Outplay Talks Rovio Partnership, New Games and More [Interview]

We chat with Outplay Entertainment's CEO about the company's work on Angry Birds Stella POP!, and its upcoming games.

Mobile free-to-play game developer and publisher Outplay Entertainment celebrates its four-year anniversary this year, with 2015 seeing increased growth and output from the company following the success of Angry Birds Stella POP!, the company’s bubble shooter created in association with Rovio. Angry Birds Stella POP! was downloaded more than five million times in its first month on mobile devices.

Since the studio opened in 2011, Outplay has developed and released a number of successful titles, including Monster Legacy (pictured below) and Bubble Blaze. Last year, the company expanded to release games under a sub-label, Bite Size Games, which focuses on unique games that can be played in short sessions. Thus far, Bite Size Games has released two titles: Pug Rapids and Swinging Stupendo (pictured at bottom).

Outplay aims to release four new games in 2015, with the goal of reaching a combined 40 million downloads by the end of the year.

We had a chance to chat with Douglas Hare, co-founder and CEO of Outplay Entertainment, about the company’s development of Angry Birds Stella POP!, and what it’s like developing games in an ever-changing mobile landscape.

Monster Legacy

SocialTimes: What was it like creating a new title for such a popular franchise as Angry Birds?

Douglas Hare: As you might imagine, it was a lot of fun. The Rovio folks are a joy to work with and really helped make it a smooth production. That said, there are quite a few people at Outplay who have a lot of experience working on high-profile license-based games, so it wasn’t an entirely new experience for us.

ST: How much input did Rovio have during the game’s development?

DH: As owners of the IP, they had a lot of input and direction on the look and sound of the game, not to mention keeping things true to the wonderful universe they’ve created.

ST: Outplay is celebrating its four-year anniversary in 2015. In this fast-paced world of mobile game development, can you comment on some of the major changes or difficulties you’ve seen arise in the mobile space in that time?

DH: With thousands of mobile games being launched every week, the biggest challenge is discoverability. You can make a fantastic game, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be downloaded.

We employ a number of strategies to help this process, including cross-promotion between our games, building communities to reach out to, employing viral mechanics in each game, PR, email campaigns and paid acquisition. In addition, we’ve been very fortunate to receive featuring for all our games in the main app stores, which makes a huge difference, but you can’t rely on it.

ST: Can you share more details about the four games currently in development at Outplay?

DH: I can’t reveal very much, but what I can say is that two of the games are aimed at a more casual audience, and have a clear relationship with our prior work. [T]he other two are targeting a more mid-core player, and are quite different from anything we’ve previously released.

Outplay Entertainment

ST: With so many mobile games already available in each of these games’ target genres, how challenging is the team finding it to create experiences that are fresh and engaging for gamers who have “seen it all?”

DH: Even when dealing with [such] well-understood and popular categories as puzzle or RPG, there are always ways to surprise and delight the audience. It is very rare, and getting rarer, that a truly novel game emerges, but that’s the same for music, movies, books, etc.

Everything builds on top of what’s gone before, so it’s nigh-on impossible to create something that doesn’t owe some debt to a prior work. That said, you can take well known themes or game mechanics and rework or combine them in ways that haven’t been seen before.

ST: What advice would you give to new developers, looking to stand out from the crowd in mobile game development?

DH: Assuming they’re doing a free-to-play game, then beyond trying to do something different, having an angle, a target audience in mind, and a plan for getting noticed [and] finding an audience, then I’d suggest that they try to get something in the market as quickly as possible, because that’s where the real work and learning begins.