Saturday, May 17, 2014

Can a team of two, starting from zero, create a Top 10 Grossing iOS game in 1 year?

Now that our project "10 games in 3 months" is done, where do we go from here? Making these 10 games was never an end in itself for me, but only the first step in a larger plan. Back in the Fall I posed a challenge to myself: “Is it possible for a team of two people, with no previous experience in mobile gaming create a Top 10 Grossing iOS game in 1 year?” With a million of developers around the globe competing for these ten coveted spots, that seemed like an interesting challenge.

We designed a plan to get us there. Since we knew nothing about making mobile games, the first phase was to rapidly get up to speed. That’s what “10 games in 3 months” was all about. The second phase was to pick three most promising games, focus on each one for two months to build it up to commercial quality, then release each in the Canadian app store. In the final phase we then pick one game to focus on for the remaining three months with a worldwide release.

Last week we started the second phase.

The first phase was extraordinary useful showing me which games have the potential to reach the Top 10 within our time frame. Some, like mid-core strategy games would take too long to develop. Others, like word puzzle games, don’t monetize well enough to ever reach the Top 10. Another group, like match-3, is so full with great games that it’s hard to come up with an innovative game design. We needed a genre that can be done in two months, monetizes extremely well, one where we have a lot of good innovative game design ideas. Several genres fit these requirements, with Casino Slots fitting the best.

This is actually funny. I don’t play virtual slots. I find them boring, lacking any thought. Honestly, I wouldn’t even call one a game. I don’t ever play in casinos either. So how can I design and create a game that I have no interest in?!?

This was one of my biggest lessons from running a game studio in Kiev. The perspectives of a player and of a game designer are very different. As I player I would never touch a slots game. As a game designer with the goal of making a Top 10 Grossing game, it’s intellectually challenging and emotionally satisfying to design a game that can win the race. As a game designer I am playing a meta-game that makes it easy for me to spend hours a day playing and analyzing dozens of slots games.

For the next two months we are making Casino Slots. I am developing it in Unity. Liza decided to hire a freelance artist to help her create the tons of art the game requires. I am very excited about making this game. As late comers to the market, with no prior experience making slots games, it’s obvious that competing head on with the existing top slots games is a losing affair. So instead we have taken a fresh look at slots games, asking ourselves the question: “What would the slots game be like that’s *fun* to play for general audience?” The answers led us to make many innovations to the genre. It’s a bet we are making on the innovation vector; seems fitting when developing a casino slots game.