But the most interesting thing about Supercell is not how much money it makes, but how it makes its money. Supercell’s games are free-to-play, a business model that is fast becoming de rigueur in the mobile market.
Players pay the game back with money, time or both. In “Hay Day,” you can spend to speed up production of eggs and milk, or upgrade silos and barns. In “Clash of Clans,” players can buy gems to speed the production of troops and convert them into gold or elixir to upgrade buildings, walls and troops.
We could debate whether speeding up the production of key resources qualifies as “pay-to-win” — a monetization strategy that not so long ago was utterly verboten in Western gaming — but what’s fascinating to me, is how today’s hit gaming companies have figured out how to monetize impatience. Gamers used to scour the Web for “cheats” that would give them extra gold or super-powerful weapons that would otherwise require hours of game play to possess. Supercell encourages you to just go ahead and buy the cheats.