Mobile Gaming

How the Supercell and Chess.com Collab Added 1.2 Million Daily Users to Clash Royale

data.ai Insights

Supercell and Chess.com created a deep cross-promotion, Clash Chess, which succeeded due to an exceptionally strong fit between the two brands and exceptionally large investment from both sides.

A guest post by Liquid & Grit, the market-leading product insights firm in mobile gaming. The opinions and views expressed in this blog article are Liquid & Grit’s own. 

In September 2023, Supercell and Chess.com launched Clash Chess to expand their audiences and change players’ perceptions of their apps.

During the month-long event, Clash Royale's global Daily Active Users (DAU) increased by 1.2 million. This growth continued for the next two months before leveling out in January 2024. Comparing January 2024 to August 2023 (the month before Clash Chess), Clash Royale's DAU increased by 5.1 million worldwide.

Clash Royale Global DAU

On the other hand, Clash of Clans implemented a much shallower version of the collaboration and actually had DAU and downloads decrease during the partnership — which shows that the depth of Clash Royale's integration was crucial to its success.

Chess.com has announced that it is actively seeking out new partnerships, so other strategy, puzzle and RPG apps may want to consider launching collaborations with the platform.

The Best Brand Partners Are Force Multipliers

To justify such heavy investment, deep cross-promotions need to enhance both developers’ images while providing access to new audiences that are likely to convert. Unlike paid brand partnerships, collaborations like Clash Chess don’t provide revenue directly from brand partners, so developers need to ensure that a potential partner helps them achieve their goals. The best brand partners should offer:

  • Audiences that are likely to be interested in developers’ content.
  • A brand image that adds a new dimension to developers’ reputation.

Chess and Clash Royale are both grid-based strategy games focused on movement, attacking, and defending—which makes it easy for each brand to appeal to the other’s players. 

data.ai's Cross Mobile Usage Report for Clash Royale in August 2023 reveals that in the United States, on Android phones, Chess.com ranks as the second most popular game in terms of shared users, trailing only behind Supercell's flagship title, Clash of Clans.

At the same time, each brand offers something that the other brand wants. Chess.com has been trying to rebrand chess as a more quirky, casual game as part of its effort to reach new audiences. Positioning the game alongside the cartoonish characters and casual strategy gameplay of Clash of Clans and Clash Royale helps them achieve this goal.

Meanwhile, Supercell’s marketing team is focused on making its Clash characters into highly recognizable pop culture icons. Having their characters appear alongside a cultural trend like chess can help raise their profile while also attracting Chess.com’s more hardcore strategy audience.

When considering a deep cross-promotion, any potential brand partner should also be trending. Chess has become a cultural phenomenon thanks to Chess.com, streamers, and the success of the Queen’s Gambit series on Netflix. Chess’ popularity has only grown since then, thanks in large part to Chess.com’s booming popularity among younger people. The site’s daily active users doubled to 11 million between November 2022 and January 2023. 

Other board games are also trending and may provide strong opportunities for cross-promotion. Board games are experiencing a post-pandemic resurgence, with the market expected to grow 7–11% in the coming years. Their status as an emerging trend is being helped by social media content such as the Watch it Played YouTube channel, which has over 340K subscribers. The appeal of these games can also be seen in the runaway success of Monopoly GO! in 2023. As we noted in our analysis of Scopely’s UA strategy, the app’s association with the board game was a key component of its marketing efforts.

For further analysis on using collaborations to expand your audience, see our articles on fashion and food brand partnerships in gaming.

When apps find willing partners with a strong fit, they should invest heavily in content, rewards, and live events. Supercell and Chess.com created a wide variety of ways for players to engage and rewards to incentivize that engagement, including:

  • Content:
    • New game modes
    • A new season for Clash Royale
    • An ad campaign with interactive rewarded ads
    • Game guides and blog articles
  • Rewards:
    • Cosmetics
    • New characters and skins
    • Battle pass rewards
    • Giveaways
  • Live Events:
    • A live-streamed competition event featuring well-known content creators
    • Challenges
    • Competitions

Strong collaborations can generate substantial word-of-mouth advertising and community goodwill. Supercell and Chess.com’s partnership was met with positive commentary and high levels of engagement from both developers’ player communities. Clash Royale’s YouTube announcement of the event got 1.1M views and nearly 500 overwhelmingly positive comments. Videos of the live-streamed Chess Clash event have over 600K combined views between Chess.com and Ludwig’s (one of the hosts) channels.

