Sent on July 9th 2021.
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🤡 The Bull Case for Brawl Stars
I don’t usually write “deconstruct articles” on games, but I wanted to briefly address Brawl Stars since it’s often overlooked as a best-in-class Supercell product. In this article, I’ll break down why I’m bullish about Brawl Stars’ future.
In Brawl Stars, you collect characters that you use in battles against other players. It’s PVP (player versus player) with three versus three and PvE (player versus environment) matches where you play against bots.
Besides Brawl Stars’ extremely lucrative live ops cadence, which I will tackle in a future article, Supercell’s ambitions to build a MOBA is the game’s secret sauce. Brawl Stars allows you to collect a wide variety of different kinds of characters. And these characters have true variety. As a player, you focus on learning each character, as in a MOBA, creating lots of learning opportunities.
I believe that the game allows an unlimited amount of variety. More than Clash of Clans and Clash Royale could ever accomplish. The Brawl Stars team managed to craft gameplay that allows for different kinds of abilities for the characters and activating extra abilities like the Star Powers and The Gadgets, which are collectible via loot boxes.
Besides the variety of collectability, you’ve got combat variety that also exists in Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. There, in a match, you have a limited amount of dexterity over your characters—you are placing units on a field that are autonomous. In Brawl Stars, there is no unit autonomy. You are in complete control of the character.
Audience and gameplay
To understand how dexterity matters, let’s talk about the audience. A game like Brawl Stars has a different audience when compared to Clash Royale, which has a more casual audience.
With games like Clash of Clans or Clash Royale, what matters is your unit placements, timing, and combinations of units that you are deploying matter more.
Dumbed-down dexterity is where games like Mr. Autofire and Archero shine. Firing is dumbed down to auto-firing or even aiming, and there are limited actions you can do with the character. You are allowing the player to focus 100% on movement. Other games in this genre would be street fighter-style games like Marvel: Contest of Champions, although it has added complexity from its immense meta-game layers.
Brawl Stars doesn’t try to dumb down too many things. It has many buttons that activate weapons, and you are moving the characters in all directions. Brawl Stars attracts the same audience as Fortnight, the same audience as other brawler games or Battle Royale games, where the dexterity gameplay depth matters a lot to the players.
The casual audience tends to be more adult, who prefer dumbed-down Archero or Clash Royale, whereas Brawl Stars has become a hit with the Gen Z pre-teens for its more complicated, hands-on dexterity gameplay.
Characters and gameplay
To pick one reason for the bull case for Brawl Stars: the game can splash out new characters indefinitely. And the more valuable the character collecting becomes for players, the more interesting the elder game becomes.
When the player has complete control of the character, they can
- Move around on the battlefield to aim for an attack, hide, run away, group up or maneuver with a team member, etc.
- Then can deploy their attack: to fire a gun, use a melee weapon, etc.
- They can deploy their superpower attack, which usually causes more damage to enemies.
- Etc. etc.
This complete control allows for players to never experience a similar match. Perceived repetition is more than likely to happen in Clash Royale, where battles eventually become predictable.
All this complete control allows for several progression paths that the player will be excited to follow.
They feel that they are excelling both in:
- A) character upgrade progression and
- B) in the skills that they are developing in the core gameplay.
But when they feel that they’ve beaten everything, a new character is introduced. The players need to master the character and upgrade the character, including other characters, to meet the changes in the dynamic.
Clash Royale has this as well, but since core gameplay in Clash Royale is dumbed-down, the new characters in Clash Royale are often considered by elder players as “cards in the deck.” They don’t provide comprehensive learning experiences and experiments for the players as the characters do in Brawl Stars.
The analogy of which game you are playing
Clash Royale is like Chess, and Brawl Stars is like poker. Why does this matter?
John von Neumann, a key figure in the development of game theory, said in 1944 that “Chess is not a game. Chess is a well-defined form of computation. You may not be able to work out the answers, but in theory, there must be a solution, a right procedure in any position.”
Even when Clash Royale has hidden information, like the cards in the opponent’s deck, this information is revealed soon enough. Clash Royale has less luck involved. Players time and position their placements in predictable ways. As variability becomes nonexistent, the player churns.
Brawl Stars contains plenty of hidden information, as does poker. Players won’t see the opponent coming in fog-of-war before it’s too late. Players might be timing their special attacks in unpredictable ways. You don’t know if the opposing team is coordinating their attacks or not.
Since the variability is so high, Brawl Stars retains.
Can someone oust Brawl Stars?
When a new hot category emerges, many developers start pursuing that category to achieve similar success.
In 2012 and 2013, lots of developers went after Clash of Clash. Even Supercell couldn’t succeed in achieving the oust by releasing Boom Beach in 2015.
Why didn’t Boom Beach beat Clash of Clans, and why is Clash of Clans still alive with so many dead bodies in the build & battle genre?
Boom Beach vigorously made Chess out of Clash of Clans. What can we learn from this?
Developers focusing on dumbing down Brawl Stars’ core gameplay would not result in more players retaining better. Developers need to find other ways to oust Brawl Stars.
🙏 Joakim on Rise and Play podcast
I was recently interviewed on Sophie Vo’s podcast Rise and Play. Here are a few interesting things that came up in the discussion.
How do you manage to do this with your involvement with Play Ventures, and family life?
To make this all work, I’ve spent a lot of time building a system of how I work. I dedicate the AM for creator work, which is writing or recording podcasts. No meetings, I close the email, Slack, turn the phone to Do Not Disturb. I’m a big fan of Cal Newport, who wrote Deep Work and a few other books on productivity.
