7 min read

EGD News #99 — Game depth

EGD News #99 — Game depth

It’s Joakim here. Greetings from Helsinki!

I have one quick announcement to make. A relatively new mobile game studio in Berlin, Germany, that I work with is looking for a CTO, with a possibility to join as co-founder. If you know of people looking for a role like that, please ping me on LinkedIn. 🇩🇪

Now, on to the news.

On August 23rd, Supercell soft-launched its new title, Everdale, which feels different from their previous games. Or does it?

🌳 Deep games for the masses?

Everdale on Google Play and iOS

Everdale seems like Clash of Clans without combat or Hay Day with a social co-op. As we all know, Supercell soft launches and kills games quite publicly. Since its founding in 2010, the list is long on games that they brought out but eventually killed. These include Spooky Pop, Smash Lands, Rush Wars, Hay Day Pop, and many others.

Let’s look at Rush Wars, soft-launched and killed in 2019. It featured base building and asynchronous combat in the footsteps of Clash of Clans. But Rush Wars wasn’t the only successor to Clash of Clans. Boom Beach was the first successor, and it made it to global launch in 2015 without being killed.

Why did Boom Beach make it but Rush Wars didn’t? For one, the market had changed. By 2019, we’d seen enough of these multiplayer strategy games for the masses, and the players who were genuine fans of the genre wanted more from the new title.

It’s not that Supercell put all their effort into making a successful asynchronous combat game. It’s such a problematic fanbase to please. And, we had evidence that many others tried to fast-follow the success of Clash of Clans.

There was even a Star Wars game with base building and battling that never made a dent.

The only one to my knowledge that worked has been IGG’s Castle Clash. It imitated in the thematics of Clash of Clans but doubled down on upgrade depth, and you had the possibility of collecting these units like hero characters. By adding heroes, the developers created significant gameplay depth, where you’d have dozens of heroes.

An elaborate game economy, more complex and profound than Clash of Clans, allowed the players to utilize many juicy upgrade paths to pick how they’d personalize and specialize their gameplay.

IGG created a hit since it didn’t need or want a broad audience. By appealing to the masses would lead to shallow gameplay. IGG was happy at focusing on a core audience that would embrace a more complex game with depth.

One could argue that there is no such thing as a casual strategy. At least in free-to-play, where you are going after mountains of stacked DAU and high LTVs.

Graph by Eric Seufert

I loved reading Javier Barnes’ previous articles on Supercell titles. Last year, he wrote a series of articles on Clash Royale.

“Once you reach the endgame, the advanced user game experience is far away from the core of Clash Royale’s original fun, which was based on discovering and mastering deck strategies and card combos.”

Last spring, I had a discussion with Javier on my podcast about Supercell. You can listen to part 1 by going here and to part 2 of the discussion by going here.

Here are my favorite highlights from Javier and Miska’s latest piece on Supercell’s Everdale.

“Supercell has removed player to player trading from Everdale as it was breaking the economy in Hay Day. While this move is logical, it also hurts the depth of Everdale by removing the foundation of specialization.”

“The key question here is not short-term retention, but if the game can keep players hooked for a very long time. Everdale’s strategy is to start very simple as just an appointment game and then unfold game depth with the Valley mechanics and additional layers of crafting. In our opinion, this is where the bigger risk lies. The issues we previously raised on lack of advanced mechanics (no specialization, no trading…) means that they may not get to shine enough to fulfill their objective of keeping players hooked.”

“At its current state, the game doesn’t seem to have enough depth nor freedom. Everdale promises fun co-operation in a relaxing valley where players can build their own little towns in the middle of their green valleys. But the fact is that players are hit with heavy micro-management and an endless list of tasks to complete.”

Ever since Clash of Clans launched in 2012, mobile developers have been attempting to build games that appeal to broad audiences. But now that it’s almost been ten years of trying, developers have to decide one way or another.

