Interview

Why Playrix producer Alexander Vedeneev believes Gardenscapes is more than "just a Candy Crush clone"

Why Playrix producer Alexander Vedeneev believes Gardenscapes is more than "just a Candy Crush clone"

It is often said that nothing is truly finished and it's a saying the games industry has taken to heart in recent times.

Long gone are the days of developing and publishing a game without the need to tweak, adjust and patch it after launch, with new titles requiring constant operation and updates to keep them at the forefront of consumer thought.

Here at PocketGamer.biz we want to take the opportunity to highlight games that have bucked the trend and found an audience that has kept them thriving long after launch.

In this entry of our Live and Kicking series, we spoke with Playrix producer Alexander Vedeneev regarding the four-year lifespan of free-to-play puzzler Gardenscapes.

PocketGamer.biz: With Gardenscapes now more than four-years-old, how do you reflect on its performance as a series - from launch to the title it is now?

Alexander Vedeneev: The game showed amazing results right when it was soft-launched in 2016, and its performance has been steadily growing ever since. There was a period when it seemed stuck in place, but we kept coming up with new ideas on how to improve the game and we pulled through. It's great to know that we were able to create an interesting game that has a lot of fans and keeps getting better and better.

There was a period when it seemed stuck in place, but we kept coming up with new ideas on how to improve the game and we pulled through.
Alexander Vedeneev

How big is the team currently handling live ops?

The team has really grown in the last four years. It’s currently divided into mini-teams that work on different aspects of the game. We have people who work on the garden and storyline, a match-three team that makes new levels and elements, and a team that works on events and new features to improve the game. Altogether, we have nearly 200 people working on it.

How important do you consider customer support and updates to be? What has been your approach to this?

Our player support team plays a very important role. They help our players solve technical issues they encounter and also collect feedback. This gives us a deeper insight into how players feel about the changes we make and the new features we implement. Players share often interesting ideas with our support team, which we then use for further improvements.

Updates are a vital part of any mobile game out there today. We release them on a regular basis. Each update continues the game's storyline and features new and exciting events. We start working on each update long before it sees the light of day and it goes through many development stages to ensure our players get top-quality content.

How do you balance in-game advertisements so it doesn't affect the player's overall experience?

We currently don’t have any ads in the game at all. We’ve tested out a few things but we weren’t able to find an approach that worked for us. The game does very well through in-game purchases, so we've decided to focus on that type of monetisation for the foreseeable future.

Playrix has a daily active user base of 11 million people.

What steps have you taken to ensure that Gardenscapes maintains a sizable and active player base all this time after its launch?

We're always striving to improve the game and constantly provide our players with new content. We’re constantly working on the main storyline and continue to add new levels and elements to the game and new areas to the garden. We come up with new events and try to make use of innovative and interesting ideas. And all our hard work has been well received by our players. Many of them discovered the game two to three years ago and are still playing.

They've become invested in the storyline and enjoy the new events. There are a large number of awesome games on the market at the moment, and players are always looking for new content. It’s our job to do everything we can to make sure our players get enough interesting content through our game and want to keep playing.

What separates Gardenscapes from the numerous match-three puzzle games on the market today?

Above all, I would say the game's vibe and well-developed storyline set it apart. They’re what made the game stand out four years ago. Quality also plays an important role and it's something the company has always been focused on. I think it's a combination of our top-quality content, attention to detail, and our desire to create an appealing game universe that made such an atmospheric and fun game possible. Gardenscapes is a living entity and we try to make it as exciting as we possibly can.

Several reviews of the game on the App Store state that Gardenscapes is "just a Candy Crush clone with a garden add-on". How do you feel about this comparison?

Actually, we see more and more people calling other games clones of ours. We must be doing something right if our games are being copied. It means we’ve created something unique.

We must be doing something right if our games are being copied. It means we’ve created something unique.
Alexander Vedeneev

To what do you attribute Gardenscape's consistently impressive grossing performance, and how do you sustain it?

We've always had a firm belief that we should never stop developing the game and that players should get new content regularly. It keeps them interested and attracts new people into the fold. For us, it’s a never-ending search for new ideas and constant hard work on new updates.

We add something new to the game every month and at the same time try to preserve that special something that got players so hooked in the first place.

Can you tell us how you have approached the game under the current pandemic? Any changes you have put in place?

The company has always been great at working remotely. Our team is dispersed across many countries. The pandemic hasn’t particularly affected our team in the day-to-day. We’ve just kept working as we always have.

What would you consider Gardenscape's biggest achievement in since launch?

I’d like to believe the game’s biggest achievement is still somewhere down the road.

Any KPIs such as downloads, DAU or retention you’re willing to share?

Over 11 million people play Gardenscapes every day.

What lessons have you learned/are you still learning from Gardenscapes? Is there anything about the game that, in hindsight, you'd now handle differently?

When making a game you should always be mindful of the people who are going to play it. Players can feel when that’s not the case and d if you manage to create a game that players love, you can't give up on it. You should look for ways to make it even better and keep surprising the players with something new.

Finally, how has your experience with Gardenscapes informed where you are/what you're working on now?

Our experience with Gardenscapes taught us how to make a high-quality, successful game and then allowed us to use that formula to make an even more successful one: Homescapes. The success of those games has boosted our company’s growth and has given us invaluable experience that we now apply to working on new projects.

Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is the staff writer for PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @Forde999 talking about Smash Bros. and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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