Finnish developer Seriously has been quietly refining the match-3 genre with its character-heavily debut Best Fiends.
With over 12 million downloads and 1.3 million daily active players, the game is off to a solid start.
And now Seriously is looking to build on this foundation with recently announced merchandising deal with Kidrobot and the game's planned release into the lucrative South Korean market.
In order to ensure both it and the surround marketing are in tune with local tastes, Seriously has hooked up with distributor Incross; something that go us thinking.
Seriously's VP of business development Matt McMahon answered our questions.
PocketGamer.biz:: In what ways do you think the Korean market is different from other markets?
Matt McMahon: Korea has emerged as the leading mobile gaming tastemaker market, and to a large degree, is the trendsetter in gaming and mobile behavior overall. We want to learn as much as we can from Korea and apply those lessons intelligently in our strategies in global markets.
So far, we know that the consumption patterns for games are really different and much more intense in Korea. If people get into a game, they spend immense time in it.
The positive side of this is that games can spread like wildfire and become phenomenons overnight. On the flip side, the market is also incredibly competitive to gain eyeballs, and players are very discerning about their time and money.
Our challenge is not only to find a way to break through, but to also find how to keep people playing the game over the longer haul.
Why do you think Best Fiends will appeal to the Korean market?
So far, the reception for Best Fiends around the world has been fantastic. Our over 12 million downloads and more than 1.3 million daily unique players come from all over the world.
Korea has emerged as the leading mobile gaming tastemaker market.Matt McMahon
We see that same global footprint in our social media - fans from many different countries have fallen in love with our world and characters.
To a large extent, this is because Best Fiends is purposefully designed to appeal in different ways to audiences worldwide. The game itself is very accessible, with minimal text and a familiar game mechanics that we've polished greatly to provide what we believe is a best-in-class gaming experience.
Our world and characters are culturally agnostic, with a bit of sweet yet subversive feel that can make anybody smile. We have gotten a bit lucky that our brand has resonated with people, but we've also worked really hard to position it to connect like that.
In Korea, we believe a lot of these global characteristics will also appeal to players, but we will be paying close attention to see what we can customize, such as if certain characters are more popular than others, or if different limited time events resonate more, etc.
How much work will you have to do in terms of localisation and culturalisation?
We are still working through the scope of the localization and culturalization. Overall, we are taking our approach to Korea very seriously, so that we give this first game and the Best Fiends franchise overall an opportunity to go big in the market.
We know that we'll need to build out some unique features and characters for Korea, but we also want to balance those changes to stay true to the overall world and brand we've created.
In terms of the game specifically, we have a bit of a head start as we have some planned features for the global product, which we think will work well in Korea with just slight tweaks.
Why is the Korean market an important one for Seriously?
Korea is very important to us here at Seriously for a couple of reasons.
First, while it is an incredibly competitive market, it also has great revenue potential.
Second, and more importantly, Korea has become a bellwether market, not just for mobile gaming but also for pop culture at large.
Korea has become a bellwether market, not just for mobile gaming but also for pop culture at large.Matt McMahon
With K-Pop, viral marketing fads, gaming and more, Korea has become a tastemaker market. We want to get as deep as we can into that market and look for lessons and trends that we can apply to our wider business around the world.
What impressed you about Incross' approach to the market?
We were lucky to have quite a bit of interest from different Korea and regional publishers, but Incross stood out for a few reasons.
First, Incross is a pure-play publisher focused on helping developers take games into Korea and go big in the market - there is no internal competition with first-party games or distractions with multiple territories.
Secondly, Incross seems to be both creative and ambitious in its marketing. A great recent example is the K-Pop song and video that they launched in parallel with Royal Revolt 2. This is the type of creative, non-traditional marketing that we pride ourselves on, so there was a lot of alignment from the start.
Lastly, the team at Incross is clear and transparent in communication and operations, which gives us a great level of comfort as we approach a very specialized market in Korea.
Will you be integrating Kakao?
We are still looking at our localization plans and haven't finalized our scope yet. That said, we'll want to do whatever it takes to give Best Fiends the opportunity to succeed in Korea.
TV and more traditional advertising are currently a big part of UA in Korea. Do you plan to be doing this sort of activity and is there any way you can do this without spending a lot of cash?
When we launch Best Fiends in Korea, we'll market on traditional platforms like TV, but in a smart, targeted way instead of simply trying to outspend the competition. We will also pursue less traditional marketing channels, like social marketing, viral promotions or various partnerships.
Philosophically, our approach will be similar to our approach in the West. For instance, we don't buy a lot of typical UA as we are finding more effective ways to cut through that also build our brand in a positive, long-term way.
While the tactics and channels will be custom for Korea, we'll bring that same point-of-view to our marketing as we look to go big with Best Fiends in Korea.