Leveling Systems in the New UA Landscape

Read this month’s Headline Release and Market Watch

In this month’s Headline Release, we analyze a major update in Clash Royale that addresses some of the app’s underlying progression issues. However, despite taking several steps to improve the app’s long-term health, the update has faced significant backlash from the player community. This criticism revolves around the update’s aggressive monetization strategy that gives paying players insurmountable advantages—a risky move for a PvP app. As user acquisition becomes more expensive, apps should reconsider the balance between short-term monetization and lifetime value. 

In this month’s Market Watch, we tear down Warner Bros.’ new leading RPG, Harry Potter: Magic Awakened, as well an RPG in soft-launch from the creators of Survivor.io, SOULS. We also examine seven new innovative features and events from top core apps. 

Headline Release

Clash Royale’s latest update introduces Elite Levels and Card Evolutions, which substantially change the app’s leveling system. Card Evolutions unlock special abilities for cards, although only four evolved cards have been released so far. Elite Levels raise the level cap on cards for the second time in two years. Together, Card Evolutions and Elite Levels significantly extend the time needed to max out each card. 

These changes have three main effects: The Card Evolutions introduce a new layer of strategy and will eventually give players a reason to upgrade a greater number of cards, while the Elite Levels create a longer progression. These effects take steps to address the progression issues we analyzed in our previous report on Clash Royale, but they’re undermined by an aggressive monetization strategy targeted at selling upgrades to hardcore players.

While this strategy has driven a lot of spend, it has also upset Clash Royale’s hardcore community, who sees the update as pay-to-win. Despite a strong initial spike in revenue and active users, the app’s U.S. active users have already fallen back to match their lowest point since October 2021. This contrasts sharply with the first time Clash Royale raised the level cap in October 2021, which led to the app’s highest period of active users and lasted roughly a year.

Our analysis includes several possible alternatives to immediate monetization of upgrades, including temporarily limiting the number of Elite Level cards that players can use in any deck in order to reduce the competitive advantage of players who spend on upgrades.

Release Trends

Clash Royale released two types of features on the same day: a level feature and two currencies. Although currency features appear to perform exceptionally well in the data below, they’re being heavily skewed by the two strong releases from Clash Royale. When excluding Clash Royale, currency releases actually perform poorly.

On the other hand, level features perform quite well regardless of whether Clash Royale is included. Level features in core apps often produce a flurry of engagement and spend due to the introduction of new progressions and often new content.

Read our full analysis of Elite Levels and Card Evolutions in this month’s Headline Release.

Revenue for feature types is calculated using Liquid & Grit’s Lift Tool. For more information on the Lift Tool, email Brett Nowak.

Market Watch

Soft-Launch and Breakout Apps

Harry Potter: Magic Awakened climbed into the top 20 RPG apps within a week of its launch. The app combines RPG level systems, MMO social elements, and innovative CCG combat that lets players strategically move their hero around the arena. Magic Awakened focuses on appealing to fans of the IP by offering extensive customization options, Hogwarts classes, and a narrative full of references to the books and movies.

SOULS, a turn-based RPG by the creators of Survivor.io, draws significant inspiration from AFK Arena but offers enhanced music and cel-shaded graphics. SOULS also uses nuanced battle mechanics that incorporate additional hero positions, which adds another layer of strategy compared to other auto-battlers.

Read our complete teardowns of these apps in this month’s Market Watch.

Feature and Event Releases

In Game of Sultans’ Nature Spirit’s Wonderland, players collect pets to use in PvE autobattles. Winning battles awards gacha currency, which players use to summon new pets. Players level and fuse pets to upgrade them, and pets fill a collection that grants stat bonuses to all pets.

In Garena Free Fire’s Color Cube, getting eliminated during battle royale matches respawns players inside a cube of tiles. Players step on tiles, defeat opponents, and destroy objects to color tiles, which fills a meter. Completing the meter allows players to rejoin the battle royale match.

In Identity V’s Beach Game mini-game, fruits move on a track toward an end point. Players launch fruit to add them to the track, and matching three or more fruits eliminates those fruits from the track. Players must eliminate a certain number of fruits or reach a required point total to win the round. 

Read our full teardowns of all notable releases in this month’s Market Watch.

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