FGL Community Spotlight – Talking Mobile with Rolltower Studios

The Community Spotlight returns this week, and we’ve got a very special guest.  We caught up with Patrick Goncalvez from Rolltower Studios to discuss their recent success in the mobile space
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Q: Welcome to the Spotlight, Patrick!  Let’s start with a quick introduction for those who may not know about you or your studio yet

Patrick at Rolltower: I’m Patrick and I run Rolltower Studios, a development studio primarily creating “freemium” Hidden Object games.  I’m currently the only full-time employee and contract out certain other parts of the business ( like artwork ) as needed.

Q: What made you decide to become a full-time game developer?  Did you start with mobile gaming or other formats?

Rolltower: Long ago when I was in grade school I got into programming because I like video games and wanted to make them on my own. I decided to study programming and work in the field later on, but didn’t really expect to end up working in the industry. But my first job out of college ended up being at a social gaming startup called Playdom, which made Facebook games. They were later acquired by Disney and I continued to work there for another year or two.

I always wanted to run my own business and felt I had a good understanding of the gaming industry and knew how the business worked, so I took a shot at running a small development studio and it’s worked out! This was about two years ago now, and the primary focus has always been mobile gaming as I see that as a huge, growing field.

Q: That’s great.  So how did you wind up working with Tamalaki for your most recent projects like Hidden Object Blackstone?

Rolltower: Blackstone was about a six month-long project of mine that I eventually released to several markets including Android. As its success started to pick up on some smaller markets like BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8, i noticed the Google and Amazon versions were just sitting there, pretty stagnant. Android is of course a huge market and I decided it made a lot of sense to find a publisher who could help me distribute a game that had been proven to be a success on other markets. I looked around at similar games in the Google Play store for publishers and came across Tamalaki that way around June or so of last year.

I introduced myself over email to Martine Spaans over at Tamalaki and explained my situation and it really seemed like a perfect publisher/developer fit. We met up in person at Casual Connect and moved forward with publishing plans from there, making some tweaks to the gameplay model for the Amazon and Google markets. Blackstone released through Tamalaki soon after that and has done quite well, and it’s been great working with Tamalaki. 🙂 Since Blackstone did so well, I doubled down on the Hidden Objects genre with Mystery Society, also with Tamalaki and FGL on the android platforms.

Q: Like you said, it has done really well!  What was the original montization plan for Blackstone, and how did you have to adjust it to reach this level of success?

Rolltower: Blackstone’s original monetization plan revolved around selling in-game coins and gems through in app purchases. Those coins and gems could then be used to purchase hints, collection items, access to more levels, etc. that could otherwise also be earned by playing the game and collecting them over time.

That worked okay, but FGL and Tamalaki had a lot of success with the ad-based revenue model, around which users view and interact with advertisements to earn in game rewards.  Since Blackstone has a flexible economy, these offers could be easily added to the existing game as an additional way for users to acquire coins and gems faster than grinding and without making an in app purchase.

Q: And from the reviews, it seems like your players really appreciate that option

Rolltower: That’s right! Since some types of players prefer to pay a premium for an ad free experience while others prefer viewing advertisements for in game rewards, Blackstone’s monetization plan now involves both options. Users do seem to enjoy this option and it also increases revenue for the developer. Our overall revenue per user increased 2-3x!

Q: So, what’s next for Rolltower?  Any new projects, or are you going to continue updating Blackstone with more new content?

Rolltower: Blackstone and Mystery Society are going to continue receiving new content and features throughout the year. Mystery Society is playing a little bit of “catch-up” as a new game without as many scenes and collections, so it’s getting most of the attention right now. But the goal is to set up a regular set of content updates between the two, so long term players don’t run out of things to do.

There are definitely going to be new games this year, too. I haven’t quite decided on the next set of plans yet, but I do like to add some big improvements with each new game. There will probably be a new Hidden Object game in next few months with some new gameplay aspects that really make it stand out.

Also, we’re in the process of translating Mystery Society into a few different languages. We think its a game with fantastic potential international appeal, and we’d really like to increase the game’s audience that way.

Q: Those sound like great additions.  You’re really keeping busy!  We usually like to wrap up these spotlights by asking for some advice you can give new devs.  Are there any tips you can give a new Mobile game developer about developing in the mobile space?

Rolltower: The main thing that really comes to mind is to take a look at what successful games are doing. You’ll find a lot of very different games are doing a lot of the same things, whether it comes to the core gameplay loops or monetization or icon design, etc. When I worked for larger companies in the game dev industry, we called a lot of these things “best practices” – game design techniques that many developers have come to realize after a lot of trial and error work better than others. Some simple examples are in-app purchase pricing points, in-game sales, gameplay session length (for games with energy or lives that come back over time) , and features like achievements and leaderboards.

I think sometimes as an indie developer there is a tendency to want to innovate on every part of the game in order to stand out. But as a newcomer to the field you have an opportunity to learn from the experience of a lot of other developers, and save yourself a lot of time and headaches.

So really take a pause and analyze what successful games are doing and try to emulate them while you add your own innovation on top of that. Your game will still stand out on its own appeal, and you wont make the same mistakes thousands of developers have already made before you.

Most of these things are usually learnt through experience and a lot of trial and error, and I did my fair share of that too. But if there’s any shortcut to learning from your own mistakes it’s to learn from other peoples’ mistakes.

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We’d like to thank Patrick and Rolltower for taking the time to share their experiences with us.  Be sure to follow Rolltower on Twitter at https://twitter.com/rolltower and comment below with your questions!

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