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Home Blog App Promotion Case Study Case Study: The Opportunity and Dilemma of Card Battler Mobile Game

Case Study: The Opportunity and Dilemma of Card Battler Mobile Game

Jul 28 2021



For card combat games, 2021 did not go well, as the category saw a 23% decrease in revenue compared to 2020, in large part due to the decline of Hearthstone Legends. 

In the European and American markets, the card combat category has been quietly going downhill in recent years, and the category leader "Hearthstone Legend" has seen a 32% decline in mobile platform revenue since its release in 2014, with the unchanging ladder system hardly retaining players and the new game model failing to successfully cash in.

Top card Battlers

Where is the next blue ocean of hand travel? Is there a future for cards and MOBA? With "The Legend of Hearthstone" as the representative of the set-for-card mobile game so far in the industry, there are not many similar products to see, can the set-for-card mobile game become the next explosive point?

However, it is clear that some people do not want to see Blizzard's one-upmanship in the field of collectible card games: the latest work of Marvel, "Marvel vs.

Careful players will find that this time, Marvel did not continue the series with the "next year" name convention, but with the "duel" name, this change has also attracted the attention of hand game manufacturers.

As a matter of fact, Marvel is the originator of the collect-and-swap card game. Unlike the general card games, the set-exchange card games focus more on the strategy of the game itself.

In the card game, players have to use the cards they have to develop a corresponding competitive strategy for different opponents, creating a variety of ways to play. Because of this, the life cycle of collectible card games is longer and has more potential for development.

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Case study: Hearthstone Legends is lost in its own land

In the U.S. market, Hearthstone Legends is no longer the biggest card game, it has been surpassed by Yu-Gi-Oh: Dueling Alliance. In fact, neither game's focus market is the U.S. Hearthstone Legend's revenue share is high in the Chinese market, while Yu-Gi-Oh! comes more from the Japanese market, but it is noteworthy for European and American developers that a Japanese company's game and art style can be welcomed by American users.

Hearthstone Legends' revenue slipped 32% in 2020 compared to 2018, and the game's revenue has been coming from new content releases, but recent new content has not been as good at cashing in as the 2018 content.

Hearthstone Legends players aren't as keen on new cards and there aren't as many gamers as there used to be. Newly released cards for Hearthstone Legends have also created balance issues in the game and have led to higher player churn during tweaks.

Hearthstone Legends has tried to retain players in the form of new game modes, but these game modes have not been able to motivate players to collect more cards, so the best these modes have done is to retain players and not be profitable. However, players who stay only need to collect one set of cards to experience the main ranked mode of Hearthstone Legends.

The game needs more ways to encourage players to collect cards and build more decks. Or, more forms of cashing in on the Hearthstone Legend Battlegrounds mode, the latter of which is the self-travel mode. In fact, any new mode added to Hearthstone Legends will need to focus on increasing player demand for collecting.

Card Battler mobile game activity is climbing, but it's still unexplored territory

To "game king" as the representative set of card games, offline has been popular for decades, although niche, but the core player group has been very stable.

Unfortunately, in the past 20 years, the set of cards in the field of games has not appeared in the true sense of the "explosion". Until after Blizzard's "Hearthstone Legend" became a big success, many domestic professionals began to believe that the field of collect-and-exchange card game is promising.

The research report "2015 H1 e-sports hand game market analysis report" recently released by Speedway Research Institute shows that although MOBA still occupies more than 60% share of the e-sports game genre, the growth is slowing down significantly, RTS is also shrinking, and currently only set-for-card has the steepest growth trend.

And so it is: Hearthstone Legend, a competitive set-for-card mobile game, has been sought after by many e-sports players since its launch in 2015. The success of "The Legend of Hearthstone" has led more practitioners to believe that the set-for-card mobile game will become the future direction of the market.

Compared to MOBA, RTS, FPS and other competitive items, the skill of the set-exchange card game is lower and more inclined to casual entertainment. The reduced difficulty of competition allows more people to participate, thus further promoting the development of the competitive hand game market.

In addition to the traditional card, RPG, ARPG and other popular game types, the number of search volume, new users and active growth of games such as SLG, set and forget cards, MOBA and music beat games is the largest.

Although the user activity in the segment of set-for-card is increasing, but relative to the domestic market environment, card, MOBA and other games are still the main force of the hand game market, and not many manufacturers involved in set-for-card hand game, and there are not yet explosive products in China.

For the time being, only "Hearthstone Legend" has been verified by the market as a successful card game, and the field of card game is still in the blue ocean stage.

Why Card Battler mobile game has been hidden for years, but now it's starting to explode

First of all, due to the high user threshold and complex game design of collect-and-swap card games, it is necessary to avoid the influence of card drawing on players' strategies and to ensure the competitiveness and playability of the game, so it requires manufacturers to carry out a long period of debugging in three aspects: card drawing, strategy and competition.

This is why after the emergence and success of "Hearthstone Legend", for a long time, there are still no competitors appear.

But from the position of the major manufacturers to the field of fist pumping can be predicted, next year may be a set of exchange card hand game product explosion period.

Second, the current hand game products play the same way, the player's passion has mostly been overdrawn.

In this case, the rise of new gameplay will soon involve players in it rapidly. Le Bon's "The Ravens" describes in detail the psychological changes of the group: in the case of excessive obedience and single fun, the group is more likely to rebel, or choose to alienate.

At the same time, collect-and-swap card games, as game products with inherent Big Dau attributes, also have a strong competitive nature.

It should be noted that the competitive nature of collectible cards is reflected in its unpredictability and strategy, with the former requiring luck and the latter requiring players to accurately estimate the game, opponents and leftover cards, and play the right cards at the right time, thus minimizing the impact of luck.

The future set of card games only in the "skill strategy" and "luck component" to achieve a delicate balance, only qualified to be pushed on the stage of e-sports.

The dilemma of Card Battler mobile game


  • The card game space is very mature and is continuing to decline
  • Buying volume in mature markets is very expensive
  • Card battle games are very complex, so it's hard to make the initial retention rate high


2021 Trend Forecast

Compared to 2020, card game revenue will decline 10% in 2021

If we follow the trend of 2020, "Hearthstone Legend" revenue will decline by another $30 million. The question in this area is whether Game of Thrones and new products can bring new growth, especially after the launch of Marvel mobile games and Legends of Runeterra, before they are expected to drive growth in the card mobile category.

However, in the mobile platform, it is not easy to achieve such effect, after all, the new products will not meet with players until the end of the year and are unlikely to become big hits immediately, so the card mobile game will decline 5-10% in 2021.

Hearthstone Legend will continue to decline by 30% in 2021

In 2021, "Hearthstone Legend" will maintain its downward trend, as both the quests and Battlegrounds mode will hardly bring significant revenue growth.

Newcomers will reimagine card battlers

One of the more difficult predictions for card games is that new products still have the potential to reshape the category landscape and drive growth. 2021 will see multiple new products, Runeterra, Quintessence, Marvel and even more.

All of these products borrow a lot in terms of features, but they will all hardly be as successful as Hearthstone Legends, even if Hearthstone Legends itself will have a hard time continuing to succeed through its current approach

Considering the challenges to Hearthstone Legends' ability to cash in, new products should not copy its cash-in system; they must create their own ways of making money to get to the top of the revenue charts.

Successful new entrants need to focus on collection and proficiency, not a simple ladder ranking system, and the recipe for success of 2016's Hearthstone Legends should not be lifted out and reused four years later.



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