The most popular strategy game for mobile devices, Clash Of Clans, just raked in a whopping $2,11 billion in revenues last year. When you spread that number across 365 calendar days, you’ll realise that Supercell, the company behind this infamous freemium mobile app, earns just a little over $5 million from this game alone every single day. And it’s not the only game on their shelves!
The marketing behind Clash of Clans
If I remember correctly, the first time I heard about the game was a couple of years ago when I saw a plain old banner advertisement on another gaming website and because I personally didn’t enjoy the game that much, I can’t help but wonder what it is that makes the game so popular among people around the world.
It’s true that Supercell spent $9 million for a 1 minute commercial during the SuperBowl in 2015 and reached more than 118 million people, but according to the company’s financial advisor they only saw a marginal increase in downloads. Upon reading a couple of articles it’s becoming more and more evident that the success of Clash of Clans lies mostly in simple word of mouth advertising where a friend tells a friend who tells another friend etc. If you think about it, it sort of spreads like a “social” virus.
The ethics of freemium apps
A freemium app is a piece of software that is free to use, but in order to take advantage of its full potential you are required to make a voluntary payment of some sort. For example in the game Clash of Clans it usually takes a very long time to build your town and gather more resources so you can choose to optionally buy green gems which make your life a lot easier and you can progress in the game a lot faster.
It’s all fun and games… until you see the receipt
It’s easy to sort of lose yourself in almost any game if you truly enjoy playing it and that’s exactly what happened to a Reddit user magiderp who, upon summing up the totals of his Google Play receipts, realised that he had spent more than four thousand dollars on in-game purchases. That’s a pretty insane amount of money if you think about it and what’s worse, he seemed to be completely oblivious to how much money he was actually spending.
According to Business Insider it costs around $12,000 to max out your base in the game and when you take a look at the scoreboard you’ll see that the top players are all maxed out. What’s interesting is that the majority of these players seem to be from Saudi Arabia with some players spending more than $16,000 on in-game purchases in order to beat other players and climb to the top.
A hunger for power?
So what is it that makes it so irresistible to spend large sums of money in a virtual game environment? Is it hunger for power? A clever marketing scheme followed by strategically developed game to play on the human emotions? I guess it’s a little bit of both because in the end I bet the top players feel pretty good about themselves for beating others and being the best.
Trouble is, the higher you climb, the more enemies you make and the more fragile your position becomes so you end up paying more and more just to stay afloat. In the end you have to ask yourself: is your 15 minutes of fame really worth it?