When you’ve launched a mobile game that’s accumulated 500 million unique players, the temptation is to think your work is over and it’s time to count the cash.
Of course, operating a mobile game is never ‘work over’ and cash has an uncanny way of disappearing into UA campaigns. Similarly, running games-as-a-service is often a thankless task. But once you have that scale of user base, it’s true - your biggest problem has been solved.
Which makes Argentine developer Etermax’s decision to head back into the app stores to release a sequel for its hit mobile game Trivia Crack worthy of deeper discussion.
“We’re always looking at different ways of playing trivia. There are an amazing amount of ways of presenting it,” points out the company’s CMO Ignacio Ortiz.
“The amount of testing we do is amazing.”
Taking trivia seriously
That focus on product can be seen in the company’s portfolio, where 2015’s Trivia Crack Kingdoms has been joined more recently by the soft launched Trivia Crack Quest. There’s even an endless runner tie-in - Trivia Crack Run - also currently in soft launch.
Ortiz says the big issue with launching a formal sequel to the 2013 game that propelled the company to the world stage, especially in terms of its scale in North and South America, is getting the balance between the old and the new right.
“The game has to be similar and yet fresh enough to appeal,” he says.
That wasn’t really the case with Trivia Crack Kingdoms, which replaced the need for a decent all-round trivia knowledge with channels based on highly specific topics ranging from brands such as Disney and Star Wars to obscure user-generated fare.
Trivia Crack 2 instead returns to the original’s general flow but with plenty of new UX bells and whistles.
The game has to be similar and yet fresh enough to appeal.Ignacio Ortiz
“The goal with Trivia Crack 2 is to honour the current userbase, they have educated us a lot over the years in terms of what they want,” Ortiz explains.
Doing something different
The tricky part of a making a successful sequel is how a developer manages to combine familiarity with the new features it wants - and often needs - to introduce.
In the case of Trivia Crack 2, one key element is to enable players to have their performance and status better reflected in the app via a character collection and levelling system. This competitive edge is supported by a new team system and in-game economy, which is more about IAP than ads.
‘The economy is the way for players to express their progress in the game,” comments Ortiz. “But it will still be very social with gifting options. We’re a gaming company with a very strong social focus.”
Given the changes in mobile game development that have occured over the past five years, the difference in terms of backend engineering between Trivia Crack 1 to 2 is significant, if hidden to players.
We like the changes but we didn’t want to force them on on anyone.Ignacio Ortiz
“We can now test a lot more things internally,” Ortiz says, pointing out that when a mobile game grows as explosively as Trivia Crack did, developers spend more time ensuring it’s working than thinking about the future implications of their decisions.
Ortiz is also keen to highlight the point of launching a sequel isn’t necessarily to give current players a better experience. Certainly, the new competitive edge of Trivia Crack 2 is something different which technically couldn’t have been easily retrofitted to the original. But that’s not the reason for the sequel.
“You have to be mindful of existing rules and careful to respect what the audience wants,” he says, when asked if it would have been possible to have updated Trivia Crack 1 instead of releasing a sequel.
“We like the changes but we didn’t want to force them on on anyone,” Ortiz states, adding, “and maybe the differences will appeal to a new audience too."
Certainly Etermax is gearing up for a big global marketing campaign at launch; something very different to the staggered, organic growth the first game experienced back when the company was an indie both in attitude and resources.
Which isn’t to say it’s time up for Trivia Crack 1 either.
“It has a huge support team and we’re still making it better,” Ortiz says. “We’re not forcing anyone to leave.”
Trivia Crack 2 will be released on October 25th and pre-registrations are live now.