Brawl Stars, A History Lesson
In the free-to-play mobile development space, Brawl Stars - Supercell's successful and revolutionary real-time hero battle where players compete against one another, solo, or in a team - was the cat's meow when it was announced in June 2017. Several deconstructions dropped immediately after release and in the months after analyzing what Brawl Stars did right, why it was different, and why it might prove to be a major hit.
But then discussion of the game went relatively quiet. For many mobile developers not directly working in the competitive PvP space, Brawl Stars might have disappeared off their radar over the last few years, but this doesn't mean the game has grown stagnant. In fact, even before Supercell's December update shocked the industry by removing loot boxes, a number of meaningful Events have considerably shifted the Brawl Stars meta since release. Now, it's time for a proper retrospective.
To start, however, let's take a quick look at December's notorious update and figure out whether it truly worked. While it's still a little early -as a change to the core loop usually manifests itself in different long-term retention and spending behavior- it seems the spike in December was a one-time occurrence. It was more noticeable on Android, which suggests its cause was something along the lines of retargeting campaigns, which are easier to do on Android these days following Apple's ATT privacy changes. When looking at the big picture (Brawl Stars' roughly 360 million lifetime downloads) the 3 million that seem to have been added as a result of the update are of relatively low significance.
Of course, the update generated organic buzz, but it became clear by January that the level of new downloads was reverting back to its baseline. The question then is how curious players who rejoined Brawl Stars and the waves of fresh players began to spend, though that's unfortunately something only internal Supercell tracking data can discern. According to AppMagic, however, revenue data estimates shows a corresponding jump during the initial weeks following the update:
Data.ai currently shows $1.4 billion in lifetime revenue for Brawl Stars. This makes the title the fourth most successful game Supercell has ever released globally. This sounds great at first blush, and it obviously makes Brawl Stars a major hit. But let's also remember that Supercell has only ever released five games globally. Brawl Stars, in that context, is far from Supercell's peak.
The game generating the lowest revenue for the developer is Boom Beach, which is currently showing $700 million of lifetime revenue. The game is likely to be discontinued in the near future, after Supercell pushed exactly one update in 2022. The more than 10-year-old Hay Day still tops Brawl Stars with $1.52b billion in revenue and both Clash Royale and Clash of Clans complete the company's top-3 with $2.75 billion and a whopping $6.73 billion in lifetime revenue, respectively.
Especially throughout 2022, Brawl Stars has seen a very noticeable decrease in KPIs. In 2022 the game was downloaded 32% less (on average of across both Android and iOS) than in 2021, according to data.ai, and the game raked in just about half of the previous year's total revenue.
These are not developments any product lead would consider comforting, especially at Supercell, where performance standards are extremely high. But next to it being the most popular Western, mobile-only esports game, Brawl Stars is still very much alive and kicking with an average DAU of 2.5 million throughout last year.
Brawl Stars received a lot of analytical attention when it first released in 2018, triggering the industry to publish deconstructions left and right. As stated above, it has earned tremendous revenues since then, but we've also seen a steady progression of undiscussed changes to the game. It's very difficult to find an up-to-date breakdown of the game's feature set anywhere online. This deconstruction aims to rectify this, breaking down most of Supercell's numerous additions and near-constant tweaks to and removals of the game's feature set.
We'll also shed light on the impact these changes seemed to have had. Because even though the December update didn't permanently affect KPIs, the game's updates over the years have more than tripled the game's RPD since its global launch (worldwide on iOS). Brawl Stars still has room to improve - for example, in its minimal number of long-term progression vectors - but it has come a long way.
What's covered in this deconstruction:
- A quick breakdown of the game's meta and what makes it tick
- A full overview of the game's Events, including some short-lived ones that have since been removed
- An up-to-date analysis of the game's currencies and systems, with comparisons to past implementations of the game's meta (including the recent loot boxes change)
- The evolution of the game's monetization model
- An account of the game's vibrant esports scene and other community efforts
- Future prospects for Brawl Stars
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