Blizzard dropped a new gift for its loyal audience at Blizzcon 2023, just in time for the holidays. Warcraft Rumble, launched on November 3rd, is its latest attempt at making a fun, profitable F2P mobile game and the second to use the Warcraft IP. It is developed in-house, and we’d guess by a team size of less than 50. We’d further speculate that it has been around three years in the making, considering that alpha testing occurred during mid-2021. It has likely been created with a relatively small team of under 50.
Described by Blizzard as a ‘tower offense’ game, the main objective is to choose a Warcraft Leader and send your troops across an increasingly chaotic battlefield to take down the opposing Leader. Players can collect 65+ Minis to build their armies and fight on 75+ unique maps. There are also a variety of modes at launch, including a PvE campaign (with additional Heroic difficulty), online PvP, Guilds, and gauntlet-style Dungeons. And for those who want even more of a challenge, Raids are coming soon – check out the current gameplay here, and for a rundown of the game’s various systems and progression loops, read more here or listen/watch here.
Warcraft Rumble was first revealed in May 2022 as a pocket-sized return to Warcraft’s strategy roots and 30-year legacy. The Clash Royale comparisons have been frequent and well-warranted, but the game offers much more gameplay optionality (due to a wide variety of modes), paired with more complex metagame and progression systems that create additional layers of mid-to-end game depth.
In many ways, the game feels more inspired by the classic Warcraft: Orcs & Humans RTS and sequels that followed, with many elements of World of Warcraft (WoW), Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm thrown in. Warcraft Rumble’s design motivations are more rooted in Warcraft’s history, and the game feels like an attempt at a mobile RTS versus Clash Royale’s tactical battling. This is anecdotally confirmed by Tom Chilton, Warcraft Rumble’s Game Director, who recounts the game’s origins here.
However one wants to define this game’s genre, both the mobile RTS and tactical battler subgenres are tough nuts to crack for any developer, even with IPs like Warcraft. The product graveyards for both subgenres are huge on mobile, for three reasons:
- RTS games flourished on PC, and capturing the genre’s essence in a mobile-first context isn’t easy.
- The total addressable market for mobile RTS experiences is pretty small and that impacts project profitability.
- Breaking Clash Royale’s chokehold on the space by providing a new experience that incentivises its audience to make the switch is a very tall order.
So, what is Blizzard’s real aim with this project? As Associate Game Director Adam Kugler puts it: “The goal is to both appeal to the Blizzard audience at large, anybody who has played Warcraft before I think would love to play this game, but also bringing people that are not necessarily Warcraft fans yet and turning them into new Warcraft fans.”
In other words, the team's number one priority while creating Warcraft Rumble was to make it as broadly accessible and engaging as possible.
Given WoW’s declining popularity amongst existing audiences over time and a potentially rising pressure to keep the IP relevant by finding and creating new fans in younger generations, it does bring into question whether creating a Warcraft mobile RTS SKU was really the best use of resources. Maybe it is one part of a larger strategy to gain incremental audiences / engagement / revenue, but a few points are worth mentioning:
- Warcraft Rumble’s reveal got very mixed reactions from WoW’s existing fanbase, as expected. It’s questionable whether Warcraft Rumble will really make a dent in sustaining or improving fanbase retention by providing a more on-the-go Warcraft experience.
- The game team’s aim to stay true to Warcraft’s roots has resulted in game design decisions that don’t really make it accessible for audiences new to the IP. The impact can already be seen in the game’s sub-40% D1 retention and 15% D7 retention (a less than ideal 40% D7/D1 ratio, according to data.ai) on its launch month iOS US cohorts.
- It doesn’t really seem like the team is currently running any significant UA campaigns to bring in new audiences and is mostly relying on organics. While this could be due to the game’s slightly poor retention numbers, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Warcraft Rumble continue to take a very light UA approach like Blizzard has done with Hearthstone. The game’s weekly downloads continue to drop with last week seeing ~280K downloads, although an eventual stable baseline will be much lower.
All of this is not to say that the game isn’t fun. Once you really get into it, it is a very satisfying experience as would be expected of any Blizzard title, with strategic complexity unfolding every step of the way — if that suits your mobile gaming tastes. There is also a ton of gameplay systems innovation that mobile F2P game teams can gain inspiration from, and they probably will. And what seems to be working quite well for the game is monetisation. Marvel Snap, Diablo Immortal, and Warcraft Rumble have very similar iOS US retention numbers, but Warcraft Rumble is showcasing a D30 RPD of $7.55 vs Diablo Immortal’s $5.87 (-22%) and Marvel Snap’s $3.41 (-55%).
But with ~7M downloads and ~$20M net IAP revenue during its launch month, Warcraft Rumble is probably far from a business success in Blizzard’s eyes. It’s likely small game team, lack of gameplay accessibility, reliance on churning out a ton of handcrafted PvE content, presumably Hearthstone-like UA and live-ops tactics, and publicly stated lack of mobile experience isn’t going to help.
