The Finnish company Supercell has launched two games very successfully - Clash of Clans and Hay Day. So let’s have a look at what made these games so successful.  
Mowjow has studied several different apps and user behaviors to create the app you see today. So we decided to create a series of articles around other successful apps so you can see what we have learnt from them.

The Outset

Supercell were very clear about what they wanted to achieve with their games. First of all, just like the Angry Birds creators, they wanted to target everyone. Whilst Clash of Clans is a strategy game, they wanted to open this niche to the widest possible audience. Secondly, they wanted to have a game that people kept playing. Their inspiration was games like World of Warcraft, which players stayed faithful to for years. Last, but not least, they thought games could be more fun when played with other people; adding a social element was therefore important to them.

The Company Structure

Supercell, like the name implies, has divided its company into cells which work on each game. Each cell works independently on a game and is therefore given a lot of freedom. There are around seven people in each cell. Once a game is ready for trial the rest of the company tries out the game in the office. If that’s successful, the game is launched in the Canadian app store to test the market. If the game fails to perform, either in the office, or in the app store, it’s killed off straight away. With champagne, as they have a policy of celebrating the learnings they’ve had from their failures. They also do this if they feel a game won’t last, for any number of reasons - better kill it off earlier rather than later.

For example, one of their first games, Gunshine, had about 500,000 monthly players at most, but the company still killed it off. Why? They knew they couldn’t keep players in the long run. There were problems with the game (people wouldn’t want to play it for longer than two or so months) and it didn’t appeal to people who weren’t used to playing that kind of game. This didn’t mesh with their ideas of creating a game for everyone that they would keep playing for years.

It’s also been important for the company to keep their overall staff numbers as low as possible. They wanted to avoid the trap of expanding too much too soon.

The iPad Approach

At first Supercell wanted to build cross-platform games, then they discovered the iPad. They were thrilled by it and decided to design games specifically for tablets. That meant graphics were in focus. It also meant they didn’t try too many things at once. Today they have a “mobile first” strategy as smartphones are a huge market.

Freemium

Both Hay Day and Clash of Clans were designed so that you’d never have to buy anything if you’re smart enough. However, most people grow impatient and buy things. Which has led to Hay Day  and Clash of Clans becoming two of the highest grossing games of all time. In 2014 the company took in $1.7B in total, mainly from Clash of Clans, Hay Day and Boom Beach. At one point it was rumored that the company had a 70% profit operating margin.

There are also in-app ads, but the company has taken care to incorporate the ads in such a way that they fit the game and don’t irritate the players. In Hay Day for example, the magazine where you buy farming goods also incorporate ads from other companies. No annoying pop up windows!

Expansion

Like so many other successful games there’s revenue to be had outside the game through intellectual property rights. For example, this year there’s the first Clash of Clans convention to be he held in Finland. It’s aptly named ClashCon. Having good graphics also obviously helps with being able to create related merchandize, TV shows, movies etc. as seen with QuizUp and Angry Birds.

Mowjow vs. Supercell

Obviously Mowjow as a company has some differences when compared to Supercell as we’re creating a trivia game. For example, for us targeting just smartphones when launching isn’t necessary, because our game doesn’t need to be changed much to be adapted to the PC screen. It’s pretty easy for us to be cross-platform from the get-go. Like Supercell though, we will start off with one territory to test the market and get feedback, before we roll the game out anywhere else.

Our company is structured differently from Supercell - we work with a core team and a lot of freelancers all over the world that have become part of our global team. Even our core team is global. That means a lot of independence for everyone on our books.

Like Supercell we target close to anyone. Trivia games have a universal appeal. And like Hay Day it’s not like this kind of game hasn’t been done before. We simply think we add something new with our visuals, like Hay Day did with their graphics. We also add the prize element, which is different from games like Trivia Crack and QuizUp.

Also, we’re big on the social angle. Mowjow is built to make players want to connect both with existing friends through social media and meet like-minded people through playing the game. When people can interact with others with similar interests, it brings a social aspect to the game naturally.

This market update was originally published on October 27, 2016.