Brawl Stars

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Brawl Stars is a multiplayer mobile action game developed by Supercell.[1] The game was released on June 14, 2017 in its beta form before becoming available worldwide over a year later on December 12, 2018.[2] While supercell has launched many successful mobile games, including Clash of Clans[3], Clash Royale[4], Hay Day[5], and Boom Beach[6], Brawl Stars is the companies most recent release and has been met with overwhelming success. In the four months following its release, the game amassed over 87 million players and 200 million dollars in revenue.[7]. By the end of December 2020, two years after its worldwide release, Brawl Stars earned a lifetime gross revenue of over $1 billion[8].


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Brawl Stars is considered a third-person hero shooter game.[9] Each character, also known as a brawler, has unique abilities, thus making it a hero shooter game. Even though Brawl Stars is a mobile game, it has quite a few game modes. Maps rotate occasionally for each game mode. Other special events are included periodically.

  • Hot Zone: Two teams compete to control several zones on the map. Matches are three minutes long and the team that controls the most zones when the timer ends wins. [10]
  • Gem Grab: Two teams compete to obtain 10 gems, which spawn at the middle of the map. A team wins when they obtain 10 gems and manages to keep the gems safe for 15 seconds.[11]
  • Solo Showdown: Free-for-all among 10 players. Last player standing is crowned the winner.[12]
  • Duo Showdown: Similar to solo showdown, except players have a teammate to battle with. The last pair standing is crowned the winner.[13]
  • Heist: Two teams compete to protect their safe. The first team to destroy the opponent's safe is the winner.[14]
  • Bounty: Two teams compete to obtain the most stars within two minutes. Stars are obtained by eliminating opponent players. The team with the most stars after the timer ends is the winner.[15]
  • Brawl Ball: Two teams compete to score goals, similar to soccer. The team that scores two goals first wins.[16]
  • Siege: Two teams compete to destroy the opposing team's turret(a tower that can attack the opposing team within a certain range). The team that does so first is the winner. [17]
  • Big Game: Five players battle one player, who is a bigger brawler. The objective of the bigger brawler is to survive and the goal of the five players is to eliminate the bigger brawler. The bigger brawler wins if they stay alive for two minutes, and the five players win if they destroy him before the time runs out. [18]


Through its 5 seasons, the game has expanded from its original set of 15 brawlers to 45 brawlers[19]. Within the game, each brawler is separated into 6 unique class types: Sharpshooter, Thrower, Support, Heavyweight, Fighter, and Assassin. However, within these classes, each brawler has its own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Because most game modes are played in teams, the different classes of brawlers allow players to combine different brawler traits to find a beneficial group synergy.

Example menu of brawler selection screen


Sharpshooters are essentially the snipers of Brawl Stars. All Sharpshooters have incredibly long range, but have a below-average amount of health points. Sharpshooters also have one of the highest damage outputs of all the class types.[20]


Throwers are brawlers that throw projectiles. Similar to Sharpshooters, they have great range, but have very few health points. What sets Throwers apart from Sharpshooters is their ability to throw projectiles over walls. This makes throwers very versatile and playable on almost any map. [20]


This class type has the most variety in terms of unique skills. Some Support brawlers can heal their teammates while one brawler can create a sandstorm and make his teammates invisible within a certain area. Support brawlers compliment any other type of teammate, but they typically lack in their attack power. [20]


The Heavyweight brawlers all have a considerable amount of health points but have an extremely short range. Most can only hit a smaller range in front of them. They are great for soaking up damage on a team. Because of this, Heavyweights heavily rely on hiding in bushes and sneaking up on the opposing team. [20]


Fighters are the all-around class type. Most Fighters have above-average health points and are above average in terms of damage output or attack range. While a Sharpshooter fighting a Heavyweight would heavily favor the Sharpshooter because of their superior range, a Fighter has no matchups where they clearly lose when in melee range. A Fighter is always a reliable class type to strengthen your team. [20]


Assassins are high mobility brawlers that generally focus on jumping onto valuable targets. Assassins typically have medium to low health and good damage, but make up for it with their ability to engage and disengage in fights at important times with fast burst damage, as their time between shots is often lower than other brawlers. [20]


In-Game Currency

There are 3 different types of in-game currency available to players: gems, coins, and star points. The most common way for players to gain more in-game currency includes opening brawl boxes or increasing the rank of brawlers.[21] Gems may also be exchanged in the in-game store in return for gems in order to level up characters. [22] Within the game, gems can be used to buy items such as vanity, coins, and loot boxes while star points are often used to buy exclusive Star Skins. At the end of each season collected trophies are converted into star points for each player. [23]


While in-game currency can be collected through gameplay to upgrade brawlers, players have the ability to purchase gems and coins through the app in order to upgrade their characters more quickly. Brawl Stars also includes a premium seasonal pass that players can purchase, as opposed to the free seasonal pass that is distributed to all players. Players who purchase the premium version have access to more loot boxes that offer more, higher-quality rewards. Additionally, premium season players are guaranteed vanity gear, coins, brawlers, etc. assuming the player plays enough to unlock all the possible rewards. [24]

Any in-app purchases made through the game are non-refundable. Brawl Stars does not offer any method for parents to restrict spending such as disabling in-app purchases. [25]


Initial Concept

The initial idea of Brawl Stars was to create a game with a collaborative experience on touch-based devices, similar to other top competitive games on consoles and PC. According to Frank Keienburg, game lead for Brawl Stars, the team at Supercell "wanted to create a great competitive game for teams and capture the essence of popular titles like League of Legends or Overwatch – without adding a lot of unnecessary complexity...We also focused on mobile from the start, which has an impact on the whole player experience: from the controls and UI to things like file size. Our focus was on retaining a lot of depth while stripping away all the fluff."[26].


