SmallWorlds creator makes mobile game debut

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Outsmart co-founder Mitch Olson says the time was right to have a crack at creating games for mobiles. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Outsmart co-founder Mitch Olson says the time was right to have a crack at creating games for mobiles. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Kiwi game development company Outsmart, which created global hit SmallWorlds, has "dipped its toes" into the mobile space for the first time.

The Auckland-based studio launched its first mobile game three weeks ago and Gopher Launch has already attracted 60,000 registered users.

Mitch Olson, who co-founded Outsmart with Darren Green in 2005, said the company had traditionally focused its attention on creating desktop games.

But the "huge groundswell" in mobile devices, combined with falling PC sales around the world, meant avoiding mobile game development was no longer an option.

"The thing about this industry is it's evolving so rapidly that some companies are dropping off because they haven't adapted to where things are moving," Olson said.

"At the beginning of the year we decided to dip our toes in the water and get some experience in this space."

Five members of the 35-strong Karangahape Rd studio dedicated themselves to creating Gopher Launch, which went live on iTunes and Google Play on June 13.

The aim of Gopher Launch is for players to race across rotating 3D planets, trying to gather items from the surface and get back to their rocket ship before an auto-launch sequence kicks in.

Although the game is free to download, Outsmart will generate revenue through advertising and by charging players to access an ad-free version of the game.

Outsmart will launch a second mobile game called Roost Raiders in the next six weeks, Olson said.

Both new games are based on the 'freemium' model, where users play for free but can then choose to pay for add-ons to enhance the game.

"These games cost between $250,000 and $1 million to make. If you're giving it away for free you have got to make sure your monetisation models are robust," Oslon said.

The beauty of the freemium model was that it removed all obstacles to people playing your game, meaning it was easier to entice players to sign up, he said.

Once a relationship was firmly established between the player and game, it was then more likely the user would choose to pay for extras.

Although Outsmart had managed to survive before now without going into mobile, delaying the move any longer would have been unwise, he said.

"We haven't been affected to date. We continue to grow and that's been supported by shifting into other markets like Brazil."

Outsmart last year launched a version of SmallWorlds in Brazil, called MiniMundos, which now has four million signed-up users.

SmallWorlds - an online environment where users create personal virtual spaces and share experiences with other players - has in the meantime attracted bigger audiences and now boasts 10 million registered players.

SmallWorlds' backers include Disney's venture capital arm and Trade Me founder Sam Morgan.

- NZ Herald

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