are divided into daily ones that are generated every 24 hours, and mini quests which are triggered when a new unit is unlocked and ask to win matches with that specific character. At the moment there is not a lot of variety of quest types and most of them focus on making the player explore the entire roster of units (i.e. Win 3 matches using Barbarian).
Overall, we feel that quests are not very fun and do not offer a great incentive for players to diversify beyond their main minis, because the matches to achieve them are chores that get in the way of playing with decks that are competitively viable and can grant trophies.
Interestingly, their design is similar to Brawl Stars’ Brawl Pass, which also focuses on quests that encourage the player to play with different brawlers and game modes.
But in BS the diversification feels natural, since their Trophy system (which sums up the individual trophies of each brawler) means that playing with every single brawler is the best way to progress, even if the player is not very skilled with it or hasn’t upgraded it.
Clash Mini’s quest system is reminiscent of the one in Brawl Stars, which also encourages players to play with different characters and game modes.
Another problem with the quests as the single reward system is that the daily quests can be achieved quickly and once achieved there’s no reason for the player to play until they refresh the following day. It’s not rare to be able to complete them all in a single session of ten to twenty minutes.
Having a layer of rewards that can be achieved with little time investment is a great practice to keep low-engagement players interested. But if that’s the only rewards there are, they limit the time that an engaged player can spend on the game playing with a purpose.
Contrary to that, other Supercell games include at least one reward system that incentivizes players to play a lot of time or require multiple sessions: In Brawl Stars it’s possible to collect tokens just by playing, and in Clash Royale the chests timers create a need of coming back several times during a single day.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the removal of the Trophy Road means that Leagues and Trophy accumulation doesn't grant any kind of reward at the moment, and remains one of the important topics to solve in terms of gameplay systems. What we assume is that at the end of a season the leagues will reset and players will get some rewards based on the position, but the game features no specific information on how that will work.
An improvement in Clash Mini worth mentioning is the fact that players can choose to play Ranked (i.e. for trophies) or not. The separation between ranked and normal matches is a great addition, because it allows to test new decks or strategies without suffering a punishment in Trophies, which was something that disincentivized trying new decks in Clash Royale.
Playing ranked matches was originally linked to the use of “Challenge coins”, but these coins have been removed in the first game update. The “Challenge Coins” are now “Crystal Coins” and allow you to buy exclusive skins.
2. Unlock & Upgrade Systems: Heroes and Minis
In Clash Mini, new Heroes and minis are unlocked as soon as the player collects at least one of their fragments.
Similarly to Clash Royale or Brawl Stars, the acquisition of the unlocking first fragment of a mini is carefully scripted to match specific points of the progression, and don’t randomly appear on chests until the player hasn’t unlocked the unit through other means (i.e. season pass) or reached a specific level.
The game features two different upgrade systems, one for Heroes and another for Minis. Both require to find fragments of the specific unit to be upgraded, but differ in what else is needed and the nature of the benefits provided by the upgrade:
- Heroes have 10 levels of upgrade. Each level increases some of the stats, and unlock a perk at specific milestones (levels 5 and 10). On top of their fragments, they require gold to upgrade and the benefits are available since the beginning of the battle.
Minis have 3 upgrade levels, called Stars. They are automatically upgraded when the player obtains enough fragments, no gold is required. Each Star milestone unlocks a level of available upgrade during the match. When performed during the battle, each upgrade increases the mini stats and unlocks a perk.
This means that at the beginning of a battle the mini doesn't have any extra benefit regardless how much upgraded it was outside the match. And that a character without stars can’t be upgraded at all during the match.
This system makes Clash Mini the Supercell mid-core game with the highest power progression: Clash Royale and Brawl Stars primarily base their power progression in stats increments. But Clash Mini upgrades grant orthogonal differentiated improvements instead (new abilities and game behaviors), which are way more impactful in gameplay and harder to compensate through skill.
This, indirectly, means a big pay-to-win factor, although this is diminished by the fact that the spending depth of the game is quite limited at the moment, and because the game is very generous (at least early on), granting enough rewards to unlock and max out most of the minis.
