Mobile gaming was once the new frontier for developers. It was wild and untamed — it seemed like anything was possible. Today, it is realm controlled by a few companies that have had the same top hit games for the last three years. But that’s not stopping publishers from trying to make new successes.
Publisher Scopely, the company responsible for The Walking Dead: Road to Survival game, revealed to GamesBeat that it is investing in a “strategic partnership” with startup studio Redemption Games for an undisclosed amount of money. This is the new company from developers Michael Witz and Dan Lin, who are veterans of SGN and the social gaming hit Cookie Jam. Together with Scopely, Witz and Lin hope to create new games that rise to the highest spots of the top-grossing chart. And that means overtaking perennial moneymakers like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans in the $30 billion mobile-gaming market, which even has companies like Activision spending $5.9 billion to get involved.
“We are a company always trying to create relationships,” Scopely chief operating officer Javier Ferreira told GamesBeat. “And at the beginning of the year, we decided to speak with Michael and Dan because of their tremendous track record — but more fundamentally, when we spoke with them, we got a deep sense of a team and people who are passionate and have what it takes to be successful.”
Redemption, which only launched earlier this year, is already working on its first game. Scopely will publish that app as part of this deal, and Witz explained why this deal made sense for his new studio.
“After we left SGN Games, we took some time off,” he said. “And that got us thinking about new games and starting a new studio, and our world view is that the mobile landscape is increasingly competitive. The scale of new successful games is increasing not only in size but also in complexity. And because of that, we decided we didn’t want to go out and raise venture capital and go alone into the market. We wanted to find a partner.”
And that’s what this Scopely deal is — it’s a way to avoid having to give up huge amounts of equity to venture capitalists.
“When you look at what it takes to compete at that highest level, any interest we might have had in going it alone quickly evaporated,” said Witz.
Instead, Scopely will act like Redemption’s partner and publisher. This is a model that has worked previously for Scopely, and the company was attracted to Redemption because of the new studio’s ambitions.
“Our goal is to compete at the highest level,” said Witz. “To find a spot at the top of the grossing chart. As everyone in this industry knows, that’s super competitive.”
But Redemption is hardly the first studio to have this goal, but almost none have found a way to make that happen. The problem is that, since the end of 2012, Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga have continuously dominated the top of the grossing chart. And even as Candy Crush Saga has faded, King replaced it with Candy Crush Soda Saga, a quasi-sequel.
Only one game has really found a way to break into the top two or three on the grossing chart, and that is developer Machine Zone’s Game of War: Fire Age. And that game only reached that level of success after the studio began pouring millions of dollars into a television marketing campaign that culminated in a Super Bowl ad starring a super model taking a milk bath.
We asked what it means to Redemption and Scopely to get a game to the top of those charts.
“We start with the premise that we can build the number one game,” said Witz. “That’s the aspiration we start with. We love the craftsmanship of combining what I like to call the art and the iron. You have the art of the creative game design combined with the iron of the analytics and monetization, and those things all need to come together.”
The Redemption cofounder also explained that the goal of creating a No. 1 game is about having a long-term focus.
“This isn’t about trying to get short-term revenues from your users,” he said. “This is about creating a long-term relationship with your players,” added Witz.”
Ferreira echoed those sentiments.
“Whenever we enter a category, our goal is to be the number one player in that space,” he said. “That’s why we greenlight partnerships. That’s why we say yes to partnerships. That’s who we are. Now, I think this is also a fundamental belief that the only way to deliver a game like this is to make a game that people love playing. The two things are highly correlated.”
And that’s the point both Ferreira and Witz wanted to emphasize — that the ambition that brought them together is also going to produce something that will delight gamers.