Cape Town-based game development company has released an international hit, and learnt a lot about the business of gaming. Meet
Angry Birds is probably the most famous app of t he smartphone era so far, earning millions as a franchise for Finnish dev house Rovio. Mobile games are potentially big business (the local videogame market generated revenues of R2.2bn in 2012) and local company Thoopid is causing a stir with its debut title Snailboy, which was crafted in Cape Town. The company is realistic about the current state of the market and the combination of hard work and luck required to make it big.
Founder of Thoopid David Moffatt, who is also MD of digital design agency Hello Computer and guitarist for rock band The Dirty Skirts, said that the intention is to learn from Snailboy and keep it real in terms of expectations.
“We certainly have commercial expectations of our mobile gaming start-up Thoopid, but are realistic about the challenges of this highly competitive market. Snailboy – An Epic Adventure is our first release, and we would be more than content to just break even. The application is of the pay-to-play model with further inapp purchase propositions for the gam- ers,” he says.
Snailboy took eight months to develop, with a team of five people on the project. According to an infographic on the Thoopid website, 504 hours were spent on testing alone. A team of five people in SA worked on the game, with Polish producer Jacob Thomas Czech providing the soundtrack.
“We are passionate about design, gaming and online marketing. So this seemed like a natural opportunity to pursue, with one distinct characteristic that would set it apart from what we do in our day jobs – no clients. We conceive, animate and produce the game, which is then put on the app store and marketed directly to the gaming market. Of course, this brings a further challenge in that we can’t fund the operation through a steady trickle of typical commercial work. We are pursuing a particular culture at Thoopid, which is all rooted in a pure gaming mentality – have fun, be creative – and hopefully crack the next big game,” says Moffatt.
The game hit almost 40 000 installs in its first week, although Moffatt said that it is waiting for a reconciliation from Apple that accounts for inevitable piracy that takes place. It made it on to the top 10 of ‘Best New Games’ in the App Store for China, the USA, Russia and South Africa. And it’s not available for Android yet.
“The Android version will be released imminently, which will double our potential market. We were thrilled that Apple featured Snailboy in their best new games Top 20. At this stage we have not invested in any bought media at all, but have rather led with influencers within the gaming market. The first week featured promising sales, but since then a f lood of new games have arrived and as such the hard work is only just starting,” says Moffatt.
The biggest business challenge, says Moffatt, is in accurately predicting costs.
“Despite storyboarding the game extensively we found the final 10% to be fairly onerous to complete. When the development cycle to produce a game protracts the costs stack up quickly. There is also a lengthy process to obtain accreditation with Apple. So projecting ones total cost and corresponding break even point can be quite a challenge,” he says.
The pay-off can be massive, however. Rovio is estimated to have generated €152m in 2012 from Angry Birds, including merchandise and toys based on the games. Its f lagship game has been downloaded over 1bn times.