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.

Supercell State of the Union

Supercell is launching Squad Busters globally after a six-year drought. Since their last launch in 2018 (Brawl Stars), they’ve killed six soft-launched titles and one announced title unofficially (Clash Heroes). This includes every member “trio” announced in April 2021: Clash Quest, Heroes, and Mini; Supercell canceled Mini in April after a three-year development cycle. The modus operandi were games with long soft launches that failed to elevate their KPIs to global-ready.

In contrast, after two short beta periods earlier this year and less than a month of soft launch, Supercell will release Squad Buster globally. This marks the quickest between a Supercell soft and global launch, although Clash Royale isn’t far behind with a 2-month soft launch period before a global launch in 2016.

Why the rush for Squad Busters? While it’s not entirely clear, Supercell has been undergoing radical transformation. Supercell “Cells” now mimic hierarchical management structures, including titled positions like “Producer” and “Product Manager.” This includes a significant headcount increase, with nearly 45 on Brawl Stars compared to their previous high of 20. “Small teams, small growth” is long dead.

Pictured: Timur Haussila, Supercell Game Lead, 2016 Montreal International Game Summit. The traditional model ended up becoming the Supercell Model.

Scaling has been widely successful, unlocking unbelievable Brawl Stars growth but more muted effects in Clash of Clans (CoC). However, CoC is likely year-over-year positive when combined with increased webshop revenue share. It’s difficult to line up headcount and revenue exactly, but we know Brawl Stars at least doubled in headcount from the summer of 2020 to 2024, while CoC’s team size doubled in 2023. The scaling status of Hay Day and Clash Royale is unknown, but job postings suggest they’re well underway. 

Labor’s Effect on Capital Takes Time

Quarterly Net Revenue, $USD, Sensor Tower

Changes sometimes cascade like landslides, so maybe a new game launch strategy is a part of the Next Chapter. On the other hand, it’s unclear what theory underpins the new approach.

Traditionally, games remained in soft launch to either fade away or improve KPIs for a global release. Soft-launch KPIs predict global KPIs, so companies only scale games with strong chances of scaling revenue. Instead, Supercell is launching Squad Busters globally with less data and seemingly more faith. This mirrors the recent launch of Match Factory, which is on its way to a $200M run rate.

The worst launch risk is a burned launch budget and perhaps opportunity cost in repairing and scaling Clash Royale. On the other hand, the upside is high. If Squad Busters performs similarly to Brawl Star’s launch ($250M) and Brawl Stars maintains its current position, 2024 is poised to be Supercell’s highest revenue year, breaking its all-time high of $2.3B in 2015. This short-run revenue bump may be behind Squad Buster’s launch push. 

Since Tencent’s acquisition over seven years ago, Supercell’s revenue has dropped 20%.  Tencent itself has been suffering, down from pandemics and even 2018 highs. Combined with Supercell’s cultural relaunch, it’s fair to wonder how much Chinese pressure played in Supercell’s Next Chapter.

Tencent’s Rocky Investment

Supercell Annual Revenue, $USD, Actuals 

As recently as a year ago, Eino Joas, Supercell’s top design chief, became Squad Busters project lead, even joining Ilka for the global announcement. That suggests real stakes are riding on Squad Busters, and a successful launch is the ultimate ratifying vote in Supercell’s Next Chapter.

Game Overview

Squad Busters screams accessibility, and its only miss is not pushing the accessibility to as many platforms as possible. The North American Supercell studio should be working on adapting a game like Squad Busters to the browser (hello, webstore revenue) rather than the original IP. 


As the game’s menus fondly remind us every round, players move with a virtual joystick and stop moving to engage in combat. Instead, the squad members automatically perform attacks or PVE actions (i.e., cutting a tree) within an “action circle” when the player stops moving.

The only other controls are the ability to “Turbo” (sprint) and throw in-round consumables like bombs and cannons. 

The controls constrain real-time player input agency in favor of mastery over effectively positioning units, selecting squad units, deciding when to disengage from combat, and how and when to use consumables.

Drawing from roguelike and battle royale, ten players compete on a shrinking map while building a unique squad by recruiting characters using resources collected through PvE and PvP combat. A player’s gems balance determines their ranking at the end of a match timer, similar to the Brawl Star’s Gem Grab mode.

Each battle starts with a random map selection, layout, and “gameplay modifier” to provide match variety.