In terms of game economy design, the unit unlocks and upgrade system gets the job done, but creates friction to diversify hero investment: The huge gold scarcity and exponentially increasing upgrade costs lock players in a specific hero. In other words, if a player needs to save 800 gold coins for the next upgrade of the Countess, it’s unlikely that she will waste gold on upgrading the Barbarian King to any degree viable to competition.
Other Supercell games counter this problem by providing valuable incentives to diversify upgrade investment. For example, in Clash Royale upgrading cards is the only source of Experience Points that upgrade the Towers’ health and damage (so it has huge gameplay value).
But Clash Mini currently features no such incentive to diversify hero investment. Upgrading heroes in Clash Mini just grants Player XP, which has no clear purpose at the moment, since level-ups only grant some currency rewards.
Nevertheless, perhaps the most interesting thing about the Clash Mini upgrade system is how it aims to interact with the Season Reset: The minis upgrades are not permanent, meaning that they will disappear at the end of a season.
3. Season Resets: A “limited and sustainable” monetization
In Clash Royale and Brawl Stars, Seasonal Resets decrease the amount of Trophies on the highest Leagues, start a new Season Pass and often introduce a bit of new content and minor rebalances. These changes primarily affect the endgame, so ultimately the resets have limited relevance for players in other points of the progression.
Contrary to that, according to what has been announced in the game support page and on what devs themselves told to streamers, in Clash Mini the Seasonal Reset will be heavily game-changing for everyone. Because on top of introducing a new pass and lowering trophies from top players, it will also restart the upgrade progression of Minis and revamp them.
At the end of a season, players will keep the minis that were unlocked, but they will lose all their upgrades (stars), meaning that they'll have to collect the fragments from scratch.
Not only that, but the effects granted by those star upgrades will change too. This will heavily affect the meta and make players learn again how to properly use and counter those units, while also inviting users to try out different strategies and minis.
For example, the 1st star of the Dart Goblin currently increases attack speed with each shot without any stack limit, making it an OK ranged attacker that becomes more lethal the more it survives, so it should be placed well protected in the back of the board. But perhaps in the following season, that same star might instead stun the enemy when hitting, turning the Dart Goblin into a superb control unit, and has to be placed close to the most dangerous enemy unit to deny it.
It’s important to remark that this is not a complete tabula rasa to the game inventory: Heroes’ progression will not be reset at all. And players will get rewards at the beginning of a season based on the number of stars they obtained in the previous one, which will get them a kickstart (on top of making the whole progression loss less painful).
So ultimately, it’s unclear how much of an equalizer this will be between players that have invested different amounts of time and money.
Are Clash Mini’s season resets a good idea?
The concept of a seasonal content reset it’s a risky but high reward opportunity. So now - at the very early stage of Clash Mini’s life - it’s the best moment to try it out since they can dedicate time to learn about its effects and progressively tweak it.
Provided that they can actually pull it off, the cyclical model with partial progression reset could be quite positive, at least on paper:
- It would introduce a renewable source of endgame objectives and monetization which would extend the spending depth of the game without a slow and unrewarding grind.This would help Clash Mini be more generous and have a faster progression than Brawl Stars and Clash Royale. In those games, removing the grind decreases their potential LTV, and brings players close to the endgame stage where the slow flow of new content leaves them without meaningful goals to pursue.
- Additionally, with this model, the new seasons become the perfect points for the disengaged players to come back. Players will have a new opportunity to conquer the leaderboards (due to the score and progression reset) and experience the new gameplay. This “reawakening” potential is similar to other long-lived competitive games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, or League of Legends, as well as CCG games.
- And from the gameplay perspective, it makes it easier to keep the meta interesting by de-risking the long-term effects of new content. The game will be able to introduce innovative mechanics, strategies and rebalances without having to consider how it will affect their ability to create future content: Whatever generates a big power creep or introduces too much complexity will be washed away at the end season.
