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Addicting Apps: What Makes Clash of Clans So Appealing?

| October 27, 2015
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Every Tuesday, UserTesting studies a different topic to share here on the blog. We hope you’ll learn some nifty research techniques and get inspired to run some insightful tests of your own. Enjoy, and check back in next Tuesday! Special thanks to our researcher, TheAnh Truong for conducting the study!
On the train to work the other day, I counted at least half a dozen bleary-eyed commuters glued to their phones, as their morning coffee cooled at their feet. They weren’t checking Facebook or playing Candy Crush. They were playing Clash of Clans.

I don’t know about you, but it would take a lot to keep me from my morning cuppa.  So naturally, a study was in order! We wanted to find out what keeps players coming back to defend their clans, and what motivates them to take a break from the game. To find out, we conducted an unmoderated, remote study to determine the general usability of the game, as well as determine what factors motivate players to join, continue, or quit playing the popular game.

The study

For this study, we recruited seven participants with varying levels of experience playing the game. We had a mix of six males and one female, ranging from ages 20 to 33. All were located in the U.S.

We first asked participants to share their background with the game, followed by what motivated them to play (or quit) the game, what differentiates Clash of Clans from other games, and any overall usability feedback.

Key takeaways

A place where everybody knows your name

Nearly all the participants noted that part of the draw to the game was interacting with friends and family members. The majority of participants began or continued to play the game, simply because of invitations to join a clan from friends or family. Participants also commented that they enjoyed socializing about the game—even when they weren’t playing.

Leveling up is an addicting challenge

Our participants had few, if any, complaints about the game. But those that did find room for improvement all pointed to the difficulty in leveling up as they approached the later Town Hall levels. But that challenge doesn’t stop players from showing up. One participant noted that he loved playing the game so much, that he begins playing the game as soon as he wakes up every morning.

(Im)patience is a virtue

While patience is normally considered a virtue, when it comes to a mobile game, its absence can be a sign of addictive gameplay. And patience was a quality virtually none of our participants possessed when it came to Clash of Clans. Players were so eager to level up that they often became impatient with the amount of time or resources needed to advance in the game.

But that impatience wasn’t a deal breaker—in fact, it motivated some participants to commit to the game by opting for in-app purchases to continue playing. One participant spent as much as $200 to gain a strategic advantage.

Final thoughts

With an estimated 29 million players and reportedly earning $5 million per day, there’s no doubt the folks behind Clash of Clans are doing something right. But if you need proof, just check out the coverage from the game’s recent ClashCon. And yes, they have their very own Comic-Con-style conference for just this one game. Those are some dedicated players.

A careful mix of free and paid game progressions, combined with a game loop that focuses on camaraderie and intense competition, creates an experience players come back to again and again. And again, and again, and again…

Learn more about how user testing your game can help you level up.