After 15 years of publishing games on the web and mobile, Miniclip is now entering the console market. MCV speaks to CEO Rob Small (pictured) to find out more:
The games industry has changed a lot since 2001. PlayStation 2 was little more than a year old; the first Xbox was yet to hit shelves; while the most prominent mobile title was Snake II on the Nokia 3310.
It was also the year that mobile and browser game publisher Miniclip set up shop online. Armed with a host of titles users could play through their internet browser, Miniclip quickly established itself as the go-to destination for free online games. However, as markets and user habits began to change, Miniclip learned it had to adapt quickly or get left behind.
Fortunately, Miniclip’s ability to capitalise on popular trends and shift its business accordingly means it now has over 200m active monthly users and has just celebrated 1bn downloads. Building on the success of its endeavours as a mobile games publisher, the company now has its sights set on console publishing with the launch of its very first title, Saber Interactive’s MX Nitro, which released yesterday on February 14th.
“We’ve faced two main challenges - a shifting market, and rapid growth,” Miniclip CEO Rob Small tells MCV. “Like many companies in this industry, we began to see the rise of a whole new audience of gamers on mobile, so it was vital to our success that we were able to move quickly to meet that demand.
"We’ve shown over the years that our success comes not just from our flagship titles, like 8 Ball Pool, but from a whole range of new games that prove very popular with our audience. We make fun, high-quality games that are very accessible but still have depth.
“Finally, it was important that we expanded our talent pool and infrastructure at the company, in proportion with the massive growth we’ve seen among our numbers of players. I’m pleased to say that that continues to this day, we’re currently hiring for over 50 new roles, from 3D artists to game designers.”
MOVING TO MOBILE
Of course, the mobile games market is now a far more crowded place than it was when Miniclip was first started out, but thanks to its strong web presence and ever-expanding user base, Miniclip’s move into mobile publishing has proved highly successful.
“The boom of mobile gaming has clearly had a huge impact on user habits, which has been exciting to see and be a part of. Gaming is such a big part of many people’s lives now,” Small explains.
“As a result, while traffic on Miniclip.com remains strong, the growth of our player base on mobile has been massive. I think we appeal to a much broader audience now than 15 years ago - when our audience was quite young, via mobile gaming we now encompass a much more diverse age range.
“In recent years, we’ve seen companies like Nintendo enter that market, too, so one of our biggest challenges is to make sure we keep developing and growing within that space, and keep producing games that players turn to time and again. It’s an exciting challenge: one we’ve been able to rise to thus far, and are well placed to continue to meet.”
Even with its in-depth understanding of user habits, however, Small says even he couldn’t have predicted the meteoric rise of some of its titles.
“Agar.io definitely surprised us in just how huge it became, and still is,” he says. “It’s such a simple concept but its popularity is incredible - it was the No.1 app upon release, the top-trending game on Google Search in 2015, and appeared on House of Cards.
“The game had already become a viral sensation on web before we released the mobile version, so there was already a big demand to play Agar.io on the go. It had been played by Pewdiepie, Markiplier, and scores of other YouTubers, so its popularity really snowballed from there. It was important that we moved fast to develop the mobile game to capitalise on that popularity.
“A more recent example would be our game Flip Diving, which released last summer and went straight to the top of the download charts on both Android and iOS. It is in many ways a perfect mobile game, and hits a lot of the things that we strive for in our game design: easy to pick up and play for a couple of minutes, but with plenty to keep players coming back for more.”
A GOOD CLIP
Indeed, with the launch of MX Nitro in full swing, Small hopes that branching out into console publishing will help take Miniclip to even greater heights.
“We’re going to be putting our all into [MX Nitro] and hoping we can achieve big things. As well as investing in PR, we will be promoting the game across YouTube and other forms of social media. We’ve seen great success in marketing our games on YouTube in the past and we plan to continue that with MX Nitro.
"The console and Steam markets are at least as well-saturated as mobile, so we want to do everything we can to get MX Nitro noticed. As for more console games, I would love for this to be a big part of our company going forward.”
Miniclip won’t be leaving mobile publishing behind, though, as Small says it’s still a great place to do business. “I think the mobile space is extremely healthy, and it is more than possible for a company to exist solely in that market,” he says.
“We’re branching out into console with MX Nitro because we see it as a great opportunity to explore a new area of the industry and hopefully make a success out of it. It’s also a first opportunity for us to work with Sony, Microsoft and Steam on releasing a big title on their platforms, which has been a very exciting step for the company. The more great games we can make, and the more places that people can play them, the better.”