Brawl Stars at 4: over $1.25bn revenue, 355m installs – and it just ditched loot boxes

 

It’s now been four years since Supercell’s last global launch, Brawl Stars.

In that time it’s been been downloaded over 355m times, and has generated over $1.25bn in revenue, according to Appmagic data.

Top Brawl Stars markets by revenue are the US ($218.5m), South Korea ($158m), Germany ($114.5m), China ($103m – released in June 2020) and Japan ($72.5m).

By downloads, the top five territories are Russia (43m), Brazil (36m), Turkey (31m), the US (25.6m) and Mexico (14.5m).

The platform split shows Google Play on $591m lifetime revenue, with iOS on $663m.

This game is a wild success, make no mistake; but it’s not all been good news lately.

That huge spike in June 2020 is the China launch, which generated $38m in its first month. It brought Brawl Stars’ total revenue for June 2020 to over $72m.

The game’s monthly revenue has been in steady decline for some time, particularly since December 2021, when it earned $25m. Average monthly earnings now stand at around $11.6m, based on the last six months. Monthly earnings dipped below $10m for the first time in August 2022, and last month, it was installed 2.8m times, its lowest monthly total to date.

So bravo to Supercell for being bold and decisive with its next move: in its latest update, it ripped loot boxes out of the game entirely. It has been replaced with a progression system that is clearer in terms of what you are working towards and what you can buy – in short, you earn credits to work towards unlocking your next chosen Brawler, or you can simply buy any one you want from the shop.

Brawl Stars game lead Frank Keienburg explains it in detail here (while also sporting a fetching cupcake-themed outfit):

And as the update went live, Keienburg said on LinkedIn: “Change is never easy. This one is particularly exciting and anxiety inducing in equal measures. Will we succeed in ripping out Brawl’s meta and replacing it with a new ‘heart’? Only time will tell, but I am looking forward to all the learnings to come!”

It is, of course, too early to tell what’s going to happen next. But game economist Phillip Black says that if Supercell succeeds, others will follow suit – though game teams will need a huge treadmill of new content to make it work.

“Developers have come to grips with the notion that boxes are not simply a monetisation mechanic but also solve serious live-service design challenges,” he told us. “There’s no better evidence of this than the Brawl Stars update. It took: a new credit system, linear character choice unlocks and a direct purchase system – all of which needed to be wrapped in new UX, to replace loot boxes. Consider the alternative: here’s a box; buy it or don’t.”

“While removing boxes is likely to capture the conversation, the update represents a massive increase in content, with three new brawlers and sixteen new character skins; expect significant short-run revenue increases. Supercell is changing the monetisation window dressing, but it’s unclear if this means the expected cost per character will increase or decrease. Prima facie, it looks as if Brawl Stars is slashing prices.”

Supercell’s community team announced that Brawl Boxes were being removed from the game on December 1.

“Holding all else constant, long-run revenue will increase if the price decline is more than made up for by increased character quantity demanded. I find it excruciatingly hard to believe this will be the case. Everything we know about monetisation over the last 20+ years suggests we’ve been underpricing digital assets.”

“The gameplay consequence of price changes cannot be understated as well. When price drops, players’ character roster size increases – it’s simply cheaper to collect more characters. In turn, this reduces the win probability of any one character, as opposing players are more well-stocked to counter. The update represents a double whammy to Brawl Stars’ monetisation prospects.”

“If Brawl Stars succeeds, expect the Clash Royale team and broader game ecosystem to take notice,” he concludes. “Replacing loot boxes isn’t easy, and we need new ideas. Brawl Stars’ new update is a start.”