  • There are four “worlds” (read: biomes).
    • A player’s account level (“Squad Journey”) defines the current world and, thus, unlockable characters and maps.
    • It also segments the matchmaking pool, similar to Clash Royale’s arenas. 
  • There are around three different layouts per biome (15 total maps).
    • Each world and world variation needs to include relevant PvE elements for characters unlocked in that particular world. For example, Marvis picks in-round carrots for gold and unlocks in “Royal World.”
    • Opening a locked character from an in-round chest is possible; collecting units is heavily incentivized! 
  • Before the round starts, a modifier is chosen at random.
    • A modifier exaggerates rule sets: a Piñata may spawn with additional gold, the speed boost may become more powerful, or each player might start with a free Mega unit.

As rounds start, players choose one of three characters they’ve unlocked to build a squad. 

  • The pool of available characters varies every match and between players in a match.
    • The pool includes fifteen randomly selected characters, including locked characters.
    • As of this writing, there are 27 characters, so a player utilizes 50% or more of their collection in a match. This will decrease as more characters are released.
  • Each character has unique abilities and emphasizes different strategies. For example, Greg is the only character who cuts trees to reward gold and gems.

Match Opening

Players defeat enemy bots and other players to collect gold and keys, unlocking chests containing three characters to add to their squad.

Mastering the game involves learning fast-paced grind strategies to build massive squads quickly.

In-Round Progression

Players must choose which characters to pair well with one another and execute against the squad’s unique winning blueprint (collecting farming, combat, etc). Another mechanic, Fusion, introduces long-run consequences for early character choices.

Selecting a third duplicate character merges them into a stronger single (“fusion”) unit while decreasing the gold cost of the following chest open.

  • Chest open prices rise with squad size, so fusing shrinks prices.
  • The fused character is greater than the sum of its parts: 3.5x base unit health, 2x DPS, and varying ability upgrades.

Each character has a class (e.g., “Healer,” “Speedster,” etc.), but these have no practical effect.

Example Chest Open; Squad Member Selection

Over the 4-minute round duration or until other players are eliminated (“Busted”), ten players compete on a battle royale shrinking map to collect the most gems.

  • A player’s streak level, or the number of consecutive top-five finishes, is prominently displayed.

End of Round Results Screen

The map is divided into ten quadrants, one for each player. 

  • The map spreads boxes containing in-game consumable items (bomb, cannon, speed boost, etc) throughout.
  • The center contains the gem mine and more powerful enemies, which reward more gems and coins.
  • The center of the map includes a gem mine, taken straight from Brawl Stars, periodically spewing gems.

Gem Mine; Map Center

Map Design

Drawing from MOBA and RTS, the game maintains three phases: 

  • (1) Early Game: The Grind Phase
  • (2) Mid-Game: The “Jousting” and Recharge Phase
  • (3) Late Game: Resource Control and “Final Clash” Phase

The in-round economy and unit design reinforce these phases. Amassing more squad members is always positive, and each of the three character rarities generally corresponds to a phase. High-rarity characters appear more often in high-rarity chests, which appear more frequently as round time elapses.

The marginal cost of a Squad member increases, so to continue to grow, players need to move inward on the map where stronger enemy bots drop more gold and gems. Vines encasing a shrinking map also guarantee inward movement into player-versus-player (PvP) conflict.

Enemy “density” measured in gold likely increases as players move inward.

The roller coaster of up-and-down price schedules creates the game’s second phase, where players skirmish one another before recharging for another bout.


PvP combat consists of simply not moving while atop other players’ units.

Attacking slows another squad’s movement speed, so there ought to be a limited margin for error when sizing up another player’s squad and observing how combat unfolds. If a player fails to retreat in time, the opponent will likely wipe them. 

As both squads dwindle, usually one player calls chicken and uses the “run” button, starting a hot pursuit. While attacking slows down an enemy squad, it only slows down a select few units of the enemy squad. These slowed-down units are focused and picked off, while the remaining squad members can create distance between their retreat and the attacking squad. Escape seems to have an extremely high success rate.

Lengthy Resolution Disincentives PvP Combat

GIF at 2x Speed

A successfully escaped player usually returns to the grind phase, rebuilding and retooling their squad on the price roller coaster. PvP should be high-risk-high-reward, but combat takes so long that players lose out on farming and the potential of another player joining the fray.

