Earlier this year, casual game developer and publisher Game Insight launched Road 404‘s Sunshine Bay on Facebook, a tropical city-builder that challenges players with creating a lush beach resort while building its economy through the use of shipping routes to outside locations.
While the game is still in its soft-launch, it’s already found plenty of success on Facebook. According to our app tracking service AppData, the game has climbed to over 1.3 million monthly active players. That’s a huge increase over the 562,000 monthly active players the game had when we first previewed it back in September.
We had a chance to chat with Road 404 Studio Lead Max Donskikh about Sunshine Bay, and how Game Insight plans to use its experience with other similar games, like Airport City and Sky Adventures, to continue Sunshine Bay’s growth on the platform.
Inside Social Games: How long did Sunshine Bay take to develop, from concept to soft-launch?
Max Donskikh: It took exactly 6 months to develop the Facebook version. However, since we’re a cross-platform company that develops for mobile, we’ve also been working on additional versions for mobile platforms, and that has required more time.
ISG: Sunshine Bay has city building and resource management gameplay that’s similar to previously released Road 404 games. In your mind, what is it about that general gameplay formula that makes these games so successful?
MD: We think our games are successful for a number of reasons, and one of them is having a good combination of enjoyable game genres. We expanded the concept of a traditional city-building strategy game, in which players just need to oversee the growth of their own cities, with elements of transport strategy games, in which players send planes (like Airport City) or ships (Sunshine Bay) on voyages around the world.
This combination of gameplay not only makes the game experience more diverse, but it also expands the scale of everything that happens in the game for players. In most city-building games, all actions take place in one place—one city, their city. And that’s rather boring. The transportation elements in our games help expand the game experience beyond just sitting in their city, and it adds elements of adventure and travel to other parts of the globe, including arctic regions and tropical resorts. In addition, in our games, players also meet interesting characters and assemble collections of rarities that they can “charge” to unlock powerful bonuses.
So, by adding planes and ships, we not only expanded the gameplay, but also added a touch of romanticism with the travel component of our games. And who doesn’t love travelling? This helps us engage even those players who don’t like city-building games.
ISG: Was Sunshine Bay easier to develop than previous games, given Road 404’s experience with those similar titles, like Sky Adventures?
MD: Yes, it was. If you don’t go to extremes by trying to do every new game in a new genre and purposefully polish gameplay that has proven itself to be good, then on some level, it can be easier to make new games, because you have the benefit of technology, gameplay concepts, and even game balance that you’ve learned from and experienced while developing previous titles.
However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t ever intend to release something totally new! The success of our previous and current games lets us also develop more ambitious and risky projects…so stay tuned!
ISG: How has the game development process changed now that so many gamers are playing casino and puzzle-style games? What do you do differently to make sure those gamers come back to try your games in the simulation genre?
MD: I can’t say that we’ve seen any significant changes. Yes, perhaps if we look at the whole market, casino games may have increased their share, for example. But the audience for city-builders and management/tycoon games hasn’t disappeared. To make sure we continue to find new players for our new games, we continue to market to players on mobile and on social—for example, for Sunshine Bay, we took advantage of Facebook’s numerous options to customize ad campaigns.
ISG: Were you surprised to see Sunshine Bay gaining so many active players, despite it not having been officially unveiled?
MD: We’re very happy with how the game has been doing so far.
ISG: How does Road 404 plan to capitalize on its existing fan base to bring new players to Sunshine Bay?
MD: There’s no magic involved. We cross-promote among our games, as you might expect. We’re also actively seeking new players to join as well.
ISG: What sort of content updates can players expect to see in Sunshine Bay going forward?
MD: We always try to engage our players with something new, so there will be many events based on independent ideas that the team has created, or pertaining to traditional holidays like Halloween. And every event implies new quests, new destinations, new collections and so on. Moreover, we plan to add many new features, such as enhancing the game’s social functionality by increasing the presence of friends and presents in the game.
As we’ve seen in our game Airport City, development doesn’t stop even several years after the release – we still add new content and new features, and expand the range of platforms on which we make the game available. I’m sure that Sunshine Bay will have a similar future.
Moreover, the launch of mobile versions will be a very important stage of game development – we’re going to give our players the opportunity to play on Facebook, on tablet or by phone using a single, unified profile that works across all platforms, and preserves players’ progress regardless of which platform they’re currently using.
Having cross-platform versions with full synchronization across all devices is a rather difficult task technically, but when the players realize the convenience of this kind of functionality, it will become a serious competitive edge.
ISG: Anything else you’d like to add?
MD: Road 404 is part of the big Game Insight family, and we’re proud to be a part of Game Insight’s success story. This year, Game Insight’s product lineup has become even more interesting, because the company is now diversifying its game portfolio and launching new “mid-core” and “hardcore” titles. For example, earlier this year, we (Game Insight) released the amazing sci-fi role-playing game Starborn Wanderers for iPad, launched cross-platform versions of our massively multiplayer game Dragon Eternity for iOS, Android and Facebook…and we announced Tank Domination and Running Shadow, which will be released later.
In the near future, we’ll launch the beautiful and engrossing hidden-object game Love & Dragons for iPad, new versions of the captivating city-builder Big Business Deluxe for iPhone and Amazon Appstore, and also the mobile versions of Sunshine Bay—which, as we’ve discussed, has already garnered many fans on Facebook.