The first: continue developing from the masses, making appealing graphics, creating elaborate game economies, but possibly facing problems that we’ve yet to solve with broad appeal games. Then you’re ending up building meaningless games for the fans who want to play the games on Day-360 and Day-720.

The second: A company like Plarium, totally under the radar, is putting out ugly butt games, but they are so immensely deep that the 5 to 7% of players who stick around after Day-30 don’t want to play any other game.

If someone wanted to compete with Everdale, I would bet on the latter way to go all-in on hardcore deep.

💰 Bitcoin in games

This week I met up with the ZEBEDEE co-founders André Neves and Christian Moss, to talk about how ZEBEDEE is helping developers integrate Bitcoin into their games.

In the webinar, we talked about Bitcoin in games, looked at examples, and then finish off with an audience Q&A.

You can watch the recording from this webinar by going here.

🎙 Logan Dwight — Tabletop RPGs Go Online

I have a new podcast episode out, where I about tabletop RPGs going online, with Logan Dwight, Co-Founder and CEO of Role.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of people who don’t see themselves represented in other forms of media have taken strongly to role-playing games as their primary form of social entertainment because they can tell the stories that they see themselves in, ones they want to see themselves and they can get together with friends that they trust and respect. And they can create entire worlds together that are for them. That has been so awesome to see.”

Listen to the episode by going here.

🗓 In Case You Missed These on EGD

📃 Articles worth reading

+ NFT Objections From Game Developers — ““Players can already collect virtual items in our games.” Of course they can. But this is always performed within a centralized infrastructure. There are a number of opportunities, features, stories, and even emotions that are virtually impossible to enable within a centralized infrastructure. Most of this article will attempt to excite you with what those opportunities are.”

+ Unpacking Apple’s recent App Store policy changes — “Apple’s policies related to in-app monetization — the 30% platform fee it applies to in-app purchases, the forced use of iTunes Connect as an in-app payments processor — have lived on borrowed time at least since Epic goaded Apple into removing Fortnite from the App Store last August. Epic sued Apple over that, and a judgment in that suit is forthcoming, but the treasure trove of emails and internal company memos that the suit made public presented Apple as so avaricious, so hostile to developers, and so intractable that the outcome of the lawsuit is mostly incidental.”

+ Secrets to Successful Cross Promotion — “The sudden rise of the weight companies put on cross-promotion is of course due to the IDFA deprecation that has to some extent further accelerated consolidation in the industry. And as large publishers grow larger and operate across all the key gaming genres they are looking for tools to increase the lifetime values of their large and diverse player base. And what better way to do so than have players playing multiple titles in your portfolio.”

💬 Quote that I’ve been thinking about

“No one is impressed with your possessions as much as you are.” — Morgan Housel

Sponsored by AppMagic

I (Joakim) wrote an article with the AppMagic folks, and in it, we talk about the ways that developers of mobile games should think about market insights in the early stages of concepting and prototyping of their games.

Read this article by going here.

Sponsored by Pollen VC

Pollen VC provides flexible lines of credit to mobile app and game developers, enabling you to borrow up to 4x your monthly revenues on a simple, transparent interest rate basis.

Unlock the value trapped in your platform receivables (AR) and in your existing marketing cohorts – get an elastic line of credit that flexes in line with your business growth. Capital can be rapidly reinvested back into user acquisition to help growth without relying on dilutive venture capital funding, or expensive revenue based loans.

Go to www.pollen.vc to learn more.

Sponsored by Opera Event

​Looking for some great new authentic video creative? Try something totally new with Influencer Generated Content (IGC) by Opera Event. Influencers or actors will make specific creative content for your games and Opera Event will deliver you high-quality video ads that highlight the best parts of your game.

Note! You get a free video with the purchase of 4 or more videos. Remember to say that Elite Game Developers sent you!

Go to www.getigc.com to see some examples and get more information.​​

If you’re enjoying EGD News, I’d love it if you shared it with a friend or two. You can send them here to sign up. I try to make it one of the best emails you get each week, and I hope you’re enjoying it.

I hope you have a great weekend!