Wooga has become very meticulous with its process of creating hit mobile games, often starting with 100 ideas and publishing only a couple of titles a year. And now the German game company has worked through that process to unveil another game, a hidden-object adventure game called Agent Alice.
Jens Begemann, chief executive of Berlin-based Wooga, said in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat that the title has been in the works for 18 months, with more than 80 developers creating it and the weekly updates that will come out after the game launches. The title is a sequel of sorts to Pearl’s Peril, the first hidden-object game that Wooga brought to the market in September 2013. That game has been a tremendous success, generating more than 30 million downloads. Agent Alice will debut on Feb. 26 on iOS and Android devices.
“We’re very excited about launching it at the end of February with our biggest launch budget ever,” Begemann said. “This is targeting older women, and it’s an audience that is under-served. On mobile, they only play puzzles, and we can offer them more.”
I’ve been fascinated by the different strategies pursued by the leading mobile game companies. Wooga is one of those that is focused on going big, or going home. It mercilessly winnows down its best game ideas and works on those titles over and over until they’re ready to launch.
The game was designed for touchscreen experiences, and it has a story built around Detective Alice Wallace, who works for a mysterious Agency and investigates murders and other crimes. You have to make decisions about what to investigate, and with each crime scene, you have to find objects that are hidden in the landscape under a time deadline. If you complete a scene, you are rewarded with another segment of the story and a new scene to investigate. The game will launch with eight episodes, adding up to many hours of content. But an additional episode will come out every Friday.
“Potentially, you can play for years,” Begemann said.
Agent Alice is a good fit for Wooga’s traditional audience. The company’s whimsical, cartoon-style games attract about 70 percent female games. But Begemann believes that Agent Alice will skew even more towards older women. Agent Alice is set in the 1960s, and The Agency is charged with protecting the world from sinister otherworldly forces. Alice trots the globe to unravel a supernatural mystery.
I played the game hands-on with Begemann’s Nexus 9 Android smartphone, and it looked beautiful. The images of each scene are very detailed, and the tablet version of the game gives you a wider view of the periphery of the scene. The game could theoretically be published on Facebook on the desktop, but it was really designed for the touchscreen. It has a mini game, for instance, where you tap the screen to try to target a bad guy. In other scenes, you have to rub a surface to discover something. Those tasks are only fun if you’re using a touchscreen, Begemann said.
In the past, you had to pinch to zoom in on a lot of hidden-object games. But you can play this game without doing that, even on a smartphone screen. It’s perfect for Phablets, or large-screen smartphones such as the iPhone 6.
I can tell that Wooga spent a lot of time on it. Begemann said his company will start with as many as 100 ideas for a game. It will kill a lot of those titles, and make prototypes for a limited number of them. It will test the games and winnow down the number even more. The company will get fully behind a handful of games. Of those that launch, perhaps two will be hits. Begemann said he thinks that Agent Alice will be one of those hits. Once it has a hit, Wooga supports it with a full river of content updates.
Pearl’s Peril is still going strong thanks to these updates, even though the game debuted so long ago. Other companies, such as the now-defunct Playdom (acquired by Disney and then shut down), have tried to pioneer hidden-object games, which are very popular on the web, on social platforms such as Facebook. But the audience eventually diminished for its titles such as Gardens of Time.
“If you stop delivering content, people play to the end and stop,” Begemann said. “It took us a couple of years to build up this content pipeline. This hidden object genre only works with a lot of investment. Maybe others were not willing to make that investment.”
So far, Wooga’s hit factory has been working. The company’s games are played by more than 50 million people every month. The company has more than 270 employees, up dramatically since its founding in 2009.
“Every year profit is rising and revenue is rising,” Begemann said.