Analyzing Clash Royale’s tournament feature: esports as a marketing tool

Supercell wants to get into esports. Per a job offer Supercell currently has up for an esports position:
“We believe that Clash Royale has the opportunity take eSports to a place it hasn’t quite caught on… mobile platforms. Today’s eSports experience is built for console and PC games, but with the massive reach and ubiquity of mobile devices, we believe it can become much more accessible and mainstream than ever before. Mobile gaming can take eSports beyond the hardcore gaming niche and turn it into something that everyone does, everywhere.”

After creating a competitive mobile hits like Clash of Clans and Clash Royale, and being valued at roughly $10 billion after the Tencent buy, we think Supercell has a pretty good chance of making quite a splash into the esports industry. And, as we said already, Clash Royale has the potential to be a great esports title.
Last week, Supercell went one step closer toward that goal with the addition of a “tournament feature” to its game. But while it brings an easy way to compete on an equal playground against others, it is more a promotional tool than an effort to actually build an esports scene.

A “tournament feature” for the casual players
Creating a tournament in Clash Royale is now extremely easy—an important area of focus from Supercell, who want to attract casual players:
The tournament format is a ladder automatically managed by the game, and can’t be changed. The only customizations possible are: password entry, tournament duration, tournament size, and rewards. Even even those are handled automatically by the game, so the tournament initiator doesn’t have to micromanage post-tourney rewards.
There is, however, one significant catch: players have to spend in-game currency to create a tournament. This addition makes the entire feature both useful in Supercell’s ever-present quest for revenue, but also questionable for the game’s future esports potential.

Money rules the world
To create a tournament, players can spend from 500 gems (roughly $5) for a 100-player tournament granting a first-place reward of 30 card, to 250,000 gems (roughly $1785) for a 1000-player tournament granting a first-place reward of 15,000 cards. Which begs the question: who will pay for these tournaments, and why?
It’s relatively easy to gain 500 gems, granted that you haven’t spent any and have played for a while. And, the first tournament you organize refunds you 500 gems—so the first tournament is basically free. This explains why the first week of the new feature saw many tournaments organized, though few with more than 100 players.
It remains to be seen, though, who will create these tournaments at a loss. There’s no avoiding the fact that those gems could be more efficiently spent buying chests directly from the store. Sure, you could make a tournament and go on to win it yourself, but who wants to go through all that work?
There is a very high risk of seeing this feature die out after the first wave of tournaments. Most likely, open tournaments will become very rare, and most players will only buy tournaments for their clans.
There’s also the fact that the new feature isn’t necessary to run a tournament for the game. In fact, already established tournaments like the Reddit MEGA Tournament and ESL , as soon as they needed a bracket, didn’t use the new feature last weekend.

A perfect marketing tool
All that said, a small community investment in the tournament feature wouldn’t necessarily mean that it was a complete failure. The tournament tool will be used as a promotion tool anyway. And indeed, Supercell did just that during its first week—including an official
Tourney Week event, where Supercell had some of its most famous streamers and Youtubers play tournaments on sponsored streams in sponsored tournaments.
This is a perfect tool to build promotional events, with seemingly huge prizes, without having to invest real dollars.
Those promotional tournaments were massive. For example, Clash Royale China has organized an event to be held in Shanghai in July 23rd . The qualifiers took place last weekend, spread out over 100 tournaments, each grouping 1000 players using the new tournament feature. The total cost to create these tournaments runs to almost $20,000—an astronomical number to somebody not working with Supercell to throw it.
That’s why this is all a win for Supercell. The cost of organizing these tournaments is very low for Supercell, since it uses an already-in-place feature and the prizes are in-game currency. It basically costs nothing for Supercell to create, yet to regular players, it’s a costly investment with little clear use.
This is a perfect tool to build promotional events, with seemingly huge prizes, without having to invest real dollars. It is also a potential new source of income from players that have already bought everything in the game and don’t know where to spend their money anymore, or streamers that want to attract viewers by promising a juicy tournament. But it certainly isn’t what will make Clash Royale a big esport.

All according to plan
Once again, Supercell is caught between a desire to build a great esports and its drive for profit. The real challenge is to make those two goals thrive together. If the casual player pays to organize their own tournament, its a nice bonus. But a free tournament option, possibly without any rewards at all, would be a very welcome addition.
For Supercell —and certainly all other successful developers in esports honestly—esports is more a marketing tool than an actual sport. And if you still need any more proof: the job offer in Supercell’s esports department is listed under the “marketing” category. Case closed.

courtesy: Esports Observer


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