Outfit7's Talking Tom and Friends franchise is a global sensation, with over 12 billion game downloads worldwide. That includes one of the franchise's most recent games, Talking Tom Hero Dash, which is fast approaching its first birthday and has just introduced a new Hyperboard gadget that's set to level up the whole game.
To find out more about the success of Talking Tom Hero Dash and the recent update, we spoke to Outfit7's Senior VP of Product Development, Ante Odić, about how the studio approaches new updates, all while keeping Talking Tom Hero Dash's vision in mind, and what lessons the developer has learned from running live-ops on the game.
PocketGamer.biz: Talking Tom Hero Dash is approaching its first birthday. How happy are you with its performance from when you first launched it to today?
Ante Odić: We’re very happy with the performance of Talking Tom Hero Dash! The idea behind the game was to launch a fun endless runner with a superhero twist. We hoped that seeing their favorite characters transformed into superheroes would delight our existing users, and introduce new players to the fun of the franchise. And it worked!
We always want to make sure each game is the best it can be. So, with updates, we try to follow the vision of the game and improve it even further, and add even more exciting features, outfits, and more for users to enjoy.
How big is the team currently doing live-ops and updates on the game?
We have around 10 to 15 superheroes working directly on Talking Tom Hero Dash. Some are dedicated solely to the project, while others help out from time to time.
But that’s just the direct hands-on work. The whole team at Outfit7 has a part to play in the creation of every game – Talking Tom Hero Dash included. There are brainstorm sessions where we bounce ideas off each other, gaming sessions where people play and give feedback. Everyone contributes! And everyone is really proud of each and every game we release.
What's your approach to customer support and how important do you think it is to growing the game?
Our users are the most important thing to us. We want them to have the best experience with our games, so customer support is really important. We take it very seriously.
We make ourselves available to our users to answer any of their concerns or questions about the games. All user comments, whether they come via customer support or as a result of user tests that we conduct while developing new features, are really helpful to us.
The purpose of the game from the start was to make our users feel like superheroes. We want to give them that super experience, so we try to build on that with every update.Ante Odić
We’re testing different tools and platforms to better serve our customers, as well as testing in-game integrations that will help us answer questions even faster.
Other than looking after customers and updating the game, is there anything else that you're doing to maintain the active player base?
It’s all about the content in the updates and what users experience throughout the game. We’ve always got our users in mind! We’re adding new worlds to the game, where users can play through new environments and mechanics. This gives our users something to strive for and also rewards their gameplay with progression and whole new experiences.
The ability to unlock new characters and outfits also keeps players engaged and incentivised, as there's greater possibility for customization and variety. It's a great draw for players that like the visual diversity of their heroes.
In addition to the usual environment and goals, we’re frequently adding new live events that act as a new and exciting way for players to get rewards and content. These focused quests for the characters are a great novelty for our users. And they make the game feel more real and responsive as they’re often thematically connected to the seasons or important holidays.
And, of course, there are the gadgets! Every superhero needs them and for our users they really open new dimensions of gameplay. Each gadget brings something new to our players and they are something to look forward to in the game.
For this latest update, you're changing up how gadgets work - how do you think that's going to impact how people interact with the game?
The purpose of the game from the start was to make our users feel like superheroes. We want to give them that super experience, so we try to build on that with every update.
The gadgets are changing insofar as they now boost the whole superhero experience, rather than just acting as a quick power-up. Players can now select a gadget (that literally falls from the sky) while running in the game and then they are instantly transported to a completely new level; the specific design and mechanics of which depend on the gadget. This new approach helps immerse the users in the game experience, and creates amazing, fun moments. The ability to choose the gadget they want to play with also gives the users more freedom to control gameplay and make the experience more personal.
One of the main focuses of the game is on teamwork and making a positive change in the world. How does that impact the way you approach designing new updates for the game?
The game was created around the idea that friendship is a superpower! And that through teamwork and good values, people can make a real, positive difference in the world. So, with every update, we want to try and boost those feelings for our users.
The game’s vision guides us when we’re developing new features. We don’t just look at the updates from a KPI perspective, but also from a game design and user perspective. The values and vision of the game help us decide how new features should be presented to our users, and how the features might impact gameplay and user progress in the game.
Are there any hints you can give us about future updates that you have planned?
There are lots of exciting things coming down the pipeline. The game will continue to deliver and improve on all the superhero fun our fans have come to love. We’re also going to keep innovating. We have a really mixed audience – all ages and genders – so we want to make sure the game has lots of variety for all types of players.
You can also expect great new live-ops in the future. These fun, time-limited events are going to keep the game fresh for a long time. They boost the game experience, and stay true to the game’s vision, while also allowing us to keep delivering new experiences, from week to week and month to month, for our users.
With live-ops in particular, we’ve quickly learned how much our users love them!Ante Odić
What lessons have you learned from live-ops and keeping the game active? Is there anything about the game that when you first launched you might have handled differently, or something that you focused on when updating the game?
We’ve learned a lot from Talking Tom Hero Dash so far, like we do with every project. With live-ops in particular, we’ve quickly learned how much our users love them! They’ve been very successful. There’s real value in something new happening in the game all the time.
Another thing we’ve learned is how important it is to have a strong vision, and a strong vision leader, on the project. It helps with all the decisions that are made and makes production really smooth and fast.
Is there anything else that you're taking from your experience with Talking Tom Hero Dash, and is it informing the way you're developing new games, or the other games that you're keeping active at the moment?
Yes, definitely! With every game, we see the reaction of our users and we measure metrics, and all of that informs our future decisions. It's not just about that game in particular, but all the other games and projects that we’re working on. This has a couple of knock-on effects.
First of all, it allows us to make certain games quicker and more effectively, as we’re building on existing experience. It also inspires us to try new things and push boundaries to try and improve on things even further.
With Talking Tom Hero Dash, we learned a lot about staying true to a game’s vision, about the excitement of live-ops, and how to create a game that both excites existing users and attracts new users. We’re definitely using all of this knowledge for other new games, both from the distribution perspective and the product and game design side of things. It’s going to be exciting.