I have been spending a lot of time recently with the popular game Clash of clans by Supercell. The game is well known for leading the top grossing charts and so I wanted to learn what makes it wildly successful. I have made a mission for myself not to spend a dime on it. In addition to saving me a few bucks it also helped me observe how strong the appeal to spend in this game and where does it come from.
The game has two main parts in it. One is the part where you attack your enemies and the other is the part of building your city. One interesting observation is that the combat mode works a lot like a puzzle game. It has levels, a clear sense of progress and requires planning more than speed. At the same time, the city building component is a strategy or resource management game. The two are working together to challenge the user while creating a loop where resources are repeatedly being consumed and generated. This is one of the keys to successful use of virtual economy.
If we take a deeper look into the virtual economy of this game we can identify 3 currencies. Purple Elixir, Gold Coins and Green Gems. Each one of them has a distinct function. Elixir is used to train for troops and upgrade the barracks. In a nut shell, elixir is about attacking your enemies. At the same time, Gold coins are about protecting your city and can be used to build different defenses. What’s interesting is that the two are designed in perfect balance. To get coins, the user builds and upgrades gold mines and a gold storage which costs them Elixir and time. At the same time, getting Elixir requires the users to spend time and coins by building and upgrading their Elixir drill and storage. The only component that is not balanced against the others is the time. Everything in the game takes time: building stuff, training soldiers, and accumulating wealth. The one currency that can change that is the hard currency – green gems. These are not available anywhere in the game world but each player starts with a balance and can buy more when he runs out. This is how this game makes money.
Beyond the basic model that is very powerful to begin with there are a few details that make it even better:
- The player starts with a high balance of Gems. This gives him an opportunity to get into the practice of spending them to move things more quickly.
- A new player goes into a tutorial that guides him to spend in game currency as an integral part of the game.
- The game uses a ‘locking’ functionality to keep the game interesting longer. This is mainly driven by building more advanced versions of the town hall.
- Most virtual good in the game has levels that are being unlocked in a sequence. This means that there are always more goods to buy and the store never gets boring.
- Every virtual good in the game has a mechanism that destroys it. Buildings can be attacked by enemies and soldiers are expended when going to a battle in a foreign land. The result is that nothing lasts forever and the player needs to constantly buy more goods.
About a month ago I posted “5 critical mistakes with virtual economies in mobile games” You can rest assure that none of these mistakes can be found in Clash of Clans and that the game has built a virtual economy that is not only making it highly monetizable but also very engaging over time.