RockYou Asia Rolls Out Happy City To Taiwan With High Hopes, Steep Competition

Though focused primarily on mobile development, RockYou subsidiary RockYou Asia is experimenting with releasing a PC-based social game across multiple social networks in the region. Happy City — or Top City as its known in Japan — debuts in Taiwan this month amid heavy competition from other city-building social games.

In Happy City, players construct a town from a combination of residential housing, commercial buildings, production infrastructure, and decorations that increase the productivity of each. Like all city building games of the day, the comparison to Zynga’s CityVille is inevitable. However, RockYou co-founder and RockYou Asia head Jia Shen tells us development on Happy City began well before CityVille was released. In the post-CityVille social game environment, the Asian market is full of city building games.

“Taiwan is pretty competitive, but growth and retention look good from our initial tests,” Shen says. “There are a lot of city games, now. Most of them are clones — everything down to the game mechanics. Ours tries to differentiate with a different design and very high presentation value.”

RockYou Asia also takes care to tailor Happy City’s gameplay progression to specific regions and their social networks. For example, Shen explains that the leveling system was completely redone in Happy City for Taiwan.

“People never talk about the balancing, leveling part,” he says. “But that’s something we spend a lot of time on to make sure the grind is appealing.”

Shen says that when Happy City released in Japan (as Top City), the developer did a lot of fine-tuning to make player progression feel comfortable both for short-session casual players that spend only a few minutes in the game and more dedicated players with longer session times. When migrating the game to Taiwan, the developer added content specific to the region, but mostly left the level progression alone — at first.

“[In] Taiwan, we ran it through initial set of users and they basically thought it was too easy,” he says. He anticipates that they’ll need to make a similar progression adjustment for Korea when Happy City debuts there in the coming months. “Korea’s another world, the country of grind,” he jokes.

The trouble with customizing a game by region comes from alienating sections of the game’s fanbase. For example, some developers with international social games express anxiety about releasing content for one region and not another — because the fans might essentially get jealous of another region’s content for what’s supposed to be the same gameplay experience.

We asked Shen if RockYou Asia had similar concerns when releasing Top City as Happy City with different level progression. Shen acknowledged that fan jealousy is something to be mindful of, but that with Happy City, the game is just so different between regions that it’s practically a different game. At the same time, though, the actual gameplay differences between Happy City in Taiwan and Top City in Japan are so subtle that players need to have played both titles to an advanced level to experience the difference.

“They are localized differently, names are different, characters change…” Shen says. “We may eventually roll stuff across [countries], but its all operated differently. I can’t say its a good defense [against fan jealousy]. If users talk, then they may notice differences.”

Looking ahead to Korea and to a wider release in China, where Happy City currently only runs on one social network that Shen would not reveal, RockYou Asia must figure out a more methodical way to tailor the game to the different regions. Shen says that China in particular is difficult because it’s essentially five countries rolled into one and spread across multiple social networks. When pressed to reveal which social networks Happy City might be on in China, he said, “Not much to be talked about there,” and clarified that the Facebook release is for Taiwan only.

“We haven’t been very methodical there yet,” Shen says. “It’s such a crazy market. We haven’t done a satisfactory job there in my opinion. There are some big movements in China right now [in the social games market]. I’ve always been skeptical about the space there, but it’s really starting to grow up […] and actually create a viable economy for an ecosystem.”

As for expansion into mobile or into the U.S. through Facebook, Shen says Happy City’s future will be determined largely by how well it does in Taiwan. You can check the game out for yourself via Facebook and on AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games on the Facebook platform.