Why Clash Royale Might Not be a Billion-Dollar Mobile Game

The game's unique aspects might work against it in the long-term.

Clash Royale is an amazing game. It is my number one contender for game of the year 2016, and it has consumed lots of my time...not to mention money, ​though I doubt that it is pay-to-win. There's no reason why it can't be the next billion-dollar mobile game, right? Well, I think there are three reasons why the game might struggle in the long-term for its most dedicated players.

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What if advanced players fall out of love with the game's simplified strategy?

Clash Royale Watch Game
Supercell

The great thing about Clash Royale is that its strategy is so simple to get into, as you place a unit, and then it behaves on its own without any control of it after the fact. But that leads to some issues that can be a problem to deal with.

For example, right now, a dragon might be going to town on a bomb tower, but if a horde of spear goblins is dropped alongside it, they can do damage to the dragon, despite being a one-hit kill for the dragon. Yet, the dragon keeps going after the tower while this obvious threat that could be quickly eliminated is sitting right there. If the player has some sort of control over what the unit attacks like in most real-time strategy games, then they could easily avoid the situations where a defender can exploit the rules of what is known as 'pulling aggro' on units.

To be fair, these rules exist for both players. But it's frustrating when sometimes victory comes not from superior strategy and planning, but from knowing how to exploit factors out of the player's control. And even some of the rules for aggro can be a bit baffling – why is a charging unit turning backward or running long routes to hazards? Or, if a hog rider is running toward a nearly-dead tower, why are they turning backward to attack a less-critical bomb tower? These kinds of shortcomings with the aggro rules can become very grating to the long-term players that populate these games. One weird situation with pulling aggro can be the difference between a win, loss, or draw.

What could happen is that players over time start to grow tired of the game's simplicity and find themselves drawn to games that manage to combine the mobile-friendliness of Clash Royale's mobile multiplayer while mixing in perhaps just enough more advanced tactics that keep long-term players happy. Think this would be tough to pull off? All giants must fall. After all, Hay Day is most likely a bigger money-maker than FarmVille is right now. Contest of Champions by Kabam has usurped Injustice and Mortal Kombat X in the top grossing charts despite using similar gameplay. Marvel licensing may have something to do with that, but there is also smart monetization in play. Don't think that Supercell couldn't be outdone.

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What if Supercell can't turn the game into an eSport?

Clash Royale Tournament
Supercell

Now, by an eSport, I mean a game that has a good competitive scene among high-level players and one that viewers enjoy. The first official tournament for the game drew solid numbers but there were complaints about the quality of the broadcast. And Supercell themselves said that this was a trial run as much as anything. But this is uncharted territory for Supercell in the future. The game has done quite well due to its competitive nature early on, but what will keep the game and its community going in the future? Can Supercell nurture the competitive and eSports aspect of the game?

It's a new area of expertise, and one where they'll have to look at Riot and Valve, developers of League of Legends and Dota 2 respectively, to see how they develop and cultivate their communities and events. Valve did such a great job with Dota 2 that the had players paying specifically to increase the game's prize pool through the purchase of The Compendium. Supercell does have a start in community management with their hit games already, but building up an eSport? The jury's out on if they can manage to succeed with that. And if they can't manage to make the game succeed as a competitive event, that's just room for someone else to come in and steal their thunder.

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What if Supercell can't keep the updates coming?

Clash Royale Store
Supercell

This might seem like a silly concern ​since Supercell has managed to make 3 smash-hit, long-running games in a row with Clash of Clans, Hay Day, and Boom Beach. But there are unique difficulties that come with a PvP real-time multiplayer game like this. Can they add new cards to the game to keep players interested, and keep new additions balanced? Can they tweak the game to keep players thinking the competitions are fair, while also maintaining their "offense first" strategy? It's not that anyone should have severe doubts about this, but a game like this can be volatile to any change, and Supercell is doing something quite different here than with other titles they've done. What happens if the game grows stale? Or if the offense-first philosophy winds up alienating players? Could this lead to the game's slow decline into irrelevance? Or will someone else with a philosophy that appeals more to players succeed?

These reasons may all be long shots, but they're concerns.

To be honest, I have full faith that Supercell can do everything to keep Clash Royale relevant, fun, and interesting. Betting against them seems like a foolish bet. But there are parts of Clash Royale are new for the company, and the people sinking tons of time and money into this game might be picky about how it plays. And if they grow dissatisfied over time, Clash Royale could have a shorter shelf life than their other evergreen hits.