The studio boss discusses the difference between console and mobile, and the biggest mistake he's made in 20 years

Molyneux: Work at 22Cans is the hardest I’ve ever done

Peter Molyneux says his work at 22Cans has been the hardest he’s ever done.

Speaking at Apps World Europe, the industry veteran, whose credits include Bullfrog, Lionhead and Microsoft, said he underestimated the work involved in developing Godus, particularly on mobile.

He said whereas in console development devs would make the game, release it and then take a break, "on mobile, it’s constant fucking crunch. You release and then you realise your busiest day is two days after release".

He admitted one of the mistakes he made with god game Godus on mobile was the monetisation and thinking it was a simple problem to solve.

"That’s the biggest mistake I’ve made in the last 20 years, because it’s not simple," he said.

Molyneux described monetisation as like a drug, calling it a difficult psychological trick to convince users to pay money when integrating it into a complex game like Godus, without making the game seem unfair.

He highlighted that around the time of release, monetisation and downloads were at their peak, thanks in part to being featured on the App Store as Editor’s Choice.

"Then you have a trail off," he said. "I tried all sorts of things. Getting some press, putting myself in front of press in America and Europe. And the trouble is it’s very hard to find the publications that will give you the headlines or even begin to compete with the media on consoles.”

Another key challenge 22Cans faced with Godus was the amount of content mobile players were able to get through and the amount of updates required for a mobile game to keep up engagement.

"Virtually every three weeks there needs to be updates," he said. "This is just iOS. When we do Android, god knows what’s going to happen. We’ll probably explode from the pressure."

Molyneux said he had expected mobile users to play a lot less than console and PC gamers, who often sit and play through two-to-three hour sessions.

But mobile players in fact were racking up to 12 sessions a day on average, lasting between ten to 40 minutes, meaning they were consuming content at a much faster rate than the game had originally been designed for.

"I thought they’d take about six weeks to get through that," said. "[It took] six days. It was horrendous.

"We were looking at the analytics and this graph, and literally hour by hour we were saying to each other, what the hell are we going to do, they are going to run out of content."

Molyneux said the issue of monetisation and content consumption was one that 22Cans was still experimenting with. He added that ultimately however, he learned monetisation needs to be loved like any other feature in a game, and that developers have to get it right.

"And that has to be perceived as a fair system," he said. "If it’s unfair, those harsh monetisation techniques won’t work.

"Why? Because consumers are starting to say I’m not going to spend £2 on this because I know if I do, in 20 minutes I’ll have to spend another £2."

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