Interview

How Futureplay Games successfully made battle royale snack-sized for mobile

How Futureplay Games successfully made battle royale snack-sized for mobile

During its first half decade, Helsinki-based studio Futureplay Games has managed to launch five games and achieve a decent-sized chunk of success.

Formed by five Finnish game veterans, the team has slowly grown to a staff of 35.

More significantly, it's reached nearly a million followers across all social platforms – including a Discord community of over 130,000 - and attained 99 million installs worldwide.

A large part of this initial success was down to its Idle series of games, but more recently, the firm turned its attention to the battle royale craze - releasing its own interpretation with Battlelands Royale.

The 32-player last man standing multiplayer has seen strong numbers with 40 million downloads, yet competition for this genre is hot like no other.

On the other hand, the top mobile battle royale games have collectively surpassed $2 billion, showing even a small slice of this big pie is highly valuable. 

Focus to succeed

During a bustling Unite Copenhagen 2019, we spoke to Futureplay games designer Tatu Laine to find out how the Finnish studio has addressed battle royale, as well as how 2019 has treated the firm so far.

“We have five games out but we’re mostly focusing on two of them – Idle Farming Empire and Battlelands - so we’ve been growing them and adding new features,” says Laine

“Just recently Battlelands Royale received custom matches so players can create their own games and plan their own tournaments against one another.

"For Idle Farming Empire, we’ve been adding events and other features  - such as workshops and deepening the overall game.

We think that Battlelands Royale is the battle royale experience done right on mobile.
Tatu Laine

"There's a new big feature called Farmer Career launching this week that aims to improve early retention," adds Laine.

“Then we’ve been prototyping new games - we have one in production at the moment.”

A lot of exciting developments have taken place in the world of mobile games this year but for the Futureplay designer, one sticks out as the definitive change.

“It’s easy to say because it’s all the rage right now, but battle royale has been the most interesting,” says Laine.

“A new genre appeared out of nowhere, so when it came to mobile it was great. If you look at the battle royale sector, the amount of money being made by Fortnite and PUBG is huge.

"It’s not that healthy of a genre if you wanted to enter it now as a new developer, you really need to be in the top five to make great revenue.”

It’s impossible to deny the large number of revenue juggernauts like Epic and Tencent have grossed via their battle royale entries.

The question is how does a studio like Futureplay compete with these behemoths and was it worth entering this section of the market? According to Laine it absolutely was.

“We think that Battlelands Royale is the battle royale experience done right on mobile,” he says.

“So, the session length is two to three minutes instead of 40 minutes like PUBG Mobile. In that way, we are approaching the genre from the mobile gamer perspective. The others are way more aimed at console and PC with longer sessions.”

Battlelands Royale has 400,000 daily active users and 3.2 million monthly active users.
Tatu Laine

Laine adds: “We try to approach it as a more snack-sized experience with Battlelands Royale”.

Positive feedback indeed. But the figures shared back up the sentiment, as the game has 400,000 daily active users and 3.2 million monthly active users.

Sustainable market

However, the comments made by Laine regarding the need to be in top five to generate a good amount of revenue is interesting.

Does this mean the market is sustainable for Futureplay? Laine believes Battlelands is “close to the top five” but has not seen any new titles in genre as of late.

“I know Respawn is developing Apex Legends for mobile but it looks like you need a big brand or existing audience to do battle royale right on the platform,” he says.

“There are other genres that are far healthier to enter like like the evergreen match-three genre. If you make a good game there, you’re in the top 100 or 200 games and can do some pretty good revenue.”

“We think Battlelands is just getting started,” Laine continues.

“We launched the game very early when it had very few features, so adding custom features and tournaments that are in the roadmap was good. It has been about growing the game from v1.0.

“I think it will still be there in five years with some new brands that have entered the genre but I can’t see it getting too much bigger or too much more varied.”

Having so many different games in one company’s portfolio is a difficult thing to manage. More importantly, it’s essential to get the right balance between accessibility and revenue.

“From the get-go, we try to reach the biggest audience possible and one of the biggest factors in our games is that the theme needs to be something that works worldwide,” Laine says.

“So, we’ve been doing games about farming, city building, crafting and streaming. These are all the idle games. We then jumped onto the battle royale train with Battlelands Royale last year.

We try to reach the biggest audience possible and one of the biggest factors is something that works worldwide.
Tatu Laine

“In the new games we’re looking at big themes. Then we will maybe head in a more casual direction with our new titles coming out; something that is easy to get into but something that keeps you around for longer.”

Marketing lessons

With these new releases, Futureplay learned a harsh lesson after blowing its brand marketing budget on a failed influencer campaign. A year on from the release of Battlelands Royale, what has changed? 

“What we have been chatting about lately is that we are going to experiment more on the marketing side,” says Laine.

“I think there is an opportunity for some game companies to opt-out from the mass and as a company do something a bit more interesting in the marketing space, or even try out some weird campaigns.”

Laine adds: “There aren’t many mobile companies that stand out in these terms. There are the likes of Rovio and Supercell which players know and care about but the rest of us the players don't really care about - they only care about the games”

Going forward then, what can we expect from Futureplay in the next 12 months and beyond?

“Something interesting,” teases Laine.

“We just started it. We know the theme and the gameplay. It’s going to be something casual, something we borrowed from somewhere, and some areas where we want to innovate upon.”

When pressed Laine confirms the game is not going to be similar to anything previously released from the studio.

“In terms of gameplay it will be something new,” he confirms.

“We’re somewhere in the casual area but we’re aiming to get it out early next year. Q1 is the goal. It’s going to be great.”

Futureplay is currently recruiting for a new developer and game designer. You can head to the company’s website for further details.

We previously spoke to Futureplay's Chris Wilson on going from food apps to marketing manager as part of our Jobs in Games series.

Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is a freelance writer from Yorkshire, who's work has been published for Tech Radar, Nintendo Life, Kotaku UK and more. He regularly attends Smash Bros. tournaments, while trying to keep up-to-date on everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes. You can find him on Twitter @Forde999.

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