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Clash Royale – Supercell’s New King of Engagement

Posted Apr 21, 2016

Supercell has another $1 billion mobile hit on its hands with Clash Royale.

After taking the world by storm with Clash of Clans, including a $9 million Super Bowl 50 ad starring Liam Neeson, Supercell has once again proven its near-perfect understanding of user behavior and what it takes to keep users engaged long-term. With Clash Royale, Supercell blended elements of multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), real-time strategy (RTS) and collectible card (CCG) games in such a way that it’s more approachable than its individual parts, but never feels frivolous.

Clash Royale debuted in January of this year and surged to the top of the App Store and the Top 5 in Google Play’s rankings. No doubt your office (as well as ours) is full of conversations around clans, chests timer resets, and upgrades, and these multiple strategies are Clash Royale’s core engagement strengths.


One of Clash Royale’s core engagement mechanisms is totally passive. By allowing users to join clans with their friends (our office has three) they’ve created a social experience and a sense of community ownership. Clans amongst friends creates extremely strong organic growth mechanic as well.

Timed Chests

Time-gating is a retention and engagement strategy almost as old as mobile games themselves. These reward items only become available after a given amount of time. There’s seven different chests that have varying times to unlock and different requirements to earn in the first place.

Free Chests show up every 4 hours, but Magical Chests need to be earned after winning battles and take a full 12 hours to unlock. Those limits can be bypassed by spending gems, but by and large timers like this serve to bring players back into the game, again and again.

These types of time-gates (and bypassing them) are the natural evolution of the build timer featured in many strategy titles. Applying it to a relatively simple “card combat” title like Clash Royale was a master stroke.


There are currently 48 cards in Clash Royale, all of which can be upgraded. In order to upgrade cards though, you need a certain number of that card. These upgrades also need gold to upgrade, and reward XP upon being upgraded. It’s a simple system on its face, with complex ramifications in the game.

Systems like upgrades feed the competitive engagement loop. Players will spend time and money to try and create the perfect deck, and then use that deck in games against other players.


The most famous carrot-on-a-stick in loyalty for years, progressing in level and/or rank is an engagement and retention tactic that works surprisingly well.

A player’s level in Clash Royale can be achieved through upgrading cards, donating cards they don’t use, and completing in-game achievements. It helps that leveling up rewards gets you better cards, more chests, and more gems through the actions required just to level up. Like buying more flights to hit Executive Platinum on airline miles, it’s a cycle that keeps players climbing the rank/level ladder.

Clash Royale Screen

Putting it all Together

Clash Royale’s systems all work together to create a near-perfect engagement pattern, keeping even the most casual players checking their phone at every vibration to see if their next chest can be opened, and more dedicated players working to maximize their purchases and earned rewards.

SuperCell’s domination of the marketplace looks set to continue as they continue to improve on their engagement strategies. Their understanding that one method doesn’t work for everyone and that the best success comes from multiple approaches tied together for maximum impact.

Now if you’ll excuse us, it’s time to check on our chests.

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