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Little Worlds Studio: Mana Crusher's Kickfailer is our last chance for survival

Little Worlds Studio: Mana Crusher's Kickfailer is our last chance for survival

There's a strong argument that mobile games business journalism is fundamentally a Whiggish pursuit.

This means that we only ever write about the success of a few companies, never about the many more who struggle.

Sadly, one such is veteran French developer Little Worlds Studio.

It's been around for ten years, making console games, switching more recently to mobile development.

However, its history of self-funding has come back to haunt the company, as we discovered when we talked to CEO David Chomard, who explains how the studio is now fighting for its life.

Pocket Gamer: The mobile games market is booming, so why are things bad at Little Worlds Studio?

David Chomard: From 2004 to 2008, we were a successful studio - doubling our revenues and staff every year. But we borrowed money in 2009 to finance prototypes for two ambitious games for Nintendo DS and PC multiplayer online.

It was bad timing as all the publishers were going through a tough time and no one wanted to sign big projects. So, we ended up spending hundreds of thousands of Euros for nothing.

 

Little Worlds Studio in happier times

We reduced the team and started developing on mobile, working-for-hire on several games, which has been our main activity ever since. We've made about 30 mobile games for clients. It pays the bills, but as it's work-for-hire, we don't make much money, certainly not enough to pay off our loans.

So today, our banks are out of patience: either we pay them back now or we go bankrupt.

So why do you think your games haven't been more successful?

Rovio released 52 games that you've never heard of before Angry Birds.  Flappy Bird  suddenly became a No.1 bestseller for no reason six months after its release. More than half of the top 100 are clones of other games.

Who can claim to have the recipe for success on mobile today, unless it's cloning proven hits, having a license, or being Gameloft?

All the games we self-published (four games) have more than decent reviews from the players, but didn't sell that much because we couldn't stand out from the crowd of the hundreds of thousands of games available.

It takes connections with Apple, journalists, a big marketing campaign or a miraculous word-of-mouth effect to be visible.

When did you come up with the idea behind Kickfailer?

Even though we knew we had a good game with Mana Crusher,  we also knew that we didn't have a chance of being noticed for the launch, as we didn't have money or connections.

It was also our last chance to save our studios, so we came with this idea of Kickfailer.

Mana Crusher

Instead of giving the community the chance to fund our future project like Kickstarter does, we would offer them the opposite. We already funded the game ourselves, so the players can simply play Mana Crusher, and if they like it, make a donation to our studio by purchasing stuff in our game.

We did a simple website, just to present our team and the real people behind the 10 years of the studio.

Had you previously tried any crowdfunding options?

No, this is our first attempt at crowdfunding, but if it works, it won't be our last!

How's the campaign going so far?

The stakes of the campaign are more than just funding a game. It's about saving our team that has been working together for years. So, we received a lot of support in France from friends, family, friends in the industry, etc. So, in France, the downloads are rising.

Yet, in the rest of the world, our fate is pretty much unknown and has not raised much interest. We had a great article in a German magazine, so things are moving slowly. But in terms of downloads, we are far from the million...

If you get to 100 million downloads, the 'perk' is you have to go to prison, so what crime will you choose to commit?

The easiest way to go to prison is to get seriously drunk, throw a huge party in our studio, get the police round because of the noise, and disobey the orders.

You are pretty sure to end up in jail at least for a day or two :) But we also have some more creative ideas...

Have you given any thought to what you and the other members of staff will do if you have to shut the studio down?

That's a question we intentionally don't want to think too much about. Everybody wants to believe that the studio will survive and that we will continue working together. Spirits are high, and strangely (or not?) most of the staff are more convinced than me that we will make it.

But if things go wrong, I'm not worried about them. With their experience and know-how they will easily find a job in the Industry, or be crazy enough to start their own indie studio.

You can help out Little Worlds Studio via its Kickfailer website.

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A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.

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