Nemanja Divjak, one of the co-founders of Tummy Games, the studio behind Tummy Slide, spoke to PocketGamer.biz about the company's approach to designing and developing hypercasual games, its relationship with Voodoo, and plans for the future.
PocketGamer.biz: How did Tummy Games first get started?
Nemanja Divjak: The founders of Tummy Games met for the first time in 2013, all sharing a major passion for games. When we first met we were all busy with other projects but knew we wanted to translate our shared passion for games into something bigger.
After a few years had passed with this idea smouldering away inside us, we finally found the opportunity to work together in 2016, where we began working on mobile games as Tummy Games.
Our very first game was Tummy Slide, which was a major learning experience. Over the course of two years developing the title really showed us what we were doing right and doing wrong.
At the end of development and after release, we felt the game didn’t really achieve what we had initially wanted, so we reorganised our approach towards creating simpler titles with more straightforward design executions.
What drew you to developing hypercasual games?
After the release of Tummy Slide, we realised we needed a faster turnaround. Simplicity and fast ideation were extremely attractive, and the rapid development process allowed us to quickly nail down a good concept.
Even better was the ability to easily digest the data that was coming in after only a few weeks, which enabled us to identify what worked and what didn’t, but most importantly if a game concept had the right tools to succeed.
It was hard to ignore the success of hypercasual, and its growth was perfectly timed for where we were as a young studioNemanja Divjak
It was hard to ignore the success of hypercasual, and its growth was perfectly timed for where we were as a young studio in 2016, so we knew it was the right path to go down.
How did your partnership with Voodoo first begin?
We spent a lot of time reaching out to publishers; over forty in total. But it can be hard to get noticed in such a competitive industry, so very few came back to us.
Voodoo was one of the publishers that did, and luckily it was the one we liked the most.
As a fairly new studio, we took the time to think about the benefits of working with a publisher and whether it suited Tummy Games as a whole. It can be a big jump for a small team to make that shift, but we soon realised we had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
That attitude really paid off with Voodoo, and we soon saw the results play out when we kicked off our collaboration.
What support has Voodoo offered when it comes to developing your games?
From the beginning, Voodoo organised weekly calls where we would catch up with publishing managers to discuss the status of our projects, but primarily as a means for ideation. That was something that helped a great deal, and also gave us extremely valuable insight into the results of game testing.
We were operating as an outsourcing development company in the beginning, but from 2018 onwards Voodoo offered us financial support for prototyping.
This was a game-changer for us, as we could focus entirely upon developing our own internal games, which shifted our outlook as a studio.
How has Voodoo helped grow your business overall?
Looking back only three years ago, we had a rough idea of how the gaming market worked and were taking uncertain steps forward with our identity as a game studio. Since working with Voodoo, we have four hit games and five to six independent revenue streams, and close to 80 million players across our portfolio.
Since working with Voodoo, we have four hit games and five to six independent revenue streams, and close to 80 million players across our portfolio.Nemanja Divjak
With Voodoo we quickly learned how to rapidly develop and test our games, how to grow our teams sustainably, and to really identify what works.
Even beyond that, it taught us how to engage and work with publishers, marketing companies and monetisation platforms, which really extended our scope as a studio. Voodoo helped us become what we are today, and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity and support they provided.
What do you think is the key to making a successful hypercasual game?
A significant volume of ideas and knowing when to kill a game are both vital elements of developing in hypercasual. Over the last three years we have worked with between 50 to 60 game ideas, with some making it to the testing stage and others not. In that process, we have been able to identify patterns that help guide us on how much work it takes to find a hit title.
For example, it took 11 game ideas before we found our first hit, while the next only took three. Then we worked through 15 prototypes before we found the next hit, and recently it was 25 prototypes before we landed on our latest big success.
What this shows is that it's never going to be a consistent path for everyone and making a hit game takes time. It's not just performing lots of prototype tests, you also need to follow and understand the market, in a way that allows you to create something new, something fresh.
See what trends are gaining traction on social media or in the news, and think about ways you can gamify that - before someone else does.
After a while, you start to develop an extremely useful sense for when you are working on a successful game. Our latest hit, Slice It All!, was one such example. We knew we were onto something as soon as we all sat down to play it for the first time.
How important is testing to ensuring your game will be a success?
Testing is harsh but completely vital. Yes, it can be hard to see bad numbers, particularly when you’re passionate about a concept but, as they say, the numbers don’t lie.
Without testing, you are going into your game launch blind, and that can easily lead to huge errors that could have been simply resolved if you had taken the time to stress test your prototype.
Without testing, you are going into your game launch blind, and that can easily lead to huge errors...Nemanja Divjak
It's been another important piece of learning we’ve been able to unlock working with Voodoo; you need to test, test and test again.
What are your goals as a developer for the next 12 months?
We’re extremely focused on continuing to build up our two to three internal teams, who will be focused on developing new game ideas and landing another big hit with Voodoo.
We’ve also been using the time to plan ahead and test out new ideas. For example, we're looking at self-publishing casual games, thanks to the lessons we’ve learned from Voodoo. We're also working on titles for Apple Arcade. Our second Apple Arcade title is soon to launch and we’re really excited to see how players engage with it.
It's a really exciting time for us, and we’re storming ahead with all the tips and tricks we’ve learned over the past few years.
We’re anticipating that 2022 will be a great year for Tummy Games, and we’re sure you’ll be seeing us on the app charts again soon.