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Disrupt or die: NaturalMotion's Torsten Reil on My Horse's ride to 35 million downloads

Disrupt or die: NaturalMotion's Torsten Reil on My Horse's ride to 35 million downloads

"The reason we did My Horsewas because very few people had touched this kind of genre," detailed NaturalMotion CEO at GameHorizon in Newcastle.

"Lots of people sniggered at it and assumed we'd be doing something pink and like My Little Pony, but in the end we went for something far more realistic.

"And I just checked before I got here – My Horse has 35 million downloads now, and none of them were achieved through user acquisition. They're all organic."

Just how My Horse – and, indeed, NaturalMotion's other hits, such as CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja – hit such heights was the motivation behind Reil's talk, and the key word to take away was 'disruption'.

Racing ahead

"iPhone, more than any other platform, pretty much disrupted everything," said Reil, suggesting developers should look to have the exact same impact with their games.

"If you take a creative risk, you can actually have a lot of success. [After My Horse] we looked at the next genre to disrupt, and that was racing. We just thought 'lets simplify this – lets just make it about drag racing'."

Reil on stage in Newcastle

But simplification wasn't CSR's only key element, Reil said. It was also its focus on detail.

"For us it wasn't just about drag racing – it was also about car ownership," he continued. "We wanted to make it feel like people owned real cars. For us, obsession like this makes the difference between a good game and a great game – the consumer really appreciates quality.

"It really pays to be absolutely obsessed with your product. And when you're done polishing, polish some more."

Clumsy move

As Reil has previously detailed, CSR Racing went on to bring in $12 million in its first month – an amount of money that, Reil said, NaturalMotion simply didn't think was possible on the App Store at the time.

The firm's next big release, Clumsy Ninja, was built around similar aims, this time disrupting the interactive characters genre. Upon launch, the game amassed 10 million downloads in its first week.

"Seeing that when you try and disrupt something, it really resonates with a huge huge audience is really rewarding, and the audience you can reach on mobile obviously goes beyond anything we've seen before," continued Reil.

"The problem with what's happening now with games, however, is that the games at the top of the charts stay there because they get into a self perpetuating cycle.

"User acquisition can't keep bad games high up in the charts any more – the games at the top of the charts are there because they're good, but user acquisition can also keep the good games out. It's much harder for a good game to get to the top of the charts now compared to two years ago.

"The only way to beat that is to make really disruptive games with high quality. You've got to leap frog genres. That's what we believe is the big opportunity now. How do you do this? You have to be proud of what you're making."

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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