The end-of-round reward for placement compounds the problem. There’s so little to gain outside of expanding a Top-5 streak that players avoid combat despite shrinking map area and gems spawning from the map’s center. The payoff curve to placement is dull compared to something like F1, whose points incentivize fierce competition for top placements.

Points/Taps Per Place, F1 & Squad Busters

Less combat means the game eliminates fewer players, enhancing accessibility by maintaining a 50% win rate compared to the 1-3% win rate typical of battle royale games like Fortnite. Instead, winning means placing in the top-5 and extending win streaks. The rewards design re-enforces the win streak goal: nearly 30-40% of a rewards end of round rewards are sourced from win streak extensions rather than scoreboard placement. Positive audio cues start at 5th place (“Good job! 5th place!”),

The combat loop of attacking, losing units, and retooling drives in-match tactics. For example, if my opponent specializes in speed units, I need more turbo units to close the chase successfully. Or I may need more AOE characters to stop the skeleton summons of the Witch. Yet combat is chaotic and hard to read, so evaluating which squad strategies excel as the match phase progresses is difficult. 

Reading and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of seven to eight-unit squads in split seconds is impossible, so retooling feels aimless as it’s unclear what strategies are effective against which armies. Squad Buster’s “learning” loop needs more tuning, as it’s charged with carrying players to the game’s deeper Day 30+ mechanics.

Learning Loop

Each character unlocks a unique ability when they “evolve,” but the player would never know as they look and sound silent. 

For instance, one of Archer Queen’s abilities increases the attack speed of all ranged units in the squad, but there’s no discernible effect or UI icon in-game to suggest this is taking place. The same is true for communicating base stat information like critical hits to the degree they exist in the game. 

Where Art Thou Abilities?

While base character stats are visible during unit selection, the lack of an end-of-round report makes evaluating the squad’s performance difficult, and there’s no sense of squad “power score.” Introducing color of damage indicators (or damage indicated at all) would improve the learning loop.

For example, one of the Barbarian’s abilities is to evolve into an “Elite” version after slaying three enemies in the round, but again, the in-round feedback is silent. It’s unclear if the ability triggers when the character reaches a certain amount of damage dealt.

Another example is the Hog Rider’s passive ability to run faster on grass terrain. 

While the unit flashes as the ability is active, the visual readability of six to seven other units (Hog Rider is a mid-game unlock) makes it hard to draw the Hog-Terrain cause-effect. Conversely, the 2D Hog icon attached to the turbo button taught me the importance of Hog Rider in closing chases!

On the flip side, units have abilities that trigger conditionally, and an outer purple circle indicates the level of ability charge. The charge condition changes: one character may earn a fixed charge amount per enemy defeated (Primo) while others passively earn over time (Archer Queen). It’s difficult to nail each case, but the rings are effective.

However, unfinished in-match UX also fails to surface deep engagement features, like turbo attack speed. The turbo button’s attack benefit should not remain hidden, and simply changing the icon to the sword as players remain still is a straightforward fix.

While some of these issues may appear nitpicky, status effects and combat readability were an improvement area of focus for the now-defunct Clash Mini. Squad Busters doesn’t need to lose players in transitioning to a deeper strategic game. Tightening the learning loops should ensure Squad Buster’s accessibility promise runs through the game’s progression cycle.

However, while additional readability improvements will arrive in a future update, it’s precisely the type of work accomplished within a month or two of soft launch.

Character Design

Squad Buster’s biggest enemy is the dull character variety before Royale World, a Day 14 or later unlock. The consequences strike at the heart of its unique in-round progression and roguelike promise. 

Given the game’s low real-time input ceiling, Squad Buster’s long-run hook lies in compelling theory crafting as players build their squad, similar to roguelikes. Like card combos in Marvel Snap or builds in Vampire Survivor, players thrive on the ability to craft and execute imagined strategies. The randomness of the in-round characters or cards alters the win probability maximizing strategy, so players must adjust and solve a real-time puzzle. Theory crafting is best when the player’s imagined simulation of stacking characters or abilities becomes content onto itself, and this requires diverse and rule-bending abilities and characters. 

Expanding the character roster to fifteen at Royal World greatly improves the experience (and does so again at Beach World). It should be yanked to earlier levels, including many later characters too. Characters like Goblin (give coins) and Trader (convert coins to gems) combo uniquely, unveiling Squad Buster theory crafting. 