Creating an Effective Collaboration

During a collaboration, brands must highlight their similarities to engage each other’s audiences. For example, Supercell targeted chess players with video ads and an interactive ad campaign that turned chess solutions into Clash of Clans promo codes. Meanwhile, Chess.com published blog articles on its site such as A Chess Player’s Guide to Clash Royale and 10 Ways Clash Royale is Similar to Chess

Using chess gameplay as part of the ad campaign strengthened the association between Clash and chess, and using moves from famous matches likely appealed to more hardcore chess fans who may have been more skeptical of the collaboration. Additionally, the campaign’s association with Magnus Carlsen (a long-time brand ambassador of Chess.com) allowed Supercell to use their partner’s influencer to boost their own UA.

Influencers and content creators can significantly boost a campaign’s reach and effectiveness across social media channels. Social media influencers have been essential to the chess boom, leading Chess.com to develop relationships with major creators such as MrBeast (233M subscribers), MoistCr1TiKaL/penguinz0 (14.4M subscribers), and Ludwig (5.6M subscribers).

To reach these audiences, Chess.com and Supercell partnered with more than 15 content creators representing both chess and the Clash games. This included well-known chess masters like Maestro Luison and some of the biggest content creators such as GothamChess and Orange Juice Gaming. The combined audience of these creators amounts to over 25M viewers across YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok.

Live events and competitions provide the best opportunity to capture influencers’ audiences—especially when they include rewards for viewers. Chess Clash included a competition featuring the above creators, which was hosted by Ludwig, chess master Danny Rensch, and Clash of Clans content creator Clash With Eric. The event was streamed both on Chess.com’s Twitch channel and Ludwig’s YouTube channel, receiving over 600K views between the two.

The competitors faced off in chess, Clash of Clans, and Clash Royale, allowing both developers to showcase their apps to a large audience. After the competition ended, Chess.com created chess bots in the likenesses of the winners. Meanwhile, Supercell provided rewards for Clash creators to give away on their channels, driving further engagement with Clash-related content.

For another example of a collaboration that used live events, see how Kellogg's used Tony the Tiger to host a competition between Twitch streamers in our guide to VTuber collaborations.

In-game rewards and additional content create value for players, which encourages them to engage with cross-promotion and generates goodwill. The Chess Clash collaboration included in-game rewards and content for Chess.com, Clash Royale, and, to a notably lesser extent, Clash of Clans.

Chess.com took the opportunity to introduce a new game mode, Spell Chess, as well as a collection of nine Clash-themed chess bots for players to challenge.

Supercell centered an entire season of Clash Royale around the collaboration, including:

  • A cosmetic battle pass reward (chess tower skin)
  • Challenges 
  • New cards
  • Competitions
  • A new chess-themed arena
  • A new game mode (Chess Royale)

In contrast to Clash Chess’s massive success for Clash Royale, Clash of Clans saw a substantially smaller and shorter impact on DAU due to the app’s more limited investment in the collaboration. Clash of Clans offered little in-game content related to the partnership, focusing largely on a small number of in-game currency rewards. Clash of Clans’ DAU and downloads actually decreased slightly during the collaboration compared to the preceding month. 

As Supercell’s Iwo Zackowski pointed out at RoviCon 2023, Clash of Clans’ more modest results during the campaign highlights the importance of going big during this type of collaboration. 

Clash of Clans Global DAU

Long event durations give players enough time to get invested in the event. Supercell and Chess.com’s collaboration ran for an entire month, giving players enough time to learn new game modes, earn rewards, and engage in a variety of live events. The long duration also meant that the partnership ran for an entire season of Clash Royale, which allowed for integration with its battle pass.

Temporary content encourages players to engage with the campaign while permanent content creates lasting value. Players were given a steady stream of competitions and challenges to engage with during the month-long collaboration, including events featuring the new Spell Chess and Chess Royale game modes. Chess.com’s Clash-themed chess bots were also only available during this period (Chess.com introduces new limited-time bots each month). 

However, Spell Chess continued to be playable on Chess.com after the event, while Chess Royale did not. Because players have to take the time to learn a new game mode, it makes the experience more worthwhile for them if the mode continues to be available after the end of the collaboration.

Battle pass content, such as the chess tower skin in Clash Royale, makes for an effective mix of temporary and permanent content. Players must engage with the battle pass—and the collaboration— to earn the reward, which they get to keep.

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March 1, 2024

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