Robert Nashak on the success of Dancing With The Stars: Keep Dancing without Facebook

After a year in development, BBC Worldwide’s Dancing With The Stars: Keep Dancing starting to near the end its beta status. We recently sat down to talk with EVP Robert Nashak about how the game is thriving without being on Facebook, and how solid localization can mean a game’s success.

The BBC established its games division in 2010 and has been working on online titles based on television properties like Dancing With The Stars: Keep Dancing and Doctor Who: Worlds in Time. Although Dancing With The Stars is a wildly popular show on ABC and in its fifteenth season here in the United States (two seasons are aired a year), it was originally aired in the United Kingdom as Strictly Come Dancing. Now, variations of the show are broadcast in 75 countries around the world, with roughly 35 localized versions.

Dancing With The Stars: Keep Dancing allows players to create a customized character who practices and performs dance routines with one of the professional dancers from the show. Performing routines rewards players with in-game currency and also allows them to climb up the ranking leaderboards.

Along the way, users can purchase new dance moves (there are currently 100 available, all of which have been motion-captured), exercise  to build up stamina and new costumes. Like most social games, performing in-game actions costs energy and players can also buy more if they don’t want to wait for it to recharge. Each dance performance is graded on moves, accuracy and “presentation” — which seems to be based on one’s outfit. Nashak isn’t willing to share specific numbers, but he says the freemium business model is working well so far, saying the company is very happy with how players are monetizing and the average revenue per user.

Even though it utilizes Facebook Connect, Dancing With The Stars: Keep Dancing is wholly independent from the social network’s canvas. Players are able to invite their friends to check out their dance routines via email, but there’s currently no Timeline posting in place. That said, there are plans to let players put together photo albums of their moves that can then be shared on Facebook; this feature is expected to launch in October.

Nashak believes IP like TV shows have a lot of potential for audience expansion when it comes to games, especially when they utilize social features or exist on platforms like Facebook. “Games companies in general are doing a lot more than what’s possible on linear format in order to understand how consumers engage with their properties and brands,” he says.

Staying away from Facebook is part of the BBC’s international strategy, and Nashak tells us players can actually engage with users playing the game via different portals. When asked about whether or not the game will eventually come to Facebook, where the BBC already has an established presence with the 6waves-published titles Top Gear Speed World and Jane Austen’s Rogues and Romance, Nashak isn’t willing to rule out the possibility of bringing Dancing With The Stars to the social network but says his company doesn’t have any further plans to partner with 6waves for the time being.

“We built the game in a way that’s relatively easy to localize,” he explains, since it’s often as simple as swapping out character skins and music. “The games world is coming to the realization that there’s no need to have a North America-only version of a game. If you build the game correctly and plan long term, you can win on localization alone.”

Because this is a browser-based game, the BBC’s goal is to create online partnerships with various broadcast groups. Here in the United States, the game is available to play on, and it’s also available in India on the site for the Colors network (complete with Indian music and dancers). “Slowly but surely, we’re getting across all the different territories,” Nashak says. “What we’re trying to do is support the networks that are supporting the show by giving them not only something that can drive monetization, but fan retention around the property.”

We’re told Dancing With The Stars: Keep Dancing should be out of beta around the end of the year.