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Supercell's Secret Sauce
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Supercell's Secret Sauce

December 7, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

In conclusion, then, Supercell puts its rapid success down to culture, passion, transparency, working with the best people, and remaining focused at all times. Supercell currently records, on average, 12 sessions per user every day across its two titles, while Clash of Clans sees several million unique battles between users every day.

This is all very well, but with two out of two successes this year, Supercell's next step will be to see whether this formula will carry over to future releases, or whether it was all more happy accident than strategic positioning. Say Paananen, the company is already looking to its second wave of titles, and what he believes will be the next generation of social games -- namely, "those games are going to be truly social."

"People will be playing together, not just spamming each other," he adds. "We actually draw a lot of references from MMOs, especially from countries like China and Korea, but also from old browser classics that were built in Germany -- Travian comes to mind."

"I think this industry took some missteps during the crazy days of Facebook. So all of sudden social started to mean, 'Okay, how many invites per day on average does one user send?' And of course, that was dead wrong. If you were to ask any of these traditional MMO guys, especially from Korea, they say that social does not equal spamming your friends. It's enabling people to create social ties in your game, and make sure these new friendships emerge, and that actually becomes the glue that ties these gamers together."

Other elements that Supercell isn't planning to pile into its games any time soon -- hours and hours of cinema-quality animations; linear gameplay; "click-fests"; menu-based games. This is a company with a clear vision of what works for it and what doesn't, and given the success it has had in prior months, you can expect it won't be hugely shifting gear anytime soon.

"If we're really honest with ourselves, this is a hit-driven business, and it's a form of art, not science," says Paananen. "Whoever says 'I always knew beforehand that this game was going to be a hit' is lying. The key for us is to, not to play it safe, but to trust our instincts and trust all the things that made us successful in the first place. We definitely don't want to play it safe -- we are about innovation and risk-taking."

He adds, "The best thing for us about our recent success is that it enables us to build the company that we always dreamed of. It gives us certain leverage and flexibility -- also the ability to think long-term. We don't feel pressure to think about the next quarter. We can think about the users, think about the quality of the user experience."

Of course, with an ever-changing industry that is constantly in flux, having a single firm target for the next few years simply isn't a good strategy. That's why Supercell stays ever vigilant of other platforms in the mobile space, although it's clear that the company's next batch of games will be focusing on iOS too.

"We are keeping a close eye on all relevant platforms," says Paananen of Android and Windows Phone. "I think the primary driver for us is the quality of the end-user experience. Once we feel that the quality is as high as it is on iOS devices, that's the number one thing. The number two thing is that it has to make business sense. So there has to be enough devices out there, and the users who have these devices have to be the kind of users that play these games, and get engaged."

"We view change as our friend, not as our enemy," he adds. "The way we're set up, having our independent, small, very agile, quickly-moving teams, we can react to the fast-changing environment. So we welcome any change in the market, because we think we are one of the quickest companies to move in the right direction anyway."

And what of the ethics of free-to-play, a hotly-debated topic thanks to the numerous studios that deploy underhand tactics in order to wring as much cash out of "whales" as they can?

"I think free-to-play can overcome these issues, and I think the reason is that these games are so viral, the cream will definitely rise to the top," answers Paananen. "The fact is that people talk about this stuff with each other, and if someone has a great game and they're doing things the right way, people will discover it. A great thing about these kinds of games is that people tend to be really loyal as they find a game that they like, and they'll play it for years."

He notes that Supercell is building games to be their own platforms, rather than just games -- that is, the company's growth is thanks to its loyal users, rather than new user growth. "The focus is to keep the existing users," he adds, "and because these games are so sticky, and the engagement is so high, and the end result is that these games grow."

And when you step back and look at Supercell's business plan as a whole, this desire to keep its current users entertained, rather than pull them in, take their money and then find more prey, is perhaps the strongest element of the secret sauce -- the chilli powder dashed in for good measure. When a game is recording 12 sessions per user every day, there must be a reason why those users are coming back.

Says Paananen, "What I think is our secret sauce -- it's simple, we just build great games."

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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