Mobile games are a perfect place to begin a franchise, argued Matt McMahon, VP of Business Development at Helsinki developer Seriously, which operates Best Fiends, a match-three puzzle game.
McMahon was giving a talk at Pocket Gamer Connect San Francisco 2015 on how to build a brand from scratch.
He started by stating Seriously's goal of becoming the "Pixar of mobile."
In McMahon's eyes, mobile can attract the best creative talent and can reach all areas of the world as well as, if not better than, any traditional media.
For this reason, Best Fiends was developed with a "franchise first" approach.
When McMahon met with the company's founding members, they explained their long term goal of building a franchise that would live across multiple game titles and ideally permeate through culture.
In this way, McMahon explained that they had to "...build the world before the game".
Key to that process is using the four Cs of storytelling: Character, Context, Conflict, and Comedy.
This was achieved by creating the world in which Best Fiends takes place, building the conflict of the Fiends versus the Slugs, and establishing character sheets of all the Fiends.
Best Fiends was developed with a "franchise first" approach.
It was a holistic approach, and the game's artists were key in helping communicate this world to audiences around the world.
Another aspect in building a brand from scratch was to focus on social engagement in meaningful ways.
McMahon stated that, "...we take it seriously, because we can reach out and touch folks."
So making sure your social interactions with your audience are meaningful is critical. He also argued that it is important to treat Facebook as more than just customer support.
As an example, Seriously uses Facebook as a means for the games audience to vote on the next quest. In the end, this small social campaign netted 30,000 votes and comments.
After those initial steps, the next big focus is partnerships.
Branding opportunities, as stated in many other talks at the convention, can be huge for the success of your game.
In the case of Best Fiends, McMahon worked with YouTube personalities like PewDiePie to generate installs, but he also mentioned that this kind of content, "...lives forever and has a halo effect."
Seriously also found a great opportunity to work with the charity Malaria No More in a character cross-promotion as their game features a mosquito who is ashamed of his blood-sucking habits.
Finally, McMahon had a Kidrobot box containing a newly released Best Fiends product line.
This kind of partnership has McMahon excited as Kidrobot is a high profile toy manufacturer and this brings an incredible amount of authenticity to the game IP. Because of Kidrobot's status it is also a way of keeping Seriously honest in its decisions, McMahon said.
Of course, this sounds great, but what are the hard numbers this approach has generated?
Team-wise, the original team of 11 people is now 23, while Best Fiends has received 14 million downloads and has 1-1.3 million active daily players and around 5 million on a monthly basis.
IP development time was between 18 months and 2 years, with the game was developed over 8 months, which was funded with a seed round of $1 million.
As for what's next, McMahon is currently working on two merchandising deals - Kidrobot being one with the another unannounced - as a way to solidify the IP.
However McMahon argues that the games will be the platform for debuting larger pieces of media that will help drive forward the narrative of the Best Fiends' world.