The characters need to continue to “bend” rules: the “action” circle size never expands, shrinks, or changes shape, the loot magnet range never changes, and even “slowdown” effects appear only as PvE elements like quicksand rather than character abilities. The stats system feels bare bones, and it’s never clear if units maintain something like critical chance damage. Supercell is probably holding a feature trick or two up their sleeve for launch, and something like autochess alliances or a slew of stronger character designs is needed. I’m rarely excited to test new strategies each run, and that is never the case in popular roguelikes like Balatro or

Dual-Round Currency (Gold & Gems)

While players earn squad members by spending in-round gold, they ultimately win by ranking on a leaderboard of “collected gems.” Most enemies drop gems, as does the mine at the map’s center. “Busted” players will also spew their remaining gems after periodically shedding them when attacked. However, keeping track of both currencies is difficult.

When it was a Clash Royale clone, early designs of Monopoly Go suffered from the same dual in-round currency problem, but with only three other players compared to Squad Buster’s nine! A player’s cognitive budget is limited during intense brief battles, and the more real-time assessments a player has to perform, the more other info retreats to the important periphery. 

While the UI prominently displays a player’s gem-based leaderboard position, the relative lack of short-run gem impact makes the experience of gem collecting unsatisfying.

The win condition needs more experimentation; it’s not ready for prime time and would benefit from more liveops events testing.

Meta & Progression

Squad Busters marries out-of-round progression and roguelike elements. Even successful live-service action RPGs like have struggled to monetize the game’s core appeal and new abilities earned in-round, but Squad Buster nails the assignment.

In Squad Busters, locked characters may still appear in in-match chests, so players want to grow their character rosters to avoid missing out. The random chance of each character appearing means the player is incentivized to equalize gold spent purchasing character copies in the shop. Players are never sure which character will appear in in-match chests, so equal spending per character shrinks variance. The randomized character selection also prevents content bi-fiction: every player needs to master every character to be successful.

Squad Journey

Players progress along an account level (“Squad Journey”), which gates the key content: maps and characters. They earn “Portal Energy” either by evolving characters or clearing achievements.

Meta Flow

Character evolution is straightforward. 

Players earn “Baby” copies of characters. After collecting ten Babies, they convert them to one copy of a “Classic.” After ten copies of a “Classic,” players convert a copy to “Super.” Priced in Babies, the progression cost is exponential – from 10 copies to 100 copies to 1,000 copies at Evolution 3. 

Taping each age visualizes the number of copies players own, with units scrambling on and off placemats. The character upgrade screen UI is…strange and reminiscent of a cartoon abacus.

Character abilities unlock and sometimes existing abilities improve at each evolution stage, and stats improve, signified by a star count (Evo 1 is one star, Evo 2 is two stars, etc). The fourth evolution remains locked and is likely a launch item.

Each time ten units evolve to the next stage, the player earns portal energy, increasing their Squad Journey level (i.e., Star Road or a traditional account level system). This is the key gating mechanic behind the ability to earn new characters and levels. Portal energy level-up costs increase exponentially, and so do world lengths. The first levels increase at ten portal energy per level, while later levels increase by 100 per level.

Besides character upgrades, a looping set of basic “achievements” reward portal energy. The achievement’s design is akin to “play the game, and things will trigger.” The design is straight out of Brawl Stars. There’s no need to reinvent what works; the collection loop is satisfying and yet another chance to demonstrate Supercell’s top currency animations

Speaking of other Supercell influences, Squad Busters uses bots to boost average win rates over 50%, similar to Clash Royale and, famously, Marvel Snap. This feature is becoming standard for mobile PvP games, and even HD titles like Battlefield are using bots to soften PvP zero-sum brutality.


Eino Joas is fond of consumables, and they shine here. Squad Busters’ heavy monetization of zero-marginal cost mechanics while pay-to-win has never been stronger. In fact, it’s astonishing. Payment proximity to win probability has never been higher for a mobile F2P PVP game, bar maybe Yahtzee with Buddies Bonus Rolls. Despite this, prices are too low in the economy, while Mega units deserve stable monetization avenues.

