RunWilder looks to mobile to build out an entertainment franchise for grownups

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By Kathleen De Vere Comments

San Francisco’s RunWilder is betting it can corner a new demographic in entertainment apps, turning its beer and burger loving alien Ozgood into an entertainment franchise for adults that will eventually branch out into merchandise and TV shows.

The team behind RunWilder, which includes former Tencent, LucasArts and CBS Interactive staffers, believes that right now, mobile is the best place to launch a new character franchise. According to Ethan Eyler, RunWilder’s founder and CEO, mobile has two distinct advantages. Not only are development costs lower than they would be on TV or film, but media consumption habits are changing, bringing eyeballs from the screens of TVs to smartphones. “Mobile apps are where people are consuming content now,” he says.

Considering the success of Rovio’s Angry Birds, Disney’s Swampy the Alligator and Outfit7’s Talking Tom, it’s already clear that mobile apps and games can be an effective launch pad for entertainment properties. While mobile has spawned plenty of hit characters with family appeal, so far the selection of apps aimed squarely at grownups is minimal, despite the fact that some of the most enthusiastic smartphone adopters are between the ages of 18 and 34.

“If you look at the children’s TV and film market, there’s been some translation of that to the kids app market with Outfit7’s characters,” explains Ethan Eyler, RunWilder’s founder and CEO. “But if you look at what’s available along the lines of South Park, Family Guy or Homer Simpson — the humor-based, character driven apps… it’s really wide open. There’s nothing in the market,”  “There’s a huge audience for that kind of irreverent comedy and we kind of wanted to step in. We thought we could own that space.”

At its basic level, Ozgood is essentially a Talking Tom for grownups. Like Tom, he can listen to a user and repeat what they say, and will respond to being poked or touched with a variety of different animations and responses. However, unlike his G-rated inspiration, Ozgood also has a story mode, so users can see just how the unruly alien landed on earth and how he developed his taste for Chugg (a.k.a, beer), cheeseburgers and hard living.

RunWilder monetizes the free app through purchases of additional Chugg and burgers. Drinking Chugg raises Ozgood’s buzz level, which in turn changes the way he reacts to being poked or scratched. Altogether Ozgood can perform over 60 distinct moves depending on how many burgers and Chuggs he’s consumed. While Ozgood’s (heavily implied) hard-drinking behavior does set him apart from other mobile characters, according to Eyler, the biggest differentiator isn’t his raunchy attitude, but the app’s focus on storytelling.

“There’s 250 million plus downloads [for Outfit7’s titles], but there’s really no personality or story. We tried to reverse engineer that where story is paramount,” he says. “You go through the chapters of Ozgood’s story in the game and you learn all about his personality and character.”

Although the target demographic for Ozgood is men between the ages of 18 and 34, so far women have liked the character almost as much as men and reviews have been positive across the board. Since its release last week, Ozgood has made the top 50 of the free entertainment app categories in the U.S., Germany, Italy and France.

“At the end of the day what we wanted to accomplish was for people to like him. That’s of paramount importance,” says Eyler. “We want to establish a brand and a character that can later go into TV and film merchandising, so at his roots he just has to be a likable, crazy guy.”