Developer Spotlight, February 2013: Happylatte
Making games for an international audience is no easy task. Just ask Happylatte, a studio that calls Beijing its home while still being able to accomplish the enviable task of developing mobile games that strike a cord with the western market. Their hit-game High Noon has been downloaded more than 11 million times all over the world and they have plenty of other big plans for the rest of the 2013.
We sat down with Happylatte CEO Bjorn Stabell to discuss what makes his company different, how they approach each of their games, and, of course, why they love working with Chartboost.
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Chartboost: What do you LOVE about making games?
Bjorn Stabell, CEO, Happylatte: Touching peoples lives through the world we create so that they feel moved to create something themselves. When we see people creating fan art or youtube videos about our game then we know we’ve done something right and that makes us happy.
What’s the single most interesting thing you’ve learned about your users since Happylatte came into existence?
Where people live and their cultural background influences how they play our game and how they use features in the game. We recently ran a week long promotion and it was amazing how people in different parts of the world used the advantage from the promotion to play the game in different ways.
As you’ve continued to build Happylatte into having over 90 employees, what’s the one thing that your company does differently than the rest?
I can’t say what everybody else does and to be honest I don’t lose much sleep over it either. What I can tell you is that we are very focused on smartphones. High Noon was designed from the ground up with the smartphone in mind. We didn’t design a game and try and squeeze it into the phone. No, we started with the phone. We looked at the strengths and limitations and tried to use them to our advantage. And even though we’ve grown from a 20 something to a 90 something person company in the space of about a year, designing with the mobile device in mind is essential to the way we think about games.
Dueling in High Noon
Is there any one common element that you guys bring to each of your mobile games? If not, is there a common objective that you’re trying to accomplish (other than: make it fun) with each game you release?
On our website it says ‘Our games are a “newfangled” blend of free-to-play and massively multiplayer social games that perfectly fits modern mobile phones.’ and in this sentence is the core of what we try to bring to games. We use the word ‘newfangled’ which is an awkward word you don’t hear said a lot, but it sums up what we are striving for when we create a game. With every new game we want to bring something new, or at least a new twist, to smartphone gaming.
“Social” is very important to us too and goes hand-in-hand with “massively multiplayer”. To us social means creating real connections between people. We want people to interact and communicate with one another. High Noon succeeded in this to some degree, but we think in future we can create games which are even more social, where the interaction, the experience between players, is even stronger.
Give one piece of advice to a mobile game developer that’s just starting out.
If I had to give one piece of advice to a mobile game developer that’s just starting out then game play would be it. You don’t have to be big to be successful (look at Imangi Studios), but if you’re not big then you’d better make a great game. Sounds like nonsense, but it is that simple.
Challengers are quite varied in High Noon
Why are you working with Chartboost? What makes us stand out from the rest?
Who said we like working with you guys? Just kidding. We love Chartboost. Apart from the obvious benefits of the large network and inventory to monetise our users, we get a real kick out of working directly with other companies to promote their games. That may sound strange. Why would we want to promote a competitor? We don’t see all games as competitors. It’s a big market out there and it’s not a winner takes all world. When a company contacts us directly through Chartboost it’s a chance to see the smartphone games market from someone else’s perspective and gain some new insights. We discuss their goals and then see how we can help and we track the results of their campaign. We like to think of these deals as ‘favors’ and we are building up a small stockpile of favors to call in when we release our next title.
Give us a glimpse into some of your upcoming projects for 2013. What can people expect from Happylatte?
Keep an eye on our Happylatte blog for some exciting news around the end of April. Beyond April we have a game or two in the pipeline for release before the end of the year. We’ve spent a lot of time getting up to speed with unity and these new projects are being built in unity so in future you can expect our games to be cross platform.
Check back next month for our newest Developer Spotlight. Until then, hit us up on Twitter @Chartboost.