Mobile company Space Ape is a brand on the rise.
The firm is also two years old and has already seen success with real-time strategy (RTS) title Samurai Siege, which has consistently been in the Top 100 grossing apps on the iOS charts and has generated $21m in revenue since launching in October 2013.
But Space Ape isn’t just another indie developer. Rather, it is a fully-independent company that develops, markets, publishes and distributes its own games. And it has some pretty grand plans, too.
We love making titles for gamers that are accessible to accommodate their busy lives,” CEO John Earner tells MCV.With that in mind, our hope is to become the Blizzard of mobile gaming – one of the few companies noted for its high-quality games that are also very commercially successful.”
But the firm didn’t get into mobile games just to fit into people’s ‘busy lives’. Rather, it was a question of going to where there is the biggest audience in modern video games.
We entered mobile gaming because it is how you access not just millions but literally billions of potential players,” Earner says.We wanted to focus on new platforms that allow us to talk to our players, to not have to fuss with the publisher and those challenges and to reach as many players as possible.
Our strategy is to be one of the defining games companies and mobile is the best platform to do that. Mobile is transforming the industry. There will be other platforms in the future that continue to evolve it and we’d love to be a part of it.”
The firm has pursued the free-to-play model so far. And though some might look down on the business model, Earner believes that it results in better games.
Free-to-play is a wonderful model for a platform with tens of millions of users,” he says.Consumers play our games for months and years and it makes sense that they choose to spend or not spend over that time. Too often in today’s triple-A world, developers are incentivised to get a high Metacritic score to sell the game, then be done with it. It’s fire and forget. That’s not how people play community-driven games.”
Whereas for some mobile firms marketing is an afterthought, for Space Ape it is one of the most important things to the firm.
Marketing is challenging, but in mobile gaming you have to view it as core to your game,” Earner says.Marketing used to be somebody else’s job. Designers make games, other people sell them. Our games have to perform well and delight players and if it succeeds in that, two things will happen.
Our players will become our best marketers and tell their friends. It’s a little bit of a word of mouth old-school virality that happens. Then the game will make enough money so that we can afford to spend marketing money on it. If neither of those things happen the game won’t work.”
Looking to the future, Space Ape is on the verge of releasing another RTS title, Rival Kingdoms. But this one is just a bit different – it is being aimed at core gamers.
Rival Kingdoms is designed to be the best RTS game on the market,” Earner says.What we are doing differently is making a core RTS offering. We think that the future of mobile is core. Candy Crush is here to stay, but there are players entering mobile from more traditional gaming.
They have an appetite for games, they like more complex titles, ones that are more similar to ‘traditional’ releases. We view Rival Kingdoms as a core RTS experience. The production values are huge. It doesn’t look like a mobile game anymore.”