But despite all there is to win, content resets are not a safe bet. In fact, Supercell already failed to bring a similar model to life in Hay Day Pop, where they replaced the classic linear progression of most puzzle games with a cyclical structure based on seasonal resets. This, unfortunately, removed the sense of achievement based on reaching high and difficult levels, a major motivation for the puzzle audience.
While mid-core players are way more likely to accept this system, there are multiple factors that could challenge its adoption and success. Among the major questions, we list:
Is the monetization tradeoff worth it?
The core bet of the system is that it can build a higher LTV and player satisfaction through a regular flow of content that is cheaper and easier to acquire but time-limited in nature. Rather than by fewer permanent content with huge spending depth.
That already involves some moderate risks:
- For example, players may be less incentivized to pay for content that will eventually disappear, especially if they join the game close to the end of a season.
- And the acceleration of acquisition may cannibalize the reasons to spend, especially if the third-star perks are not as useful as the early ones (i.e. the player is more likely to upgrade units during the match to level 1 or 2).
But overall, these points can be managed with an accurate balance.
What can be more problematic is that Clash Mini increases the monetization risk further by capping the number of purchases that a player can make per day. With this, Supercell is limiting the spending capacity of users willing to spend more, and forcing them to come back daily in order to progressively spend their gems and gold.
All in-game purchases have a daily cap (or seasonal cap, in the case of the Pass). This limits the amount of gems and gold that a player can spend in a single day (and season).
So Clash Mini it’s not only trying to build a cyclical structure, but it's also betting on a high conversion, low ARPPU model where the key monetization item is the seasonal Mini Pass. This might generate a healthy fanbase of moderate spenders that convert regularly... or just cripple the revenue potential by decreasing the spending in a game that doesn’t have a lot of spending depth to start with.
This is a significant difference compared to Clash Royale or Brawl Stars, where on top of the limited rotation shop purchases the player can buy an unlimited amount of loot boxes to accelerate progression, and where maximizing a card or a brawler requires a lot of resources. So while most paying users are moderate spenders, those games allow high spending users too.
A risky gamble in a game that, because of being more strategic than action-oriented, is likely to attract a much smaller yet more mature audience, with a bigger budget, and likely the key reason why the revenue per download seems to stagnate.
Will players accept regularly losing progression?
From the player’s perspective, the advantages of the model need to be obvious enough to compensate for the game regularly deleting part of their time and money investment. Otherwise, the resets will become a reason or an excuse to leave the game.
is one of the few mobile games that has a seasonal content reset. It is easier to accept by their audience since it mimics the real-life season system of the NHL.
But ultimately, we believe that the player reaction will rely entirely on the specifics on how the reset is applied in Clash Mini:
- It requires a transparent and clear in-game communication that is presented with enough time in advance, ideally before players make significant investment in the game.This is probably the worst point right now, since there’s barely any in-game information about this reset system, so nobody knows for sure what will happen when the first reset comes, or when.
- It needs to be rewarding and give a kickstart to veteran players that progressed in the previous season. Both as a way to make them feel that their investment isn’t entirely lost, and to avoid a situation where they feel that they aren’t losing progression if they leave. But obviously not so big that it removes the need to spend...Clash Mini has already announced that there will be rewards given based on the amount of stars achieved (and we assume that based on the final positions in the Leagues), which could already achieve that if balanced generously.
The content in the new season needs to behave very differently to what has been played previously. Doing just minor tweaks and small rebalances risks that players feel that the game is trying to make them pay again for the same exact thing, and that they aren’t excited to play the next season.
And probably, it would be a good idea to provide players ways to remember their history. For example with season exclusive skins and badges, a reminder of the highest league reached, or a count of total stars in the profile.
Will Supercell be able to deliver enough content?
Clash Mini is more of a content treadmill than previous Supercell midcore games: Both Clash Royale and Brawl Stars involve perfect execution of complex actions, as well as quick decision-making in real time. Meaning that the player has to spend many hours to master how to and when to summon card combos, cast brawler skills, etc.