He’s models are very practical. Big takeaways are how to plan your week and how to time-block the day for work. And how context switching is productivity poison. Like quickly checking something outside of what you are supposed to be working on. You can actually get a lot of things done, in one or two hours, if you are OK at shutting down all the distractions that we take for granted and planning things out. This is what I’m going to do today, and then you do everything you can to actually pull it off.
What are the next big steps for EGD or Angel syndicate?
For EGD, lots of small steps. I might be doing some paid lectures in the fall, like these live masterclasses. I’m thinking about sharing more of my knowledge on free-to-play game making, so look out for that.
For the syndicate, hopefully more interesting deals and more risk taking and going more early with the deals.
Listen to the full episode by going here.
🎙 Tomi Kaukinen, License to Fail
Tomi Kaukinen is a fellow Finnish entrepreneur, public speaker, and founder of Licence to Fail. After countless years of start-up life, founding several companies, Tomi hit the wall hard and burnt out. Now, through Licence to Fail, he speaks and writes publicly about entrepreneur life, motivation, and coping with the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur.
In this podcast episode, we talk about Tomi’s experiences with startups and burnout, and how entrepreneurs can avoid burnout and leave a healthy life. Burnout should be on every entrepreneur’s mind. What should you do about it, how to make big changes. It’s a complicated topic, but I hope you’ll get a lot out of this discussion.
Here are my highlights from the discussion with Tomi.
When did your first health issues start and what did you do about it?
In 2017, I’ve been doing [the startup] for almost five years already. Moderate success, some clients, starting to understand the big picture, we had some VC and Angel money. I come home from a bike ride. And all of a sudden, my body starts behaving in a way that I’ve never ever felt before. I had horrible pain in my stomach and this incapacitating pain in my back. I started feeling like everything just lost its meaning. And it was a horrible feeling. And I started wondering what is happening to me, and I got really scared. So I went to the doctors the next day and asked, what’s wrong with me? And they said nothing. And that feeling just kept going. And I ran to the doctors again, and everybody was like, No, there’s nothing wrong with you. And then I was like, How can nothing be wrong with me, I feel like really, really bad.
Most of the symptoms were physical pain. My body just hurt. And I thought that there was something wrong with me physically. I did all these physical tests, like ultrasound, to see if there’s something wrong with my back or my stomach. But it was kind of this anxiety pain, which I didn’t understand back. Pain can be non-lethal, it can be mental pain, which can be even worse than breaking your leg, probably. And then it went back and forth a couple of times, it disappeared for a couple of weeks. And I was like, What the hell was that. And the third time it came back was two months later. And it never disappeared.
We’d just raised a new financing round. And I didn’t know what to do. I thought that well, I can’t say that I’m out. Because that would be betraying the people and you end up in this really complex moral dilemma on what to do. So I decided to go on a holiday. And that holiday made me even more confused. Because when I went on holiday with my girlfriend, the symptoms exploded. I was lying on the beach, in Portugal, and I just wanted to just scream at the top of my lungs. When I came back, I thought that since these symptoms occurred when I am on holiday, maybe it’s not work-related? So it was extremely confusing.
I could work as usual. But it’s like, an analogy would be like you can work if you have a broken leg, but it sucks. This is something people don’t understand. Mostly when I tell them that look: You can feel really bad and you can still pull it off. You can be even depressed and work. You can be burnt out, and you can work. It’s just that it feels horrible. People have this conception that being burnt out or depressed means that you lie in your bed and you can’t do anything. But that’s not true. You can operate fairly well and people don’t even notice it.
What do you think is unique for entrepreneurs when they suffer burnout?
As an entrepreneur, the burnouts usually come from just this constant dissatisfaction. And I think that people who end up doing entrepreneurship stuff are usually very extreme by nature. And if they wouldn’t be doing entrepreneurship, they would do something else that was extreme. If they would work in a corporation, they would probably be the most driven person at the office. And it’s just a matter of time before they burn out. So I’m a bit of a fatalist on that issue. So I think that certain people are just going to burn out, like whatever happens. They just push themselves and break themselves.
Listen to the full episode by going here.
📃 Articles worth reading
+ Cloud Gaming: The Longest MILE — “While Google and others seem willing to eat these costs for now, profitability seems a long way off (to say nothing of mass adoption). It shouldn’t be surprising; after all, slapping old school business models onto new technologies often misses the point. In this case, what’s more interesting is utilizing cloud technologies to unlock entirely new types of interactive experiences, rather than retrofitting existing experiences into a cloud delivery format.”
+ The Dubrovnik Interviews: Marc Andreessen — “Here’s a thought experiment for the counterfactual. Suppose we had all just spent the last 15 months of COVID lockdowns without the Internet, without the virtual world. As bad as the lockdowns have been for people’s well-being – and they’ve been bad – how much worse would they have been without the Internet? I think the answer is clear: profoundly, terribly worse.”
+ The mobile (r)evolution: infusing life beyond pixels — “If we use mobile devices to listen or watch courses, we do not exploit enough of the learning capacity based on the fact that our smartphone allows us to be mobile in the world around us.”
💬 Quote that I’ve been thinking about
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” — Seneca
Sponsored by Pollen VC
Pollen VC is the leading provider of debt financing for mobile app and game developers. They also provide a suite of free, online tools to help developers improve their understanding of financing strategies. With a focus on three key areas — user acquisition planning, unpacking confusing financial jargon, and capital efficiency — the initiative is helping equip developers to make more informed decisions on financing and growth.
Check out their newly launched CFO Resources page here.
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