How Team Battler games make money. Part I

iINCYMO
15.01.2023
8 min.

The genre has proven to be very stable in recent years. Although it formed in ~2014, there has been little change to it since; many of the developers from back then are still in business. At the same time, few newcomers rise to the top from year to year. Many battlers are still unplayable for the general populace due to being restricted to the Asian Region (you cannot download it unless you’re somewhere in Asia). Here are some statistics below:

Summoners War, one of the oldest projects in the genre, shows amazing stability. But in general, the project’s revenue is declining, especially when accounting for inflation.

Raid Shadow Legends, the top-grossing game of 2022, shows the same stability.

2022’s newest game in the genre, Dislyte, is falling as fast as it launched.

One feature of the genre is that many projects are set in one of the major universes: from Disney/Marvel to Jurassic Park and The Walking Dead to major anime titles, and for a reason.

The main problem of the genre and the niche is the fierce competition for mid-hardcore users. But misdirection ads opened the possibility of buying a wider audience, which quickly conquered the entire market, so only projects with strong marketing or games that live in a larger known universe remained.

Another problem of these games can be summed up into the question: What should you sell to the players? It’s a tricky one, with a catch. Other genres have consumables, updated content, base building, and other mechanics, but in Battlers, there is only the player’s team. And players have no desire to change or expand the team. This results in extremely limited content and sales opportunities.

We know for certain, that the best selling point in Battlers is missed opportunity; it works wonders in this genre.

Let’s look into it!

Plot

All battlers pose the question of how to explain to the player why heroes are even needed and how their “strengths” manifest in battle. How do you show the player that strengthening and upgrading heroes is the right thing to do? The answer to that is the story and the campaign.

Cookie Run: Kingdom is a strong new addition for 2021 and is a battler that allows the player to fight and, depending on their level of success, earn 1-3 stars. These stars are then converted into special rewards via the progress bar at the bottom of the screen. The difference with other battlers is that in this game, there are sometimes obstacles that can only be overcome for resources from the farm. Cookie Run: Kingdom is, thus, a mixture of Battler and Farm games.

In turn, Raid Shadow Legends adds more difficulty levels; there are 4 times more of them than is the norm, but less content to develop and render.

Hero Wars offers puzzles between saving the princess and fighting the archdemon.

Star Wars™: Galaxy of Heroes offers the players a chance to choose which side to join, but if you ally with the dark side, you either have to pay right away or invest some effort.

MARVEL Strike Force: Squad RPG is a good example of a weak campaign. It’s nominally there but has absolutely no tricks or mechanics employed by other Battlers. It merely serves its two functions — to measure the strength of the player’s team and hold the difficulty at the level necessary to be somewhat challenging to the player.

Dislyte is a 2021 novelty; it uses progress bar rewards, chapter rewards, multiple difficulty levels, and adds a “story” mode. It cannot be said, that its developers stood out and employed all the achievements of existing battlers; rather, new battlers absorb all the changes to the mechanics of the genre.

AFK Arena is a subgenre of Battler games.

Instead of the classic “energy + user reward for battles” system, the game offers the possibility of receiving those passively and automatically. And the more the player progresses, the more AFK rewards they get.

However, there are limitations: reward accumulation happens in a specific window of time. All this is well monetized. The most important detail here is that the player is under constant pressure — the further they get, the more rewards they automatically receive. Moreover, each session begins with the distribution of rewards: the player has not even done anything yet, and they’re already getting paid.

There is an even more unique project in this subgenre, though, a strong novelty released in the summer of 2022, Memento Mori: AFKRPG. The campaign constitutes a huge portion of the game, and the player feels all the changes happening on the map; the color changes in the area, and after conquering territory around a city, the player can choose their appearance. Battles take place every X seconds, with battle progress displayed on the screen. This game is truly unique in its choices and visuals.

Heroes and the team

Let’s say we have a game of this genre, and it has a campaign mode. In the process, players encounter difficulties, new enemies. Suppose the player has several heroes that they like.

How do you sell them new heroes? How do you demonstrate the advantages of one hero over another? And do all battlers work in this way?

The answer to that depends on the game’s combat mechanics. The genre can be divided into several types based on them:

  1. Automatic combat — the player either just watches a cartoon or can use the special abilities of the heroes/pets at certain points.
  2. Turn-based combat — the player can choose who to attack and with what ability.
  3. Hybrid — the player either completely controls the battle using one character, or the battle runs through the player’s hand (in card games).

One solution is to color-code and star-code the heroes.

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