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Squad Busters: Supercell Hits the Apex or Spins Off-Track?

Thanks to Laura Taranto and Matthew Emery for the feedback and editing!

Verdict & Prospects

As it stands, Squad Busters is not a game players will remember forever. But it can be one. 

Squad Busters demonstrates Supercell’s world-class ability to broaden the accessibility of midcore mechanics, in this case, roguelikes and MOBAs, while weaving an effective character progression consumable-based monetization model. Squad Busters promises to evolve into a stronger, more robust, structured sandbox than its seeming counterpart, Brawl Stars. Squad Busters is Supercell’s most accessible game yet and has the most sustainable revenue potential among their offerings, bar Clash of Clans. 

It’s also a crowning achievement in Supercell’s IP building. Squad Busters’ characters draw from other Supercell IPs, with endless and tantalizing future potential tie-ins. Yet the art style, gameplay, and wholly original IP elements (that theme music!) manage to expand and enhance the IP it’s based on. Potential cannibalization between Brawl Stars and Squad Busters is overblown. We should expect a portfolio-high download volume.

However, a lackluster learning loop, muted character design, and two-in-round currencies hamper the ability of Squad Busters to transition players to elder gameplay depth. Long-term prospects remain the game’s biggest mystery, as the game was never soft-launched long enough to measure so much as a D30 retention rate. While these are fixable issues, the team must solve them “live,” which is much more difficult if the team headcount scales. Ultimately, Squad Busters needs more refinement time. 

In the short run, and as the first game to go global under Supercell’s “Next Chapter,” it has a shot at helping Supercell achieve its highest annual revenue on record. That would be a welcome reprieve for a company that seems to be under mounting pressure from its owners, Tencent. However, solving Squad Buster’s core issues is paramount to avoiding the inconsistent performance of Clash Royale and Brawl Stars.

Fallout is the Final Nail in the Transmedia Coffin

The Fallout TV series has received widespread critical and audience acclaim, with 65M viewers and Amazon Prime’s 2nd most-watched show of all time. The show appears to have cracked the secret transmedia success formula: top-tier IP, backed by a six-figure budget, distribution through a 200M MAU network, and widespread critical acclaim. Consistent with the transmedia thesis, engagement with Fallout games has skyrocketed, with *all* games experiencing significant uplifts. However, price cuts have ended, and according to VG Insights, revenue is down 50%+ from two-week highs in titles like Fallout 76. While the uplift has yet to return to equilibrium, a generous guess might land $40M in incremental revenue across the franchise before returning to a steady state. The final revenue impact may tally north of $50M. And yet, hailed as a transmedia success, Fallout instead shows the exact opposite: if this is the best transmedia offers, then the concept is creatively bankrupt.

Inflation, Ads, and Webstores Change Everything We Know
A true Mobile Master, Michael J. Scott educates MBAs on industry-level challenges

Inflation, ads, and webstores reverse nearly every trend in gaming—and then reverse it again. These aren’t rounding errors either—they’re GDP-level phenomena (literally), and the inability to account for them is warping our perception of reality in the gaming industry. 

  • Adjusting for inflation completely reverses the growth in mobile spending between 2020 and 2023, from +8% to -9%.
  • Adjusting for inflation slashes Newzoo’s 2026 PC & Console forecast by 39%, from +15% to +9%.
  • Ads revenue is likely a double-digit percentage of gaming revenue, and all we have to estimate is King’s quarterly earnings.
  • Adjusting for webstores completely reverses the revenue decline in some midcore genres, casting cold water on the “move to the middle” thesis.
The Call of Duty Puzzle No One Has Solved

Call of Duty Mobile (CODM) provided a watershed moment for mobile, proving Western gamers are ready for virtual dual analog stick controls and heralding a wave of Eastern titles to the West. Or did it?

Four Things from GDC

1. It’s Distribution or Bust, and No One Cares

IDFA is gone; how is your game designed to maximize distribution? Game designers, not marketing managers, need to start building for *sustained* user acquisition. Adding an influencer as a cosmetic is a nice stunt, but it’s not fundamental to the game loop. I was surprised at the dearth of these questions relative to the AI focus. If the Chinese refuse to divest TikTok, this question will become more pressing over the next year.

2. Web3 Evolved from Shipping No Product to Previewing Bad Product

Shrapnel, the web3 FPS developed by devs with actual game industry experience, was playable. It was…bad. The official launch is targeted for 2025, so there’s time to fix the issues, but this is another hopeful breakthrough that’s become doubtful. It’s still progress for web3, which usually lacks products of any kind. Crypto Unicorns, another game with actual product, opted for a giant unicorn display statue instead.

3. There are Four GDCs, and I’m Doubtful They’re Merging

There are separate GDC experiences for VCs, mobile, HD, and web3. Each has its own parties, personal, and drama. I keep thinking these worlds will merge, but it’s been at a sloth-like speed. The continued wave of dual-SKUs (hello, CoD Warzone, and Delta Force) shows product signs, but the actual circles employees run in remain distinct. I’m keen to see the final tally for this year’s attendance, but I sense a new record.

4. A Lot is Riding On UEFN

No one cares about Roblox because the 70%+ tax means studios will never scale. The top of the market, Adopt Me, does $50M in revenue, and it’s all downhill from there. UEFN allows an off-ramp to distribution on EGS or Steam and a much more favorable cut. Beyond anything else, UEFN will enable creators to prove product-market fit when raising another round, but Epic needs incredible roadmap execution. Key items have already slipped.

Five things from Think Games Istanbul Google X Deconstructor of Fun Event in Turkey

More of the event here, and my talk should be live soon…

1. Cultural Norms Matter

There’s far less “sharing” in Turkey than in Finland or Sweden. Anyone with a Finnish ID number seems to have access to Supercell’s dashboards! Turkey has largely avoided non-competes, and it must stay that way. King single-handedly has hamstrung Swedish mobile game development with its notorious three-month non-competes, which, after a three-month notice period, amount to six months for an employee to start elsewhere. France is dealing with a similar issue, and it’s to their detriment. Much of Silicon Valley’s success is due to the ban on non-competes, something that’s gone over the heads of subsidy-happy governments.


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