On the contrary, Clash Mini’s gameplay is entirely based on decision-making, so it takes less effort and time to master the content. So to keep the player interested for the same amount of time, Mini will have to provide much more content, meaning more units and orthogonal mechanics…
Quantity is a quality on its own: Each individual piece of content in Brawl Stars is relatively simple, but having to master all Brawlers, gadgets, maps and game modes requires years.
This becomes even more challenging because the revamp of Minis in a new season needs to be deep enough to make the player have to master them again. In other words, lots of original content which is not easy to create. And this has to be done while a countdown is running: seasons can’t be too long (currently they’re rumored to last 2 months), or players will get bored and monetization will suffer.
This would be considerable content pressure for any team, but it’s even harder to deliver within the small team structure of Supercell. The more realistic approach to this is that Clash Mini will focus innovation on a very limited number of minis per season. And maintain the rest without changes or rotating through already established safe sets.
But overall, it seems lack of ambition on the content per season may endanger the innovation needed to keep the game interesting and lead to a meta with little diversity. To go beyond that requires Clash Mini to move beyond the limitations of the cell structure.
Content creation of this kind is not a problem that is solved just by putting more people on it. It requires a production model designed to avoid bottlenecks, similar to the one in MTG: Multiple teams working in parallel, each in the design of a further iteration of the game content (Team Season 1, Team Season 2, etc…).
4. Can both newcomers and expert players enjoy the same thing?
One of the benefits of the long onboarding process of Clash Royale and Brawl Stars is that they gate their complexity: Early players enjoy an accessible experience since they’re exposed only to a fraction of the game units and mechanics. While those that reach the endgame and require more depth to remain interested are exposed to much more content and complexity. In other words, they follow the mantra of “easy-to-learn, hard-to-master”.
This is different to games such as Fortnite or League of Legends, where players are exposed pretty much to their full complexity from the beginning. These games that expose the main game experience from the beginning follow two main models:
- Easy-to-learn, easy-to-master games such as Fortnite or Fall Guys, which don’t have a lot of depth but compensate by massive reach and a huge and constant volume of new content.
- Hard-to-master, hard-to-master games like League of Legends or Rocket League which have a big entry barrier and can be frustrating for newcomers, but are able to keep engaged those players that survive that early stage for many years.
Because Clash Mini has removed the onboarding stage and plans to expose newcomers and veterans to the same exact content, it is forced to choose between one of those two models. Both of which are problematic for western mobile audiences.
At the moment, Clash Mini is leaning towards the “easy-to-learn, easy-to-master” type: The basics are grasped relatively quickly, and it gives a great sensation of achieving mastery during the first days. But the “hard-to-master” part is missing. At the moment, Clash Mini doesn’t have enough depth right now to remain interesting for a month, let alone for the 60 or 90 days which a season is expected to last. So despite an engaging beginning, the game quickly becomes very repetitive soon because there’s not a lot to do, unlock or explore.
To keep veteran players engaged, Clash Mini needs to add more depth (more units, mechanics, variety of strategies…). But doing so will make it less effective to be picked up by newcomers.
Instead of the radical approach of not having any onboarding at all, perhaps Clash Mini could add a welcome season which would teach the basics of the game to players before launching them to the main game.
On top of keeping the complexity at bay in the early game, and onboarding season would:
- Make the early game linear, which will accelerate the process of analyzing and iterating in the entry funnel. As opposed to having a non-linear early game (that changes every so often), where there’s not enough time to detect and test improvements.
- Protect the game from the negative effects of specific seasons which are problematic to newcomers due to focusing on a specific new behavior that they can’t access as free-to-play players.
If Supercell wanted an early confirmation that this concept is worth exploring further and can have scalability potential, they got it. But the real challenge begins now: The path to build a title that keeps being great beyond the first weeks requires a lot of work and very likely revisiting some of the game’s core foundations.
This may prove challenging while trying to keep the audience happy, since they will likely push for a continuity strategy instead of more integral changes that the game may need. Ultimately, the lesson of all this could be that SC shouldn’t release things out of the oven so soon.
But if Supercell can pull it off, we may very well be in front of their next billion-dollar mid-core hit. So far, the fact is that Clash Mini seems the closest to that objective that they've been in years.
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