Out-of-round, players fill a “Battle Backpack” containing four key types, each corresponding to a chest type. After waiting 60 seconds, players may activate a key in-round – the next chest opened is the one associated with the key. Crucially, the keyed chests require no gold to open, immediately making the player more powerful. This is compounded by “Mega” units, a special type whose probability of appearing in chests changes based on in-game factors.

One modifier event will grant players a free starting Mega Unit. Try before you buy!

Mega units are powerful squad members (~3-5x health, 2x DPS above average) that cannot merge. Drawing a Mega unit from a chest can significantly change the game. Interestingly, the drop rates of Mega Units are conditional on several factors:

  • Having fewer gems than the round leader
  • Having a smaller army than the largest army
  • Unlocking both Mega units increases the chance of getting a mega unit. 
    • (For example, El Tigre might have a 3% drop rate, while Dragon Chicken might also have a 3% drop rate, meaning the chance of getting El Tigre OR Dragon Chicken is higher when both are unlocked).
  • Round time elapsing (increasing drop chances)
  • Epic and Fusion Keys also increase the chance of opening a Mega unit

Top-tier players already bemoan Mega Units randomness but also represent the game’s commitment to accessibility. In the same way that Mario Kart’s rubber-banding system ensures everyone has a chance to win, Mega units do the same here. 

Interestingly enough, Mega units are consumables. Every time players select one from a chest, they lose a quantity in their inventory. Top-tier competitive play guarantees play maintains some inventory, so it’s curious that Supercell didn’t provide a direct and consistent way to purchase Mega’s rather than rotating shop appearances. This is an easy avenue to grow consumables revenue, which appears too low.

The consumables model consists of tickets, streak preservation, key usage, and mega usage. Tickets act as reward “energy”: players who consume a ticket earn Babies copies at the end of a match. Squad Buster designers tightly control F2P progression, as a mere three refreshes every 24 hours. However, as the match-3 consumables-based model demonstrates, revenue is not only a function of price but how often players rotate through the turnstile. The more matches players play, the more times consumables usage triggers, and the more players need to re-stock. 

Various ticket engagement assumptions (three to twelve per day) and consumables usage rates range from $400 annually to $1,800. This feels particularly low. The game needs to experiment with more “default” booster usage: similar to the Mega units, spenders must “opt-in” to key spend by taping two screens during a real-time battle. Default key usage when their cooldown expires or some default way of activating keys is a solid way to “nudge” monetization.

Consumables Monetization Ceiling
Consumption AssumptionCeiling Per DayCeiling Per YearAvg. Key Spend Per MatchAvg. Reroll SpendAvg. Streak SpendAvg. Mega Spend*Avg. Ticket Spend
Per Match$0.36$131.94$0.18$0.08$0.06$0.04
Per Day
3x Tickets (Matches)$1.08$395.82$0.53$0.24$0.18$0.13
6x Tickets (Matches)$2.35$856.53$1.07$0.48$0.36$0.27$0.18
9x Tickets (Matches)$3.61$1,317.24$1.60$0.72$0.53$0.40$0.36
12x Tickets (Matches)$4.87$1,777.96$2.13$0.96$0.71$0.53$0.53
*Average Price, Two Keys Per Match*Average Price, Three Re-rolls Per Match*Once Every Three Matches Preserve Streak*10% Chance Per Match* 3 tickets free every 24 hours

Using gold prices from the daily store for price conversion, Mega Unit costs about $0.44 per use, while keys range from $0.03 to $0.13. This means the game can move monetization figures by rebalancing (i.e., increasing the Mega Unit spawn rate). But it’s also much lower than match-3, who might charge $1-2 for five extra moves. Growing the consumables sink per match will be a core growth area for the game’s revenue.


Streaks, or consecutive top-5 finishes, are in the game’s limelight and are home to Supercell’s new “Jony Ive Pen”: the chest tap.

If players rank in the top half of the four-minute round by gem tally, they extend a “streak.” The game’s reward structure suggests maintaining win streaks is a significant progression source. When presented with a chest at the round end, players earn “taps”: each time a player taps on the chest, it may increase rarity or add Baby copies to the eventual open. Ladies and Gentlemen, Supercell has built a meta loot box.

The final cartoon-style Chest squishing always gets me.

