GungHo addresses the need for “deeper game experiences” with Freak Tower on mobile [Interview]

freak-tower-650Image courtesy GungHo

Puzzle & Dragons developer GungHo Online Entertainment released its latest game, Freak Tower, just a few days ago. The iOS and Android release allows players to build and manage their own tower full of freaks, assigning them to live in apartments, take up jobs, and sell goods to customers. Along the way, towers are attacked by monsters, bringing tower defense play to the equation, as players and freaks alike must partner to defeat monsters before they reach the top of the tower.

The game is similar in many ways to other tower-building mobile games, including Nimblebit’s Tiny Tower. We had a chance to chat with GungHo’s Yoshiaki Seo, Assistant Manager on Freak Tower, to learn more about the game’s development, and what makes it stand out from the crowd.

Inside Social Games: How long was Freak Tower in development before releasing at the end of July?

Yoshiaki Seo: Freak Tower was in development for eight months.

ISG: What inspired the team to design a tower-building game?

YS: We have always wanted to create a town-building simulation game. In the past, we always felt that the genre was difficult to control with a smartphone. While searching for a simple and easy to use UI (user interface), we discovered that a game which focused on growth in the vertical direction only would be a perfect match for what we aspired.

ISG: Freak Tower has unique and interesting graphical and character designs. How was that style of design chosen, as opposed to something, say, cuter?

YS: There were a lot of “cool” and “cute” types in the Japanese market of smartphone games. We thought “weird” and “gross” would be a nice change and feel unique, so we chose the art style in the early stages of development. We could have made it more glamorous or cute, but there is a peculiar trend among young women from Japan for “Kimo-Kawaii (Weird-Cute)” so we made a choice relying on our instinct that it would fit the game well.

freak-tower-650-2Image courtesy GungHo

ISG: At first glance, Freak Tower looks a lot like other tower-building games on mobile, including Nimblebit’s Tiny Tower. What sort of hooks did GungHo add to Freak Tower to make it stand out from its competitors?

YS: We have a world and game art that is filled with charming dark humor as hooks. Freak Tower also enables players to cooperate with the residents to stop monsters from attacking their tower. This tower-defense mechanic is a big characteristic of the title’s unique gameplay. Furthermore, there are many ways to enjoy the game other than as a basic tower-building sim, such as the pet breeding and pet rampages.

ISG: Are there any plans to add a social component to Freak Tower?

YS: As of right now, there are currently no plans.

ISG: Will Freak Tower be updated with new gameplay, just as Puzzles & Dragons is frequently updated?

YS: We would like to pursue that possibility based on customer feedback.

ISG: Finally, how has the massive success of Puzzle & Dragons shaped the way GungHo looks at game development or the mobile game landscape in general?

YS: In the past couple of years, and especially in the Japanese market, the transition from feature phones to smart phones has accelerated. My feelings are that mobile phone devices are no longer just a communications device, and their role as an entertainment device has become much stronger.

Also, P&D, a high quality freemium model game that is reliably enjoyable, was introduced to the market last year when the mainstream in Japan was social card games. We feel a new relationship between customers and games has been built. Of course, we think consumer desire for a game that helps kill time is still the same, but my impression is that the needs have risen for a deeper game experience that provides depth and/or is consistent with updates.

Our wish is to deliver titles that are even more satisfying to the customer to address these changes.

Freak Tower is now available to download for free on iOS and Android. You can track its progress on AppData, our tracking tool for social and mobile games and developers.