We’re still curious to see where Blizzard takes this game, but we question whether it‘ll truly deliver on its strategic goal.
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Game of the Week: Candy Crush 3D
By Evtim Trenkov, Naavik Senior Consultant & Operations Lead
GEO: Malaysia (Soft launch)
Fresh out of the Mold: King has just started testing a new game from the Candy Crush series, Candy Crush 3D, which is soft-launched only on Android in Malaysia and likely in an early(ish) prototype phase.
A Different Flavour: King has been quite bold in offering slightly altered experiences under its Candy Crush IP for a while, from turn-based mechanics in Jelly Saga to mascots in Friends Saga and narrative in Tales. However, until now, the core match-3 gameplay has stayed basically the same. Candy Crush 3D has a simpler formula: pick three identical candies from a pile to gradually clear the level, or hit a particular objective before the time runs out. It offers quicker gameplay, utilizes polished 3D objects instead of 2D sprites, rewarding animations, and doesn’t require a deeper strategy.
Bucking the Item Match Puzzle Trend: It could be argued that Candy Crush 3D is King’s take on games such as Triple Match 3D, while hopping on the more recent growth trend shown by games like Tile Busters from Spyke Games. So, what could the Candy Crush IP be looking for in this part of the market? Triple Match 3D already has 11M downloads and counting, and has also made ~$135M so far from a little more than a year and a half on the market. Its accessible formula is something that we have explored before, and it has highly marketable, monetisable gameplay.
Why Now: Why Now: So it looks like King is confident enough in the gameplay to test it with its Candy Crush IP. But why hasn’t it moved faster? Lion Games launched Match 3D – the item match OG – in 2020, and its business model was the hypercasual one. In comparison, the Candy Crush IP has always been monetised mostly via IAP purchases, and King would probably like to keep it that way. Most importantly, for Match 3D, long-term retention probably wasn’t the key objective in order to call the game a success. This can be confirmed by a quick check with data.ai. While Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga and Match 3D all have a somewhat similar D7 retention (13.6%, 14.1% and 10.4%, respectively), at D30 things look drastically different (11.6%, 11.6% and 5.3%, respectively).
Boombox came along with 2022’s Triple Match 3D and achieved two very important things:
- Narrowed down the long-term retention delta significantly – D7 is at 11.6% and D30 is at 8.8%.
- Increased revenue per player – D30 RPD on iOS US is $1.48 for Triple Match 3D in comparison to barely $0.07 for Match 3D (+2,000%!).
The game achieved this with a few important innovations that we have explored here. In short, Triple Match 3D drew inspiration from Zen Match and added more core gameplay constraints to create demand for purchasable boosters, while also causing more near-miss scenarios (monetisable moments) due to more frantic gameplay.
One Key Addition: King also probably saw an opportunity to further build on the formula in an attempt to close the long-term retention delta between item match and match-3, while potentially increasing monetisation. From the limited number of videos and reports available, we can already see the familiar Colour Bomb. Here, players need to complete matches of items quickly, building a streak, and then they can activate the bomb. This adds more pace to the game and a good pinch of randomness. It also creates more near-miss opportunities that can be monetised.
A potential downside is that if the streak/booster mechanic is too OP it can harm long-term demand for players to spend on other boosters. If the levels are significantly easier because of that, then spending on near-miss moments can be lower too.
One other area we’d love to see some innovation in is level design, as sorting through a big pile of jumbled items can only be so interesting for so long. If Candy Crush 3D truly wants to boost long-term retention in the item match subgenre, we believe constantly varying level design will be critical, albeit not very easy. (King, if you're reading, we have some ideas and would love to help!)
Evolving the Candy Crush IP: With Candy Crush 3D, King continues to reinvigorate the Candy Crush IP as they have so well in the past:
- Candy Crush was released in 2012 and has crossed $20B in lifetime revenue.
- Candy Crush Soda Saga was released in 2014 and is probably hitting the $5-6B revenue mark across all platforms (using the Candy Crush’s mobile to all platforms revenue ratio).
- Candy Crush Jelly Saga was released in 2015 and is probably close to hitting the $1B revenue mark across all platforms.
- Candy Crush Friends Saga was released in 2018 and has probably just tipped over the $500M revenue mark across all platforms.
The point is that it has been more than 5 years since the Candy Crush IP saw a significant release, and 11 years since it has deviated from its Match-3 core gameplay roots. Over that time, the Puzzle genre has diversified a lot, and audience tastes have naturally evolved. It's strategically viable for Candy Crush to tap into new audience needs and pools, transforming the IP from “the Match-3 king” to “the Puzzle king”.
The opening up to new gameplay styles could also signal that the folks at King are thinking of an even wider variety of exciting products with the Candy Crush label on it. This would definitely be something to look forward to in the years ahead. But for now, if Triple Match 3D was able to amass $135M in 1.5 years, Candy Crush 3D definitely has the potential to beat out Candy Crush Friends Saga and move up King’s top 10 portfolio revenue ranks in a similar timeframe. Our best wishes to the team!