The latest in the five million-selling Mama franchise hits store shelves this week. Christopher Dring meets 505 Games’ Tim Woodley to discover what’s next for Mama...
What would you say has been the secret to Mama’s global success?
The appeal of Mama is in its simplicity. The simplicity of the concept, of the gameplay and of the character. The Mama character is universal, is easily identifiable and is a personality which parents find easy to trust. The unique art-style of the character and her world has helped cement the brand recognition in a short space of time.
In what ways have you been marketing Mama that’s different to how you would promote a more traditional game?
Launching a new IP in the gaming arena is notoriously difficult, but with Mama we have always been hell-bent on talking directly to our target consumer and not being distracted from that mantra. Most activity that we participate in across Europe is never seen by the industry as a whole, unless they happen to have young kids, so determined are we to hit our bull’s-eye target every time. Our approach to marketing Mama is more similar to Hasbro or Mattel than Activision or Ubisoft.
You’ve used quotes from Mama herself in press releases, including the response to PETA. Why is that?
As we have extended Mama out beyond the game, she has started to develop a personality of her own, and it felt only natural to give her a voice. Even so, this character is only just starting to come alive with the activity we have in place around the Cooking Mama 3 launch this Christmas. Bringing Mama to life has been our marketing mantra in the lead up to this launch. 2010 will see this taken to a whole other level.
What did you make of the PETA complaint?
It wasn’t really a complaint as far as we’re concerned, more a way of using the recognition of Mama to make a statement. The Mama brand has always been presented as a wholesome, safe environment with no allegiance to any political or sociological agenda which parents can trust, so it didn’t affect us.
What are your ambitions for Mama? Are you looking to create a Mario-style brand?
No, we’re looking to create a Mama-style brand. We have huge ambitions for her, but we understand that establishing a brand which has longevity and spans the generations – as opposed to being a here-today-gone-tomorrow fad – is a long-game. Our intention is to grow her gradually and purposefully for the long-term benefit of all involved.
Would you be interested in bringing Mama to non-Nintendo formats?
Cooking Mama Limited is interested in bringing Mama to any format which compliments their ideology of games, which is: ‘finding new ways to play’. They evaluate the creative and the commercial opportunities, which present themselves on an ongoing basis.
You’re releasing Cooking Mama 3 in Q4, are you confident it can thrive in this typically hostile period?
Given that this is the first time we’ve launched Mama in the Christmas season and enjoyed a simultaneous launch worldwide, we believe that Cooking Mama 3 will be the biggest selling Mama game yet. Mama has punched above her weight in Europe when you consider that, unlike in the US, every launch we’ve had has fallen outside of the holiday season. We have a great opportunity to surpass anything we have done before, but also to consolidate Mama as a franchise that can stand against other big Christmas releases.
Digital downloading is starting to really take off. Can we expect digital Mama games in the future?
Mama’s audience is not as susceptible to the digital realm as that of other gaming brands, but we continue to monitor the opportunities presented to us. There’s already been a best-selling iPhone app, which indicates an encouraging brand recognition by tech-savvy parents open to downloading content for their children, something which points to potential in other online portals moving forward.
So retail continues to be very important to the Mama series?
The support of our retail partners is crucial to the success of Mama, always has been, always will be. Mama has a very symbiotic relationship with her friends at store level. She always delivers for them, and they always deliver for her.
Finally, are you looking to licence Mama out into other areas, such as TV, toys or books?
2009 has been the year when Mama stepped out of the kitchen for the first time with Gardening Mama and flexed her muscle against the big guns by stepping into the ring with the Christmas big-hitters for the first time. 2010 will see further developments both within and outside of the gaming segment.