Live from Supercell HQ - Brawl Stars Global Release

Supercell the all-new title, Brawl Stars, via livestream on YouTube, on June 14, 2017, and launched on iOS in Canada on June 15, 2017, as a soft launch, or preview release of a product or service for a smaller audience, for 522 days [27]. During this soft launch, Supercell was still debating on publishing the game for the general public to play. This is because, according to Frank Keienburg, the developers at supercell were working within a genre of games that they were less familiar with, and thus did not know how to further go about quantifying the success of the soft launch. During the soft launch, Supercell gathered user feedback on the game. This included making improvements to the user interface, such as changing the tap controls to analog controls, changing the graphics from being 2D to being 3D, and going from portrait to landscape mode. [28]


Once Brawl Stars finally did release globally on December 12, 2018, it experienced massive success and rapid growth, making upwards of US $63 million within its first month. The bulk of the revenue generated by Brawl Stars came from players in the United States, who helped it grow by almost US $16.5 million- around 26 percent of the total. Additionally, players in Japan and South Korea made up 15 and 12 percent, respectively, of the first month's revenue. [29].

Ethical Concerns

Business Model

Like Supercell’s previous hit games, Brawl Stars follows the freemium game model [30]. The word freemium is a combination of the word “free” and “premium.” These games are free to begin playing with in-app purchases as you play the game. These in-app purchases revolve around purchasing in-game items or currency that gives the user an advantage over users who do not buy in-app purchases.

Exploitation of Users

At first glance, the freemium model seems mutually beneficial for both the consumers and the creators. Consumers can still play the game free of charge but can purchase items to make the game more fun. However, there are hidden motives behind this business model. Freemium games rely on microtransactions, which is another word for in-app purchases. Since the player is not paying for the game, the creators of the game earn revenue through microtransactions. Recently, Brawl Stars has accumulated over $1 billion in lifetime revenue and around $526 million in revenue from 2020 alone. [31]

If the creators of the game have the sole intention of monetizing as much as they can from these microtransactions to increase revenue, it becomes likely that the user may get exploited monetarily by the company. Supercell has released many top-selling mobile games in the past. On Jan 1, 2014, Supercell released Clash of Clans which has generated over $7 billion today. The company has also released other popular mobile games which have combined for total revenue of over $5.2 billion. [32] One item that many freemium games have, including Brawl Stars, is the loot box. These boxes contain a collection of random items that the user receives upon purchase. Loot boxes contain inherent ethical issues with them. [33] An issue relating to these loot boxes is the algorithm used to determine what item the player receives and how transparent the company is with the algorithm to the user. There is a great deal of transparency in this aspect as the percentages of what tier item the user will receive is listed in the app. [34] Game monetization practices are now coming under scrutiny like the ethics of attracting players to spend money on in-game items. [35]

Further concerns have been voiced that since the game is targeted towards children, the lack of refundable transactions makes it much easier to exploit younger players who may be acting without their parent's permission. [36] This has resulted in many players of Supercell games, including Brawl Stars, criticizing the company for the unethical business model.

Gambling Addiction
'15 Signs You're Addicted To Brawl Stars!'

Even when percentages are explicitly listed, loot boxes can be very easily compared to slot machines as they offer a random prize to the user of varying worth. With slot machines, the outcome is a range of money values while in Brawl Stars the outcome is a range of items with the corresponding value in virtual currency. Then, the concern of gambling addiction is raised. Gambling addiction, also called problem gambling, is "the urge to gamble continuously despite negative consequences or a desire to stop." Gambling addiction occurs because the actions "activate the same reward circuits in the brain as drugs and the clinical characteristics of gambling disorder are the same as those of drug addictions or alcoholism"[37] Over 50% of the top 100 mobile games offer in-app purchases for loot boxes. Out of that portion of mobile games, less than 10% allow a cash-out option to convert in-game items back into currency.

Video Game Addiction

Similar to gambling addiction, video game addiction is prominent in games such as Brawl Stars. Video game addiction can result in significant impairment to an individual's ability to function in various life domains over a prolonged period of time. The app follows a design that allows for constant play. The matches are quite short(under five minutes) and constant upgrades to the users' brawlers are available the more you play. Additionally, the user can make microtransactions, as specified above, to further gain progress in their game or account. This encourages playing the game for longer, potentially leading to video game addiction. Video game addiction can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, lack of social engagement, problems with concentration and attention, avoidance of developmental tasks, and increased aggression or violence. [38]


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  29. Vincent, Brittany. “Supercell’s ‘Brawl Stars’ Clears Over $63 Million in One Month" Variety, Jan 16, 2019,
  30. Li, Keyan Kelly. “Why Freemium Games Are Ethnical Problematic.” Medium, Medium, 29 Jan. 2017,
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  38. Edited by Meredith Watkins, M. (2021, February 08). Video game addiction symptoms and treatment. Retrieved from