Squad Busters incentivizes players to earn taps from “streaks” —the streak length functions as a vanity metric as it’s displayed on profiles and leaderboards. There are three streak reward tiers, and the maximum streak, at ten wins or more, grants three additional taps on top of the number of taps per placement on the leaderboard, which ranges from two (10th place) to four (1st place). A “maxed out” player would maintain seven taps per round end chest reward. The game cleverly mirrors match-3 style monetization, where streaks amplify the benefit of spending on extra moves. In Squad Buster’s case, they scale the gold price of streak preservation on a loss with streak level. Who knows, maybe Episode Race is the next Squad Busters liveops event?

Character upgrades need to form the backbone of the game’s monetization, and while it’s strange to see no gacha, hard currency (!) or soft currency level gating makes an appearance. At $2,000, the spending ceiling feels low, as does the ~$100 per Epic character price. However, given the exponential requirements, the cost curve will spike when Evolution 4 is released. This will likely coincide with more generous sourcing of copies, including “Classic” and “Super” copies.

Progression Cost Table
Character RarityEvo 1Evo 2Evo 3Evo 4 (?)
Copies to Evolve
Price Per Character to Evolve*
Price to Max All Characters (25 Characters)
* Based on Shop prices, which likely represent a ceiling considering Gem Pass and Squad Journey


The game’s shop is dynamic, triggering based on heuristics like a player’s world level, but the seemingly self-imposed limit on spend velocity is entirely unnecessary. After purchasing a character, the store marks the slot as claimed rather than refilling the slot with other characters. Outside of consumables use, the economy effectively limits daily Gold spend. Putting aside characters (~$9), this translates to under $10 for all offers.

A yellow arrow indicates the character is ready for evolution with this purchase. Now, that’s combat readability!

At the very least, players should be able to re-roll offers for Gold, a sort of “inverse loot box” similar to FIFA Ultimate Team’s X-Ray packs

Given Supercell’s new focus on scale, Squad Buster’s design is a perfect runway to ramp content. While designers will need to limit the character pool randomly (or will they?) as it expands, adding new characters almost creates network effects since the abilities may interact to develop new strategies. The more characters, the larger the network of potential interaction.


Nearly all of MiHoYo’s Honkai Star Rail’s revenue came from Genshin Impact, a massive failure considering the marketing and development expenses.

Honkai Star Rail and Genshin Impact Failed to Grow Portfolio Revenue

This has caused concern that Squad Buster will eat from Brawl Star’s growth and compete for users. Yet, Squad Buster IP differentiates itself and could hardly be confused with Brawl Stars: bangin’ new theme music, characters from every launched Supercell game, and an ample dose of mischievous baby characters

There’s no guarantee that the title will cannibalize; the differentiation axis is important. For example, there’s no evidence of AFK Journey eating from AFK Arena players, and the same is true for Coin Master and Monopoly Go.

AFK Journey: Little Impact on AFK Arena

A Unique Sandbox

Squad Buster’s sustainability is a function of its monetization model (consumables), progression model (randomized), and core gameplay design (structured sandbox).

During Battle Royale’s (BR) ascent, teams questioned whether BR was a mode or genre. As BR celebrates its seventh anniversary, each mode attempt has languished (Battlefield Firestorm) or spun off into a monster hit (Call of Duty: Warzone). Now, BRs account for nearly half of FPS revenue and certainly a plurality. Much less than a mode, BR proved to be the FPS sub-genre. Ultimately, observers discounted the repeatability of BR’s roguelike and randomized loot elements.

The same can be said about Squad Busters, which, while inspired by Brawl Stars Gem Grab or Death Valley mode, provides a structured sandbox to Brawl Stars character platform. If Brawl Stars is a hero shooter like Overwatch, Squad Busters is a battle royale like Apex Legends. Each of these genres and games lives and thrives independently of one another.

If Squad Busters actually does stunt Brawl Stars, declining downloads will be a telling sign as they compete for similar player pools. 


Squad Busters is an accessible entry point to innovative roguelike and MOBA mechanics in a battle-royale-esque setting. It has elements to maintain and grow revenue for itself and for Supercell as a firm. Despite this, long-term retention still needs to be seen. The game’s lackluster learning loop, dull early game character design, and two in-round currencies are solvable problems before a global launch. However, doing so at a higher headcount level is a new challenge for Supercell. Will more headcount increase roadmap velocity or drown the title in bureaucracy?

If they’re successful, not only will Squad Busters be another entry in “games that will be remembered forever,” but Supercell’s Next Chapter reads longer than its last.

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