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Why did this fun, polished game fail to hit the top grossing?

By on December 8, 2014
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This is a guest post from Anthony Gowland


Seriously is a company formed from a bit of a mobile gaming dream team. A couple of months ago when Best Fiends, their first game, had just released I predicted that although it’s very polished & fun to play, it would not break in to the top 100 grossing. So I thought I should probably go back and check to see if my fortune telling skills need work or not.

Was I right? Find out – You can see the full report embedded below, or download the PDF file.

 

About Anthony Gowland

Tony has been designing games since he was 8, but has only been getting paid to do it for the last 14 years. Since then he has worked on the whole spectrum from AAA to Flash portals, and franchises as big as Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption and Call of Duty. He’s currently making free to play mobile games.
  • Juan de Urraza

    Dear Anthony and Gamesbrief Staff.

    I agree with most of the observations made here about the game Best Fiends, but also I have deepest concern about it. Maybe with these guidelines the game can go
    upper in the charts, or gather a greater user base, but in the end, I think the problem is not in these small changes or upgrades the developers can make.

    The truth is… We, gamers, are REALLY TIRED of play the different games with the same mechanics every time, and all over again. Think about this row matching and
    pairing games. Bejeweled was interesting at its time. Puzzle Quest was excellent. Candy Crush was entertaining when we had nothing to do on Facebook. But that’s it. In my case, I probably never play a game of that style again, period (except maybe for a Puzzle Quest 3 or something similar). It’s not important if the new games are pretty, it’s simply that I grew tired of playing the same thing with a different skin over and over again, when they are some very good and DIFFERENT games around. I don’t want to spend my time matching rows of things over and over again.

    I always follow your posts and articles, and find them very interesting, and I’ve learnt a lot in the past year with all of the topics discussed. I’m a senior software engineer and I am a gamer since I had 6 years old, starting with the Commodore 64 (now I’m 40), so I have a lot of experience playing games. I usually play a game from start to finish, even if I got tired on the way. I can be called a “hardcore gamer”, whatever that means, I also created some games back at the university and now I’m starting working again in the field, with a company I’ve recently created, so I started systematically the past two years to read blogs and sites like this, playing the most relevant games (Casual, AAA and Online), and doing a lot of courses in Coursera, to expand my mind in all of these matters.

    When I bought my first smartphone I eagerly downloaded tons of games, including an SNES emulator with some old games that I’ve never played (Like Final Fantasy VI). Also Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and all of the most famous ones. But the
    truth is I grew tired quickly of all of them. I don’t like the small screen, I don’t like to have in my hands a 500 USD piece of hardware to play simple and crappy games (I can buy a console or a new PC with that money and have a way better experience). So, I went back to play in the PC and in the PS. I uninstalled all of the games and keep only one for rare occasions. If I’m bored and away of my gaming systems, I’ve prefer to read a book or hear music. The only game I have installed right now is “Cut the rope 2”, which I like in its mechanics, but quickly started to hating it. Hate every day to be pushed to open de game to get bonuses, hate they open the doors if I don’t use the game in a few days, hate to replay different levels (gathering fruits) to open the later doors, hate the bonuses that can help you to past levels without really solving the puzzles, etc. If the same games, without the freemium options, were made on the PC, it will be a great game, but in the phone, I hate it. I believe in the freemium model, but I don’t believe in the casual games with aggressive freemium methods. They will go away. They had their great time in the past years because a lot of people who never played anything before got their first smartphone and started playing in it. They’re people from all ages, from kids to elders. And they know nothing about games, and think these simple games are the best the technology can offer. But as they learn more, they will start liking something new,
    different, more complex, and deep. The only good example of a free game that works well is Hearthstone, but I play it on the PC, and the way it pushes you to come back is good, and if you don’t use real money you can still have fun. Developers tend to forget that all gamers want is to have fun. Still, in hearthstone sometimes you play with overwhelming opponents who bought almost every existing card, and well, you accept your defeat and play with more “normal” people.

    So, I’m maybe not a regular casual player, and I might be wrong in my appreciations… But I think this trend of copying the mechanics of other simple games, and boxing them in a different skin will not work anymore. And worse, most of the developers tend to forget that the average age of the player is around 35 years, and the average time a gamer is playing games, is around 13 years, so most of the players can be considered experts right now, not newbies. And every time they will be more and more immune to the standard monetization strategies.

    All of you know that currently the conversion factor is around 5,3%, and 80% of the
    developers are below the poverty line. 25 developers have 50% of the mobile market, from a total of 2.500.000 developers. The casual freemium games will starve in the future, maybe with some exceptions, but I really think the developers have a lot to think and work to keep the players interested in their games, and a lot of them are going in the wrong way. Cloning existing games, pushing too hard the players to pay, implementing these nasty bullying techniques of “energy”, “upgrades”, “buying time or moves”, “logging in everyday to get bonuses”, etc., will not work in the future. Maybe we will still have some years with new batch of players from emerging economies, and “hardcore casual gamers” in Asia who play a lot in the subway/trains where they have dead hours, and some companies will still make good money with this strategy, but is a Russian roulette, very difficult to predict and to hit the pot. I also don’t understand why a game puts banners of other games inside it (form different companies). It’s like Coke advertising Pepsi in their own vending machines.

    (Sorry for my English, It’s not my native tongue)

    Regards!

  • Ben Board

    This is a great writeup of a game I’ve played a lot, and the analysis is spot on. Thanks Anthony for writing it, and Gb for publishing it.

    I concur with everything you say. Couple of random additional thoughts:

    1) I don’t think social is that well integrated. I can see my FB friends on the ladder, but only as a tiny icon, and unless you can recognise your friend’s icon there’s no way to tell who it actually is. (And if two or more friends are on the same level all you see is a stack, with no way to see the lower icons at all.) Many many players will have tapped those icons fruitlessly hoping to find out more about their friends’ progress.

    2) Upgrades to your characters aren’t granular enough. Most level-ups just grow the damage your character does by a little bit, which is rarely very helpful, and on some levels makes no difference at all. The effect of the small damage upgrades are minuscule compared to the difference the random factor makes between one attempt at the level and the next, which is huge – one time you can finish within a few steps of the goal, the next you’re nowhere. The really big changes are when the bomb or combiner ranges grow, but they are very infrequent and require intergalactic numbers of mites; or when you unlock a new character with a new ability, which is also very rare, and entirely at the whim of the mystery boxes.

    The end result is that you feel at the mercy of the randometer: you just have to keep retrying until the time when it happens to go your way. (Or until you get close enough to pay 69p to finish, which to me feels like paying someone to tell you how shit you are – and there’s no long-term goal worth investing in reaching.)

    So I think the balance is way off, in terms of the difficulty, the randomness, and the cost of upgrades. Fortunately the mechanic is charming enough to want to come back to. I do enjoy playing it, even if I’m at the Stockholm Syndrome stage.

  • Guillaume Zahra

    Unable to find it on the French Google Play. Is it only Soft Launched ?
    EDIT: Oops, Apple only it seem. Otherwise would have tested it !