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Why Windows Phone was the best launch platform for racer Perfect Shift

Lextre CEO highlights the benefits of developing for Windows Phone
Why Windows Phone was the best launch platform for racer Perfect Shift

A rumbling schism cleaves the mobile platform camp in two.

On one side sits iOS and the other Android, but Windows Phone has been trying increasingly hard to occupy the unstable ground between the two.

While its rivals eat the lion's share of the global market, it's been pointed out that 24 countries worldwide are selling more Windows devices than they are iPhones.

In the race to dominate established userbases, the emerging markets have been forgotten - and Windows Phone is picking up the pieces.

Having formerly worked on Cut the Rope at ZeptoLab, Viktoria Pavlova is now CEO of London-based game studio Lextre.

Lextre decided to launch their company's debut IP, Perfect Shift, exclusively on Windows Phone, and in two months it raked in two million downloads - something that's provided a foundation for its late 2014 release on iOS and Android. 

We sat down with Pavlova to find out what prompted that strategy, and how Lextre has found such success. Why did your studio decide to publish on Windows Phone?

Viktoria Pavlova: As Perfect Shift is our first game to market, we were always very aware of the huge value of the feedback we would get from interacting with a smaller, yet more engaged, pool of gamers on Windows Phone.

“Windows Phone gave Perfect Shift much greater visibility at launch.”
Viktoria Pavlova

Consequently, we were able to build an even better experience for the gamer and better understand retention mechanisms and how to keep them entertained when playing.

With the amazing feedback we received from our gaming community on Windows Phone, we were able to make Perfect Shift into a slick game which works well on any device.

In contrast, due to the relative sizes of the platforms, most developers decide to launch to the widest target audience first, that is, for iOS, Android, or both, and then simply re-skin and port the game for Windows Phone.

As a result, new developers can often struggle to break through on these bigger platforms, while Windows Phone users suffer from a lack of good quality content.

That’s why we built a brand new 3D engine for Perfect Shift, so that it makes the most of every Windows Phone device. This ensured we gave Windows Phone players the best experience possible, before expanding and launching the game on Android and iOS.

What are the benefits of developing a game for Windows Phone?

I firmly believe that developers who decide to properly go after the Windows Phone market will find themselves with a very engaged audience.

Great games like Perfect Shift breaking through on the platform demonstrate that games made specifically for Windows Phone can benefit not only from greater visibility amongst users, but also from in-depth feedback that those users are happy to provide.

“We launched Perfect Shift as a Windows Phone exclusive and achieved over 2 million downloads in 2 months.”
Viktoria Pavlova

This means that developers can then take this feedback on board and use it to make the game even better and continue to improve over time.

Kabam recently abandoned its Windows Phone game development plans after just one game – how would you respond to some people's suggestion that Windows Phone is a dead end?

We launched Perfect Shift as a Windows Phone exclusive and achieved over 2 million downloads in just 2 months, showing that there’s a huge demand for great games which make full use of Windows Phone devices.

Additionally, Windows Phone gave Perfect Shift much greater visibility at launch.

After all, there are thousands of decent games floating undiscovered on the App Store and Google Play which will never be seen or appreciated. Finally, with new and exciting Windows Phone devices being released all the time, the platform’s power and diversity will only grow in the coming years, and I hope that it will continue to grow from strength to strength.

Where do you think Windows Phone went wrong in failing to score widespread popularity?

When looking at the popularity of the platform, the picture is very different depending on which countries and regions you are looking at. However, you are right that it is a solid third place in most parts of the world.

So as long as Microsoft continues its good partnership schemes with developers, I see no reason why it can’t be a really great platform, particularly for game developers who want to be bolder and more experimental.

This will only get more exciting as Windows 10 is rolled out in the near future, opening up brand new possibilities for developers and companies that want to work with the platform.

You worked on Cut the Rope in your previous role at Zeptoplab, which enjoyed over 600 million downloads – what would have happened if you’d have published it on Windows Phone first?

Ultimately, it’s a very difficult comparison to make. Cut the Rope first launched four years ago when the smartphone market was in a very different state.

One strategy does not fit all, and it ultimately comes down to understanding your audience and knowing what is the best approach for that specific game at the right point in time.

In this instance we saw an opportunity to launch Perfect Shift, a great looking game, on Windows Phone first before launching on other platforms.

What did you learn through publishing on Windows Phone? Will you be doing more games in the future on the platform?

We’ve learnt so much during the development process, in part thanks to Microsoft who have been very supportive, but also from the feedback we’ve had from our loyal players.

So far, we’ve seen great success on Windows Phone with Perfect Shift, so naturally we will be looking at the platform closely for other projects in the future.