Indie developer Spry Fox has rolled out a number of changes to Triple Town, its critically acclaimed first foray into social games, and is preparing a cross-platform mobile version.
Originally a Kindle title, the match three puzzle game has built up a small, but dedicated fan base on Facebook, where it has 160,000 MAU according to our AppData traffic tracking service. The game is also available on Google+, where it has about half as many users as it does on Facebook according to Spry Fox’s CEO and co-founder David Edery.
When Inside Social Games reviewed Triple Town in October, Spry Fox told us more features were coming and last week the company made good on the promise, introducing a major update that changed the game’s UI, expanded the gameplay with a world map, introduced daily bonuses and added new premium currency called Diamonds that can only be purchased with Facebook Credits.
Inside Social Games reconnected with Edery over the weekend to ask him about the development process behind the changes and to see what else the Seattle-based company has planned for the franchise.
David Edery: The difference between us and many other game companies is we consider the design process an ongoing thing. Our decision to release a game to the user isn’t dictated when we think it’s done — a successful game is never done — just if it’s fun and it meets certain internal benchmarks. If it does, great, let’s put it out there.
If you look at Realm of the Mad God [Ed. Note: A massively multiplayer game Spry Fox co-developed with Wild Shadow Studios] its been live and in the public for quite a long time now and we’ve made fairly massive changes to it. Of course there’s inevitably some people who will get upset when you change something that they really like. In general we try to be careful and only release big changes that we think will appeal to people significantly more. We’re perfectly willing to make big changes to our games if we think its in the game’s best interest and people will appreciate it over time.
ISG: One of the things you didn’t change much were the social features. You now get a daily in-game currency bonus based on how many friends you have playing the game, but Triple Town is still mainly relying on “word of mouth” viral mechanics. Are you trying to focus on slow, long term growth rather than a fast viral spread? How feasible is that considering the lifespan of an average social game is between eight to 12 months?
Edery: Our goal for all favorite franchises is to try to turn it into a hobby — something that people will indulge in for years and years, and obviously that’s not going to happen unless a game evolves. Not that I’m comparing Triple Town to World of Warcraft, but if you look at World of Warcraft today, the game has changed in every way since it launched — the design has fundamentally changed and it has many, many times the amount of content it had when it launched. There’s really no difference to our minds between Triple Town and World of Warcraft in the sense that we want people to be playing Triple Town in 10 years too and we think that there’s lots of things we can do to make that happen and you’re starting to see a taste of that. This is really just the tip of the iceberg. We have plenty more stuff planned.
Edery: No. We’ve been doing this long enough that it doesn’t scare us. We’re not reckless about it and we test things pretty carefully, and we’ve learned over time that if you’re careful about it, this kind of evolution is better for the game. We feel that despite the inevitable hiccups that will happen when you make big changes we can deal with the repercussions.
ISG: Speaking of the critics, Triple Town had been praised earlier for only having one type of currency in the game, but the update introduced a new premium currency. Why the change?
Edery: We want to be as generous as possible with coins, which are the most important currency in the game because the stuff in the game that really matters can only be bought with coins. We didn’t want to find ourselves feeling pressure to start to be skimpy on them, [but] we were looking farther out into the future and thinking if we wanted to keep adding ways to get more coins we were going to start coming under some pretty serious business pressure to be less giving. Our solution was to put in a premium currency and not go crazy with it. That will help us continue to be as generous as we want to be with the regular currency.
ISG: Were you finding the game wasn’t monetizing as well as you wanted it to?
Edery: It’s actually been doing better than we expected to be honest with you. We’ve actually been pretty happy with our revenue on Facebook and Google+ and we’ve been very happy with our retention. In general, we’re very happy. We hoped Triple Town would be a big hit, so we’re just grateful to have a game people like.
ISG: Have you noticed that there seems to be a more active Triple Town community on Google+ than on Facebook?
Edery: There’s no question that there seems to be very visible chatter and really interesting conversations on Google+ right now. I don’t know if it means the community is more active or if there’s just one or two people on Google+ that have been more proactive about rallying other users. We’ve definitely noticed it and we like it. We’d love to see that kind of thing happening more on Facebook and we blame ourselves for that. We’re going to be setting up forums [on Facebook] soon. There’s a lot of things we haven’t done that a decent game should do to let players make their voices heard.
ISG: Spry Fox has mentioned an iOS app is on the way. When is the mobile version of Triple Town coming out? Will it be cross-platform at launch?
Edery: All we can say is really soon. We haven’t submitted to Apple yet, but we’re close. We have every intention of making it cross platform, timeline T.B.D. [Ed. Note: Edery clarified this with us and explained the first version of the app will be standalone, but future versions will eventually be cross-platform.]
ISG: How do you feel about Yeti Town? Many people have pointed out it is very similar to Triple Town.
Edery: I wish I had a canned answer for you. I think the press has spoken for us. When we saw it we thought it was very similar and I’ve seen many articles that say things like “swap bears with yetis and ice cubes with gravestones and you’ve got Triple Town.” We were disappointed to see that. We felt it was not something that another game company should do to an indie like us, but what can you do?
We’re hoping that our fans will support us and go and download [the Triple Town app when it comes out] and give us good reviews. We’re hoping that people in the press will speak out on our behalf. I think everyone realizes that Triple Town was the innovator here. I also think this is an issue for people in the industry. Innovation in the social games platform is something that’s relatively rare and its threatened by activities like this. At the end of the day we’re going to keep plugging away and keep making games, but every time someone comes in with something that’s very similar it obviously makes it very difficult because they’re eating into our market and decreasing the profits from our successful titles. All we can do is reach out to the community and ask them to help us if they want us to keep doing what we’re doing.