Heroes Charge Developer uCool Opens Up About Super Bowl Ad [Interview]

uCool's Benjamin Gifford highlights the ad's strengths, addresses negative media reaction


Among the many car and food commercials from this year’s Super Bowl, a new trend emerged, as three mobile game developers tried their hand at advertising during the big game.

Machine Zone’s Game of War: Fire Age led off with an ad in the first quarter, starring Kate Upton. Next was Supercell, developer of the mobile game juggernaut Clash of Clans, with an ad starting Liam Neeson in the third. Rounding out the trio was uCool, developers of the MOBA / RPG hybrid, Heroes Charge, which lacked a celebrity endorser, but still reaped the spoils of its 15 seconds on-screen.

According to App Annie, all three games saw a spike in downloads after their commercials aired on February 1. Game of War, for instance, jumped from No. 39 on the overall US iPhone app chart to No. 18, while Clash of Clans moved from No. 38 on that same chart, to No. 29.

Heroes Charge, though, was the big mover, rocketing from the No. 899 top app spot and the No. 308 top game spot on the US iPhone chart on January 31, to No. 252 in overall apps, and No. 96 in games on February 2 (the app currently sits at No. 335 in overall apps and No. 119 in games, as of this writing).

On Google Play, the stats were equally impressive. App Annie placed Heroes Charge as the No. 506 overall game on the Google Play store on January 31, which shifted to No. 47 as of February 2. Overall, the app has reached the No 1. spot for card games in 130 countries, and currently sits at the No. 25 spot for top grossing iPhone apps on iTunes (up from No. 56, prior to the ad’s broadcast during the Super Bowl).

While the ad worked to draw new downloads, the ad itself was hit with negative reactions from the media and public. USA Today’s Ad Meter, which polled nearly 7,000 respondents, ranked the Heroes Charge ad as No. 61 out of 61 total ads, with an average rating of 3.12 out of 10. Meanwhile, Adweek called the ad “instantly forgettable” and “a waste of 15 seconds.”

We had a chance to chat with Benjamin Gifford, VP of User Experience at uCool, about the commercial’s design and the reaction from the media and viewers.

SocialTimes: What has the mood been like at uCool since the Heroes Charge Super Bowl commercial aired?

Benjamin Gifford: The team is pretty excited although we’re hard at work on Heroes Charge as well as other new games we’re developing! A small indie studio with a handful of people were able to do something extraordinary in three weeks that no other advertiser could do, and step up with the major advertising players. It’s putting indie developers on the map, and mobile gaming on the forefront of people’s minds.

ST: While the app’s downloads have spiked, the overall reception to the ad was fairly negative. Can you give us your thoughts on that?

BG: Remember that this was our first time with a Super Bowl ad, and we’re a studio of 12 people. We know that it might not be the best out there, and as always, we’re using this as a learning experience so we can have an even better Super Bowl advert next year.

This ad we think has given an opportunity to start a conversation about how game companies should treat players. We hope that the new players who join our community after seeing the ad will start to put pressure on other game makers to be more respectful in their monetization practices. We think it’s good for players and good for our industry.

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