Develop Liverpool: Why Orange made an iPhone game, and what it learned in the process

Changing corporate culture

Develop Liverpool: Why Orange made an iPhone game, and what it learned in the process
In an entertaining talk entitled Developing a games culture in the corporate world, Ashraf Hegab from Orange's content labs spoke about why the telecoms giant developed Lambi Island, a free iPhone game.

And how it was hoping to interact with the mobile games industry in future.

"Why should an operator make games? That's what my bosses ask me. It's a hard question to answer," said Hegab, who previously work at Codemasters' Birmingham studio on consoles games before joining Orange.

"Of course, operators shouldn't make games, but we want our customers to have an enjoyable experience.

"We want our customers to have a more connected experience. We have a lot of customers, and we want to make our customers happy."

"We want to use games to make the services we offer our customers better."

Island from the ground up

As for Lambi Island, the ChuChu Rocket-style puzzle game actually started out as a ball-based physics game. Prototyping resulted in a switch to more colourful and cute characters however.

"The marketing director went on holiday. When he came back, we'd changed the game. The first thing he said in our progress meeting was 'I really liked the balls'," Hegab recalled.

And more widely, one of the key results of making the game was mixing the creativity required in such a process within the typical straight-laced corporate environment.

"Mixing up corporates and games people creates new type of challenges," Hegab said.

"We found that the strange noises made when you're making games created a buzz around the office. People outside of the group got interested in what we were doing. It improved office communications."

The future's Orange

Prototyping took around a month, with the content team building its own engine and tools rather than using off-the-shelf software such as Unity in order to understand the issues involved with developing from scratch.

It did use the OpenFeint gaming platform to explore social features, but aside from setting up a Facebook page and sending out a press release, the game wasn't officially marketed to the 500,000 Orange customers who have an iPhone or an iPad, let alone beyond.

"We put a link to the game on the Orange UK portal, and we're planning SMS campaign for the update," Hegab said.

Download figures haven't been announced, but the project has been successful enough that a localised French version will be released, and Ovi and Window Phone 7 releases are also planned.

"It can be hard to mix up games with the corporate culture, but I'm trying to tell Orange that gaming is the future, and I'm also keen to work with industry.

"We're looking for innovative companies to work with in terms of showing what games can be," Hegab ended. "Get in touch."

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.