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Mighty Bear Games’ Simon Davis: "Blockchain technology should just exist to amplify the gaming experience"

Mighty Bear Games CEO Simon Davis discusses the untapped gaming potential of the blockchain and the challenges of today's mobile market
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Those working in the mobile gaming industry are all too familiar with today's challenges.

It's an increasingly crowded space in which to find funding and changes to app stores and advertising are making it tough to scale your game. This has left many studios looking at alternate ways to grow their audience, whether from alternate app stores, new marketing methods or by going cross-platform. Some, however, believe that the decentralised space of the blockchain offers the solution to the market's current woes.

We spoke with Mighty Bear Games co-founder and CEO Simon Davis, who ex of King and Ubisoft about the still untapped potential of blockchain gaming and Mighty Bear’s Mighty Action Heroes Web3 title.


Pocketgamer.biz: How Mighty Bear Games get started?

Simon Davis: I have always been into music and studied the subject growing up. However, it is a tough industry to make a living off! I come from a multilingual family, so one summer back in 2004, I applied for a job as a translator to help pay the bills. It transpired that the role had already been filled, but I was offered the opportunity to become a games tester instead - for a Harry Potter title in fact!

What started as an unexpected six-week assignment evolved into two decades of game development experience at AAA gaming studios, including Disney, King, Ubisoft, and EA.

After being presented with the option to relocate to Europe as part of Activision’s acquisition of King Digital Entertainment, my co-founders and I passed on the opportunity, choosing to stay in the exciting southeast Asian region of Singapore instead and develop our vision of “mobile games without compromise”. That’s where the origin story of Mighty Bear Games begins.

We founded the company in Singapore in 2016 as a free-to-play (F2P) studio.

The Mighty Bear Games team banded together to develop games that combined the depth of the desktop with the accessibility of mobile. This subsequently led to the launch of five mobile games across multiple platforms, including desktop and AppleTV: Disney Melee Mania and Butter Royale (exclusive to Apple) and F2P World of Legends, Mighty Pets & Puzzles, and Best Friends Cafe, which all provided fun-loving and engaging gameplay.

By setting out to create games that can be enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and skill levels, Mighty Bear Games began building its stature as a leader in the global gaming industry, pioneering games that are accessible, fun, and immersive. Today, we are closer than ever before to reaching that goal.

What's the biggest challenge for game makers in the current mobile market?

The main challenge is the cost of marketing. Since the removal of IDFA, this has gotten to the point where it’s almost impossible for small and mid-size studios to scale using traditional user acquisition methods.

The result of this is creating a financial arms race between developers to market their games. Marketing has become, by extension, a barrier to entry due to the pure expense of it. This is not only a loss for the independent developers but for the ecosystem as a whole.

“Developers must tap into creative strategies and sometimes that is as simple as throwing everything you had at a wall and hoping something sticks.”
Simon Davis

And are there wasy to combat this situation?

Creativity is always a great place to start. An interesting case study to look at over the last 18 months has been the release of Stumble Guys. Recently acquired by U.S. publisher Scopely and generating IAP earnings of more than $100m, the initial game was created by five guys with a pretty limited budget - and what they have gone on to achieve is really encouraging to see.

Rather than investing heavily into traditional marketing, they had a look of success with YouTubers in non-traditional target markets, demonstrating its value and playability in real time. With the invention of influencer marketing and community-driven initiatives, the old marketing playbooks no longer work. Developers must tap into creative strategies and sometimes that is as simple as throwing everything you had at a wall and hoping something sticks. As juvenile as it may sound to some, it’s worked for us so far.

What would you suggest as a good starting point if you’re developing a game with decentralised aspects?

Pick a community you want to join, buy an NFT, and join the Discord. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to integrating yourself into a community - but this is the best I’ve found. I would say what I have found beneficial is learning to watch, listen, and sometimes, to even be wrong.

Building relationships within the community from the ground up is always an intuitive and organic way to learn the ropes for any Web3 curious builders. Figure out where the friction points are for the audience you want to play your game. Invest the time in seeing their perspective, and start from there. It’s also helpful to find out what you are interested in as a developer. See what they’re interested in, learn to code, and start from there.

I call this “co-learning”, and it has been a really successful strategy for us at Mighty Bear Games. While it may well be a pretty frustrating journey at the start, keep your end goal in mind and you will eventually get there.

Your game Mighty Action Heroes switched to using the Arbitrum blockchain and enters open beta soon, what can you tell us about it?

The release of the open beta of Mighty Action Heroes marks the first time that anyone can play our first Web3 native game and it’s something that we’re really excited about. Mighty Action Heroes (MAH) is a real-time, multiplayer, third-person, battle royale style game that rewards players for their skill and mastery of the arena while providing simple Web3 onboarding and a gamified collecting experience powered by NFTs.

Mighty Action Heroes is the studio’s first game that will have a truly community-led development approach. It will also be the first game to ever utilise NFT Heroes - a collection of larger than life, on-chain characters inspired by classic action movies from Hollywood, Bollywood, Hong Kong cinema, and beyond.

Whichever way you choose to play, both traditional gaming audiences and on-chain players can compete together in fair, skill-based matches. To ensure players from all backgrounds are catered for, MAH includes both on-chain and off-chain rewards, and this is why our recent switch to the Arbitrum blockchain was so important.

Our switch to Arbitrum provided an invaluable opportunity for us to work alongside a thriving ecosystem of passionate gamers to amplify MAH’s impact. Ultimately, as a player-first studio, our main goal is to build an enjoyable game that is accessible to everyone - this is then augmented by a thriving community and a sustainable economy. Arbitrum is the perfect home for MAH and aligns with this core vision.

What are your hopes going forward for Mighty Bear Games? Do you have any other projects coming up?

Mighty Action Heroes is the first instalment in a series of games that we are calling the MightyNet. All the games in this series will enhance immersion with Web3 ownership and encourage connections between players near and far. Players can congregate to exchange value on the MightyNet platform or share their respective experiences with each other, creating a truly community-led economy for our Mighty Bear Games community.

“I think of blockchain in the same way that I do the plumbing in my house. At the end of the day, it’s just an infrastructure layer.”
Simon Davis

Underpinning an authentic sense of community with inclusive titles and top-quality gameplay is critical for the success of decentralised gaming and is a foundation on which Mighty Bear Games was built. More news regarding the MightyNet is coming, so stay tuned.

And what about blockchain in general? Where do you see it heading in the coming years?

I think of blockchain in the same way that I do the plumbing in my house. At the end of the day, it’s just an infrastructure layer. Gamers really shouldn’t have to think about it. Blockchain technology should just exist to amplify the gaming experience.

In the future, the more we see institutions and gaming studios adopt blockchain in their building process, the technology will reach a level of ubiquity that will mean we no longer have to speculate about its future. In the same way, we don’t theorise about the future of the internet, blockchain technology will just exist and serve our everyday needs as it is supposed to.