This deconstruction is from the Naavik archives and was originally published in February 2023. This is the first time it’s being released publicly.
Brawl Stars was the cat’s meow when it was announced in June 2017. Several deconstructions dropped immediately after soft launch and in the months after, analyzing what Brawl Stars did right, why it was different, and why it might be a hit.
But then discussion of the game went relatively quiet. For mobile developers not directly working in the competitive PvP space, Brawl Stars might have disappeared off the 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 events have shifted the Brawl Stars meta since release. Now, it’s time for a proper retrospective.
To start, let’s 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 potentially a retargeting campaign, which is easier to do on Android. When looking at the big picture (Brawl Stars’ roughly 360M lifetime downloads), the 3M that seem to have been added after the update are of relatively low significance.
Of course, the update generated organic buzz, but it became clear by January that new download levels were reverting back to its baseline. The question then is how rejoiners and new players began to spend, though that’s something only internal Supercell tracking data can truly discern. According to data.ai, however, revenue data estimates show a corresponding jump during the initial weeks following the update:
Data.ai currently shows $1.4B in lifetime revenue for Brawl Stars. This makes it the fourth most successful game Supercell has ever released globally. Supercell has only ever released five games worldwide, though,so Brawl Stars, in that context, is far from Supercell’s top title.
The game generating the lowest revenue is Boom Beach, which is currently showing $700M 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 in revenue, and both Clash Royale and Clash of Clans complete the company’s top three with $2.75B and a whopping $6.73B in lifetime revenue, respectively.
Especially throughout 2022, Brawl Stars saw a very noticeable decrease in KPIs. In 2022, the game was downloaded 32% less (on average 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 2.5M throughout last year.
Brawl Stars received a lot of attention when it first released in 2018, and 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. Brawl Stars still has room to improve — for example, in its minimal long-term progression vectors — but it has come a long way.
In this deconstruction, we’ll cover:
- The game’s meta and what makes it tick.
- An overview of the game’s events, including some short-lived ones that have since been removed.
- An analysis of the game’s currencies and systems, with comparisons to past implementations of the game’s meta (including the recent loot box change).
- The evolution of its monetization model.
- An account of its vibrant esports scene and other community efforts.
- A look at its future prospects.
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