It started slow with the release of Pocket Gems’ Episode in 2013, but the fast-growing nature of the market for interactive story apps was underlined by Pixelberry’s successful 2016 release of Choices: Stories You Play and the developer's subsequent acquisition by Nexon.
Both games now sit pretty in the US top 30 top grossing charts and both also broke into the top 10 during January.
Yet Ludia CEO Alex Thabet looks elsewhere when citing inspiration for the Montreal developer’s just-released interactive narrative game What’s Your Story?
“Kim Kardashian: Hollywood was a game that broke new ground,” he says of Glu’s celebrity-based hit.
And it’s an attempt to expand the scope of narrative storytelling by combining accessible IP with extras such as customisable avatars that characterises Ludia’s approach.
“We want to take the best of the current games and create something new,” Thabet says.
Something for everyone
Given the company’s past work with licensed IP ranging from Jurassic Park and Battlestar Galactica to The Price is Right and Family Feud, it’s no surprise Ludia is heavily leveraging its expertise in creating games with big entertainment brands.
After all, that model has already been proved successful with Episode working with brands such as Demi Lovato, Means Girls and currently Pitch Perfect.
What’s Your Story? offers a more interesting and balanced mix of IP; something that’s been chosen to appeal to a wide audience, both in terms of gender and interests. This is supported in-app as players create an avatar at the start of each story and can always pick male or female options.
What’s Your Story? offers players a wide mix of different IPs.
The game launches with stories set in the worlds of Beverly Hills 90210, Scream, Project Runway and Divergent, with plenty more to follow over coming months.
Thabet says early feedback from soft launch revealed players tended to stick within one story so a key focus since has been to integrate mechanics that encourage them to play across stories.
Of course, with only four stories at launch, it’s more likely Project Runway fans are going to enjoy Beverly Hills 90210, while those who embrace the horror mystery of Scream should find similar pleasure in Divergent’s dystopian setting.
A longer read
Implementing these cross-story aspects and adding more content, due to players were consuming it faster-than-expected, pushed back the game’s launch a couple of months.
More generally, the scale of the project can be seen from the additional features including the ability to customise your avatar with clothes and accessories, an in-game messaging system that introduces a new directness and cadence to the storytelling, as well as extras such as what Thabet calls “fun psychological profiling" that derived from a player’s in-game actions.
For example, in the Divergent story, your choices result in the game telling you which of the world’s five factions you would be. “It’s a bit of fun, and the players love it,” he explains.
Yet aside from such innovations, it will be the push to keep producing high quality content that will be Ludia’s main concern over the coming months. It’s increased the development team four-fold and working with the usual array of entertainment-honed writers to ensure standards are maintained.
We believe our quality will drive value.Alex Thabet
“We’re not doing user generated content,” Thabet says, in reference to Episodes’ more platform-focused approach.
“We believe our quality will drive value.”
Certainly it will be interesting to see how the game competes in a market dominated by two well-established titles. Thabet says he thinks there’s enough growth in the sector and enough appetite from players to experience more than one such game for everyone to find success.
And with future plans to keep rolling out innovative game features during 2018 alongside much more IP-based content, it looks like What’s Your Story? already has a good beginning and middle for its own narrative arc.