What Made Clash of Clans so Insanely Successful and What Can We Learn from It?

Creating a successful mobile game is not any easy task. There are thousands of games on the app store, and chances are you can probably only think of a few popular ones off the top of your head. Candy Crush or maybe Angry Birds are the first that come to mind. What makes these games so successful and have the developers discovered a secret formula for creating hit games? It would certainly appear that way for Finnish developer Supercell. No, Supercell is not the developer of Candy Crush, although Candy Crush may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the most successful mobile game. Rather, they're the developers behind the game Clash of Clans. One of the highest grossing mobile games of all time. Just how much does one of the highest grossing mobile game of all time make? Well, let's talk about that a little later. First, let's look at what makes Clash of Clans so successful, and find out what you can learn from it when you're trying to develop a mobile game yourself.

A Look at Successful Mobile Games

© 2014 Rovio Entertainment Ltd.

Before Clash of Clans is discussed let’s look at some of the other popular mobile games which likely were on your list of the most successful mobile game before Clash of Clans came to mind.

Angry Birds is an extremely popular mobile game, as you’re probably aware. Its success was really found in the marketing of the game and the products that came from the game. While the game earns a hefty amount of revenue from in-app purchases the success largely came from the explosion of merchandise based on the game.

For example, there is an Angry Birds television show, board games, hats, books, soft drinks, various different toys including stuffed animals, an Angry Birds retail store in Finland and even an Angry Birds 3D animated feature created by Sony Pictures Imageworks is in production with a planned July 1, 2016 release date.

So how in the world did a game where you launch birds at a tower in hopes of knocking it down gain so much popularity and spawn an entire chain of merchandise? Well, for one the game is simply appealing, from the sound, the design of the characters and the cartoony graphics, and kids all over the world were instantly drawn to the appeal of the game. Someone involved quickly saw the potential the game had to go beyond the game itself and the risk was well worth it.

©2014 King.com Ltd. King, the King crown logo, "Candy Crush Saga" and related marks are trade marks of King.com Ltd or related entities.

Another one that comes to mind for anyone who has a smart phone is Candy Crush. This game is really right on par with Clash of Clans when it comes to revenue, and Candy Crush is probably a household name whereas Clash of Clans isn’t. There are months where Candy Crush is ahead of Clash of Clans when it comes to revenue, and vise versa.

Clash of Clans also has fewer players, but the players who are willing to spend their hard earned money on in-app purchases are likely to spend much more on Clash of Clans than Candy Crush. While Candy Crush certainly is addicting Clash of Clans has more depth in the gameplay to keep the player paying.

Supercell Figured out the Formula

So why was Clash of Clans chosen as the focus of this article if Candy Crush is similar when it comes to earnings? Well, the developer Supercell not only has the highest grossing game at the moment with Clash of Clans, but all three of their games are on the top 20 list for the highest grossing games of all time. Boom Beach comes in at number 5, and Hay Day comes in at number 6. It would seem that Supercell has found substantial success with each game they develop and not just one.

Considering there are thousands of games on the app store, and one developer has seemed to achieve popularity and financial success with not just one of their games, but all of their games. That is not an easy feat, and the mobile game market does not always spell success. Just look at Zynga, while they certainly have popular mobile games, like FarmVille 2 they’ve had to do massive lay offs because they’ve had a difficult time breaking into the mobile game market.

It would appear that Supercell has figured out some secret formula for always creating popular mobile games. However, maybe that “secret” formula isn’t so secret. Because it just might all come down to the quality and appeal of the game and a revenue formula that works, and if you think of it that way, this formula definitely isn’t secret, but rather the ABC’s of successful mobile game development.

What Makes Clash of Clans Popular

© 2014 Supercell. All Rights Reserved.

Clash of Clans is first off a game that’s polished. One thing that was mentioned in this article was that when it comes to mobile game development it’s not about how many games you can get onto the app store, and how fast you can do it but rather spending the time to create one great game, not lots of mediocre games. Supercell definitely spent the time required to make Clash of Clans not only fun to play, but addicting.

