Space Ape Games' massively popular BeatStar game, which launched in 2021, has since gone on to be played by over 55 million people and grossed over $120 million. Making it “the most successful music game today, thanks to deep partnerships with the music industry”, according to Space Ape Games Co-founder Simon Hade.
To follow on from the success of BeatStar, Space Ape Games is creating a spin-off with a core focus around one genre - enter Country Star! It's the studio's seveth global game release and with 50 million people listening to country music every month, the genre is a prime target for engaging with a new and passionate audience.
We spoke with Space Ape Games co-founder Simon Hade to discuss the upcoming release of Country Star and the lessons learnt since the hit series' inception.
Pocketgamer.biz: Tell us about Country Star and what's new in the world of Beatstar?
Simon Hade: Country Star is a spin off from Beatstar specifically catering to country music fans. Beatstar is fundamentally a cross genre experience, and it works well for people who love music rhythm games, and all kinds of popular music. But as the product has matured, we’ve found that this huge selling point of the game for many people is a turn off for some. If you hate a specific style of music, then it’s not fun to have to play that song over again to compete in events and no music is quite as polarising as Country Music globally.
We tried to integrate the genre into Beatstar a few times, but it felt forced. It’s also such a huge opportunity as country music fans are more passionate, more engaged and otherwise engage with games in a similar way to non-country fans. So we decided to make a version of Beatstar specifically for them.
So it's Beatstar goes Country?
Obviously, the music is all new, but we also have a bunch of changes that make the game more authentic for country music fans. In Beatstar, the song is the hero of the game. Everything in the UI and progression revolves around the songs. In Country Star, the artists are front and centre.
We have multiple songs from many artists so people can discover new music and then play more from the artists and the UI focuses on the artist's brand. The gameplay has also been tweaked to lean into the guitar metaphor more. Beatstar gameplay is abstract because it needs to cater for such a diverse range of styles from hip hop to EDM, but country music is more consistently guitar focused, so in Country Star, you really feel like you are playing along with the guitar, and then when the fiddle solo starts in Devil Went Down to Georgia you really feel like you are Johnny resin-ing up your bow.
Otherwise, Country Star follows a pattern that will be familiar to Beatstar fans. All of the events and features from Beatstar are there from day one, so in a sense Country Star benefits from several years of live ops R&D right out of the gate.
What are your goals for this title?
One thing that's new to Country Star is the level of artist engagement. Because we are leaning in more toward the artist brand in the game with Country Star, this has unlocked some really interesting collaborations. We’ve done lots of partnerships with mega artists like Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Linkin Park etc on Beatstar but are going to take this to a whole new level with Country Star.
Live touring and fan engagement is such an important part of country music this lends itself nicely to in game event integrations.
Beatstar is already the most successful music game on mobile, but we believe through a slate approach, we can make it an enduring franchise that people will talk about for decades to come. Country Star helps achieve this by catering to a massive audience that has been relatively overlooked from a gaming perspective. There certainly has never been a country music game before so that alone will be a big deal.
Do you have any tracks you can reveal with us?
Here's a list of some of the artists already signed for Country Star. We still have a bunch of huge songs approved but not yet added on our current test build.
Is there anything additional that you are excited about and we should be on the lookout for?
We’re also very excited about using our platform to break new artists. In Country Star, you’ll see a higher proportion of new, unsigned and emerging artists who are defining the next generation of country music fans. These artists are reaching audiences through social media blending genres in a way that means they don’t easily fit on country music radio (which is still an important part of country music), and we want to be part of that movement. So as part of our launch, you will see us really shine a spotlight on those new artists.