Interview

How Mech Mocha found the right connections to launch Puppet Punch

How Mech Mocha found the right connections to launch Puppet Punch

Female game developers can be hard to find, and that's especially the case in India.

Which makes Arpita Kapoor something of a rarity.

The self-styled Chief Mocha at mobile developer Mech Mocha - one of India's up-and-coming studios - she's stamped her mark on the industry, being the winner of the Best Female Indie Developer title from the Casual Games Association

"Never let your gender come in way of your work," she says.

"Your work is what speaks the most and will shut everyone else up."

The inspiration

Together with Mech Mocha co-founder Mohit Rangaraju, Kapoor has been working on games since college days.

In 2011, they got selected for the International Game Developers Association scholarship program and so were able to attend GDC. Seeing the quality of games inspired the pair, and resulted in the formation of Mech Mocha.

"India is a growing market for games now and we want Mech Mocha to become one of biggest games publisher in the country," Kapoor says.

Mech Mocha's co-founders - Arpita Kapoor and Mohit Rangaraju

"We chose the name to be Mech Mocha because it combines mechs and coffee, and we wanted to entertain people right on their mobile devices while they sip coffee."

First punch

Based in Ahmedabad in north-west India, and backed by Indian accelerator iAccelerator with an investment in 2013, Mech Mocha has made the most of global connections, by outsourcing some elements of development.

"The technology and design team are in-house, which I think is crucial, but we didn't hire a sound designer or an illustrator locally as we wanted to keep the quality high, and not inflate costs," Kapoor says.

"Remote working is great even when it comes with time differences as it lets you choose exactly the people you want to work with and ones who fit your budget."

We wanted to create something as casual as Fruit Ninja but as cool as Jetpack Joyride.
Arpita Kapoor

The result is Puppet Punch, an arcade boxing-based game that was released on iOS by publisher Kedoo in January and coming soon to Google Play.

"We were heavily inspired by Halfbrick," says Kapoor.

"We wanted to create something as casual as Fruit Ninja but at the same time as cool as Jetpack Joyride. We wanted the game to be easy in controls but with a lot of action and bosses."

As for the decision to use puppets as the main theme, she says that was to avoid realistic violence, and also provided the game with its unique visual style.

"India has a rich history when it comes to art of puppetry and I guess we had some inspiration coming from that too," she adds.

Finding partners

Of course, it's one thing to develop a game and quite another to release it.

As a start-up, Mech Mocha decided to work with a publisher; something it was helped with being part of Chartboost's University incubator, which brings developer to San Francisco over the GDC period.

Mech Mocha at Chartboost University in San Francisco

"During CBU, we had sessions with publishing heads of Kabam, DeNA and Pocket Gems and it was great to understand both sides of the developer and publisher role, by talking to them in an advisory role, " Kapoor says.

Puppet Punch was also selected for the Big Indie Pitch, which helped gain press exposure and the connections needed when the game launched.

"In today's free-to-play mobile game scene, I wouldn't say publishers are a must as there are enough resources to learn and enough tools to execute free-to-play games including live ops. But a publishing partner can be crucial because of the experience they bring in and ability to scale the game if and when needed," Kapoor explains.

As for the decision to go with start-up publisher Kedoo Entertainment, she says we "felt that they were more than just a traditional publisher.

"We were one of their first few games and that's why Puppet Punch is as much their baby as it is ours."

Getting it right

Mech Mocha soft launched Puppet Punch in October 2014 and tweaked the game regularly until it came out in January.

"Having a long soft launch was one of our best decisions. It gave us time to focus on design and tech before the marketing and PR kicked in. For a small team, that helps," says Kapoor.

The team were very active during this period, doing everything from tweaking the economy and difficulty to adding a tutorial and bug-fixing."

"During this period we also changed the icon, localised the game in 10 languages and tested a variety of ad networks," Kapoor reveals.

We changed the icon, localised the game in 10 languages and tested a variety of ad networks.
Arpita Kapoor

"We used Localytics to track events and player behavior and Leanplum for quick A/B testing."

Localisation was another key part of the process, with Kapoor advising developers to aim for Chinese first - "China is huge for free-to-play games" - followed by the likes of French, German, Spanish and Italian.

"Russian and Japanese can help but are a pain to get done," she warns.

And the results were well-worth the efforts, with Puppet Punch featured in the App Store in China, and Japan amongst other countries.

"Apple loves localisation and players love it too," Kapoor points out.

(You can read more about the company's approach to localisation here.)

Making a noise

Mech Mocha paid similar close attention to its PR and marketing strategy when the game actually launched.

"Marketing is absolutely necessary but fortunately most of it is possible with zero cost," Kapoor says.

"We went to GDC, Casual Connect, and participated in the Pocket Gamer Big Indie Pitch so people would know about the game when it launched. We were covered in Pocket Gamer, Touch Arcade and App Advice covered us."

Mech Mocha showing Puppet Punch at the Big Indie Pitch

"We also did a lot of content marketing on sites like Gamasutra and Gamesbrief. We tweeted YouTubers and few of them played and previewed the game even before it was launched," she adds.

Another demonstration of its attention to detail, was that Mech Mocha created a Twitter account for the game's main character Pablo - "Me play. Me punch. Me fight puppets. Me love you all" - and used it to interact with media and fans.

You can find out what Mech Mocha gets up to next via its website.

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Niklas Bakos VP Publishing at Kedoo Entertainment
Great article! :)
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