Clash of Clans has got an art style that really appeals to any age and this type of game has already been proved popular among many gamers. The game obviously takes some inspiration from successful Real Time Strategy (RTS) games like StarCraft and Age of Empires and they put it into the palm of your hands. If you’re like some of us here at Digital-Tutors Age of Empires 2 is a favorite, and some of us still play it to this day.

That’s not to say Clash of Clans simply copied these games but rather took inspiration from them and put their own spin on the genre that would work for the mobile game market. Clash of Clans is the type of game that you want to go back to, whether it’s expanding your village, gathering resources or building up your army to attack other players.

It’s also one of those games that doesn’t have to take a lot of your time, you can turn it on for a few minutes, whether it’s creating a couple troops or building a farm. You don’t have to try and beat a certain level every time you play. The game is going to be exactly where you left it when you come back. If you’re waiting for the trailers to start in the movie theatre you can turn it on to build a few houses and quickly turn it off before someone yells at you.

A Revenue Formula That Works


Clash of Clans is a free-to-play game, which means there’s nothing to lose if you download it. This expands the reach of their games and gets their game into the hands of more people.

However, as you’ll find out making it free-to-play brings the players in, but the game itself is more enjoyable if you make a few in-app purchases. This is usually referred to as the “Freemium” revenue model, where the game itself is free but if you really want to progress quickly you’ll need to make a few in-app purchases.

Supercell did a great job with making sure Clash of Clans pulls you in, they don’t want someone to download the game and never make a purchase. The game entices you by letting you begin building your village, gather resources and create a small army. At this point you’re starting to have fun and you’re a pretty good chief to your village. If you’ve played Age of Empires before you might get that same feeling you had, ah…nostalgia.

Suddenly, you can’t build anymore because you ran out of the games “gems” required to construct new buildings! Sure, you can spend hours playing the game trying to earn the gems on your own and you won’t have to make a single in-app purchase…that is if you have 500 years to kill. You could always send 50 friends game invites to earn a few gems, but really, who wants to do that? That in-app purchase of just a measly $4.99 is starting to look a little nicer, and it would definitely speed up your progress in the game. Suddenly you’re making in-app purchases left and right and the cycle has begun. Clash of Clans has successfully pulled you in and turned a free-to-play game into a not so free game.

This is how the “Freemium” revenue model works, and it definitely works when you’ve got a great game on your hands that can pull the player in. Free is always good on the surface, but as you start to examine it closer, it’s really not so free. Even if just a few percent of the millions of people that play Clash of Clans regularly make in-app purchases that is still going to generate a massive amount of revenue for Supercell and it definitely has.

In-App Purchases That Are Important

© 2014 Supercell. All Rights Reserved.

Going back to this article again, one of the things that was mentioned was making sure you’re in-app purchases are valuable to the player and not there just to be there. In Clash of Clans each in-app purchase is going to benefit you greatly. Allowing you to expand your kingdom, build troops and help you on your journey to becoming the greatest chief ever and having the biggest and best village.

The in-app purchases also speed up the progression in the game, as mentioned earlier you never have to pay any money, but this will take you much longer to build onto your village. Paying $4.99 for something that would take six hours of gameplay to get suddenly doesn’t seem like such a sacrifice.

Just How Much Does Clash of Clans Earn?

So with all this said, how much does Clash of Clans actually earn? Well, earlier this year a hacker apparently gained access to the Supercell’s financial information, and discovered a pretty staggering amount of revenue.

Although it’s unclear if the revenue is just for Clash of Clans or all three of their games combined, Clash of Clans, Hay Day and Boom Beach, the amount is just over five million in a single day. Even if it’s all three games, that’s over a million dollars in revenue every single day for each game. Earning over 1M a day off a game I think falls into the category of a successful mobile game, what do you think?


It all really comes down to having an excellent game on your hands that people will want to play and thinking smart with your revenue model. The CEO of Supercell, Ilkka Paananen said it best, “Money is not the reason we come to work each day. We come to work excited to build great games with amazing people.”

When you’re passionate about what you do the benefits will come, creating a mobile game just in the hopes of making money usually won’t result in success if you’re heart isn’t in it.

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