Mobile game publisher Chillingo, who were acquired by Electronic Arts in 2010, recently published Snail Bob and He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe reached the top of the app charts quickly after launch. Chillingo is also known for publishing hit titles such as the original Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. The U.K.-based company must be doing something right when it comes to finding indie developers and publishing games.
We recently sat down with Chillingo COO Ed Rumley to discuss what they look for in a developer, the secret to getting games to the top of the app store charts and the future of mobile game publishing.
Ed Rumley, Chillingo COO (pictured right): It’s the million dollar question and what you saw a few weeks ago was He-Man launching and accelerating to the top of the charts, but what you didn’t see was the several months of work that happens before that. Every time that Chillingo works with one of our partners, we assign a producer and our job is to really polish that game. When a developer thinks a game is ready, we have to look at it and see if it needs another month works or even more. There’s no room in the market for anything but great quality. We also have to take a close look at the monetization of an app and you have to get that balance right. It’s all about that balance, but the bottom line is that the heart of our business is the consumer’s king. Everything we do is to insure they enjoy the game. That’s exactly how we worked with He-Man. We work extremely closely with Apple or Google and then we have a lot of marketing tools to get the game discovered. It’s about making the best game you can and also getting it discovered.
IMA: How do you decide what games to fund and publish?
Rumley: Chillingo is a distribution division of Electronic Arts so most of the games we see that come through the door are in playable form, whether it’s a first version, prototype or even something that’s gone through certification but not yet live, maybe a developer that got nervous and pulled the game from the app stores and came to Chillingo. We see games in all stages of development and then we’re there to bring that game to market. From a financial perspective, what we’re not doing is crossing into that line of funding game development, whether we’re there or not, that game is going to go to market. What we’re here to do is make it go to market successfully.
IMA: What type of games are you looking for?
Rumley: Our job is increasingly complex because we’re looking at publishing less games but on more platforms. Searching for that diamond in the rough is very challenging because there’s more developers coming to us. We looked at this last week and it’s in the region of 50 percent more developers coming to us on a daily basis than the same period last year, so we know there’s developers out there looking for help. What we’re looking for are games that are high quality, games that we believe that we can make even better and games that will resonate with the mass market.
Stage one is finding a great game, stage two is how we’re going to monetize the game for the developer. Sometimes these things naturally fall into place, sometimes it’s a pure pay-per-download and sometimes it’s freemium. It depends at what stage you enter the lifecycle of the product. What we can’t do is reinvent the wheel if we enter at a very late stage, but what we can do is hone the spreadsheet behind it, which makes makes the monetization balanced.
IMA: Can you talk about recent successful games you published and why they were successful?
Rumley: There are quite a few recent examples. Look at a game like Catapult King which launched during E3 in June 2012, yet we actually first made contact with that developer in June 2011 at E3, so we had production and product marketing teams working on that game for 12 months. During that period, we were looking at the balancing of the game, the monetization, getting the game as mass market as possible. We went through hundreds of different names for the game. We wanted to get it ready for the market and we did a great job. It took off and it was the No. 1 game. We really do understand how to put benefits and features for sale within an app but make sure that the consumer is enjoying the game.
IMA: How do you try to make the games you make sticky and engaging?
Rumley: It’s the lifecycle from the moment when we first meet that developer. He-Man shot to the top of the charts and went to the No. 1 spot around the world in a short amount of time, and our work isn’t even done there. Our job is to continue servicing that product. What we’re doing is supplying a huge amount of resources from the first moment we see that game. They get a producer, they get QA, they get creative art direction, sales, PR and marketing. It’s really a case of adapting the strategy once the game goes live and understanding what we need to do.
IMA: EA just reported it’s quarterly earnings and saw a lot of growth in digital and mobile, did Chillingo have something to do with that?
Rumley: All of Chillingo contributed to that. We’re discovering more and more great developers, and more and more developers are discovering us. It never ceases to amaze us the amount of developers out there with great games.
IMA: What platform is performing best for Chillingo?
Rumley: Two years ago our business was 100 percent iOS. That has changed. We have a lot of games published on Android and Windows Phone. We are now a multi-platform smartphone business now. That’s where our business is today.
IMA: What do you guys see as the next major focus of mobile publishing?
Rumley: We see more developers comeing through the door and that’s because the market is increasingly complex. There’s new hardware, platforms, operating systems and software. It’s this fragmentation that’s causing developers problems. We always say fragmentation’s our friend because we have the knowledge and the experience, and because we’re part of EA, we share their best practices. The more games we publish, the more we understand what platform we should be going on and what’s successful monetization-wise. It’s these trends that we believe will see more and more developers using services such as Chillingo. We’re best placed in the market for this because we’ve got 10 years of experience in the mobile space.