Kiz Studios on toys, mobile and free-to-play

Back in 2007, the team that would become Kiz Studios had a crazy idea.

The developers wanted to merge the disparate sectors of physical toys and video games. Sound familiar? It should, as the studio was somewhat ahead of the curve in the toys-to-life format, which has seen players such as Activision, Disney, Warner Bros and Nintendo.

But during the development of this product, the team ran into issues. In short, they did not have the means to produce boxed products – to get the game into stores – nor did they have the means of building toys, either. Thus, they opted to focused on the games side of things.

Our idea was pretty ahead of its time,” Kiz Studios’ chief gaming officer Ed Blincoe admits.

Skylanders came out much later than when we would have started. We would have had to be a much bigger company to achieve it. That’s what we’ve seen with Disney and Activision. It’s a daunting task trying to organise something like that.”

Now the firm is focused on the mobile games sector. And while it is currently working on its own titles,such as Dash Galactic, the team is open to developing projects based on other people’s IP.

The mobile market is huge and there are lots of consumers within it, and lots of developers working on projects for it. From a competition point of view, I don’t feel other developers are competition,” Blincoe explains.

But we’re all fighting for eyeballs, probably not the same ones because the market is so big. Obviously you have big titles like Pokmon Go jumping out and doing massive numbers. From our side we’re looking to continue with original IP because we believe in what we have.

We are also looking at some licensed IP as well, just to try and break into the market with some consumer eyeballs we are going to get straight away. There are lot of successful licensed games, such as Marvel’s portfolio. All of them have been done really well and the developers have really taken advantage of the franchise and used it to create great games with it. Off the back of seeing other really good developers making really good games with licensed IP, we should be looking at similar things on that side too.”

Kiz was formerly focused on the kids market to a more core or mid-core audience.

We’re a free-to-play company – every game we have released in the last 18 months has been free-to-play. What we are aiming to do is get to the market that actively spends within mobile,” Blincoe says.

"One thing that we absolutely strive to do is make our games fair."

Ed Blincoe, Kiz Studios

In our experience, those are the gamers that typically have the higher lifetime values around them and certainly the ones we retain for longer. The casual market is great and we have made many casual games, like Wonky Ship, but retention for those games is very difficult.

You have to have a superbly executed title to be able to retain those casual players because they flip flop around from game to game and tend not to hang around for long.”

While free-to-play is a popular business model, it has had its ups and downs when it comes to public perception. A few years ago the business model ran into trouble after some people – mostly children – managed to rack up huge bills from microtransactions. Now the App Store and Google Play storefronts display that these titles feature microtransactions.

On the demographic we serve, it’s viewed as a business model that they like as long as the game is fair,” Blincoe says. One thing that we absolutely strive to do is make our games fair. There may be cosmetic things that you can’t get, but the reality is that we make our games freely available and, if you want to play it for long enough, then you can get to all of the content within all of our games.”

There are some areas of some games where if you want something that is cosmetic, that changes the look of a character, then you may need to pay for it but it’s not going to hinder your experience.”

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