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Why did Ubisoft acquire a developer of narrative-focused vampire romance games?

Charting 1492 Studio's Is It Love? series
Why did Ubisoft acquire a developer of narrative-focused vampire romance games?

Much has been written on these pages about the emerging interactive fiction craze on mobile, but few could have anticipated that it would push Ubisoft in the direction of undead romance.

But with the publishing giant's acquisition of Montpellier-based outfit 1492 Studio, the developer behind the Is It Love? series, this is the surprising reality in which we find ourselves.

So what inspired Ubisoft to put its (undisclosed amount of) cash down for this under-the-radar developer?

With the help of App Annie data, is attempting to find out why.

Bitten smitten

In 1492's flagship Is It Love? series, each entry is named after the subject of the player's romantic pursuit.

These virtual beaus are not all vampires, but players seem to like it when they are. Is It Love? Drogo - Vampire has been one of the studio's most successful games, particularly in the US.

Its current peak in the US iPhone grossing chart was 328th in August last year while the game has consistently ranked within the top 1,000 in 2018 so far. As of March 11th, it ranked at 744th.

Elsewhere, the game has hit the top 10 in 20 countries – including 1492's native France, peaking at ninth in the country's top grossing chart in June 2017.

Most entries in the Is It Love? series have performed markedly better in France than other major Western markets, so it's unsurprising that it was ultimately a French publisher that swooped for 1492.

The power of love

One thing that you can say about the Is It Love? series, particularly in terms of its performance in the US, is that it's consistent.

Is It Love? Gabriel is the only one no longer registering on the US top grossing charts, though it did come out way back in May 2015. And the aforementioned Drogo ranks slightly higher, but the rest tend to rank within a few positions of one another around the 1,000th mark.

Is It Love? Peter - Vampire is one of the better performers in the US, ranking at 809th as of March 11th.

But worldwide, its second most successful market has been France. It peaked at 12th in the country's iPhone grossing charts on January 23rd (with Bolivia the only country in which the game has entered the top 10).

It's been in the top 100 on France's iPhone grossing chart for the majority of 2018 so far, sitting at 46th on March 11th.

Long-term potential

The aforementioned vampire-themed games are two of the newest entries in the Is It Love? series, with Drogo and Peter launching in April and December 2017 respectively.

So their relative success is to be expected. But going further back in the catalogue, there is a longevity that will no doubt have caught Ubisoft's eye.

Is It Love? Matt launched in December 2015. It still performs decently in the US, ranking at 891st in the country's iPhone grossing chart as of March 11th.

But again, it's in France where the game has really excelled, placing inside the top 20 on France's iPhone grossing chart as recently as February 21st.

Elsewhere, the game has ranked inside the top 100 in the grossing charts of 76 countries, including Germany, Brazil, South Africa and Spain.

Prime target

All things considered, then, it's not difficult to see why Ubisoft was tempted into taking a punt on 1492 Studio.

There's the obvious geographical aspect, with the developer based in Montpellier where Ubisoft also has a studio. The consistent success of Is It Love? in France would not be lost on the publisher either.

This feeds into a broader point, which is that 1492 provides an entry point for Ubisoft into a bustling interactive fiction market.

And while the price was undisclosed, one would assume that 1492 was relatively affordable compared to some of the bigger-name developers in the space.

The ambition, with the weight of Ubisoft behind it, will be for 1492 to begin replicating its consistent French success in other markets. If it can do so, it will be a force to be reckoned with.