Developer Spotlight: Get Set Games, December 2012

Developer Stories

December 27, 2012


min read

Last month saw Breaktime Studios step up to the plate after Kiloo Games kicked things off in October. Rounding out 2012 with yet another stellar developer partner is Get Set Games, the maker of the fantastically addictive “Mega” series and one of the best licensed games we’ve seen on the App Store with Monsters, Inc. Run.

We’ve once again partnered with to shed a bit more light on our Developer Spotlight. They sat down with Nick Coombe, co-founder of Get Set Games to discuss their partnership with Disney, why they love Chartboost and quite a bit more.

Question: Get Set has always been a fairly indie-minded studio so what was your first reaction when Disney approached you?

Nick Coombe, Co-Founder, Get Set Games: Our goal has always been to make the games that we want to make, and to grow carefully and steadily building up our own IP. Mega Run, Mega Jump and our little red hero Redford are strong games and characters that we want to build on, and we had, and have exciting new plans for those games. That was our roadmap, alongside plans for other new projects, just after we launched Mega Run at the end of May.

The Disney Pixar proposal came out of the blue and caught us by surprise in the summer after we?d launched our first update for Mega Run.

There are so many horror stories about little guys working with big companies that it did give us pause. On the other hand Keith and Natalya at Imangi had a good experience working with Disney, and Temple Run: Brave did (and is still doing) very well for them. Disney also has a very successful track record on the App Store, so we knew we?d learn a lot from the collaboration.

Secondly, we?d be using Mega Run as the base for Monsters, Inc. Run, so that was a known quantity. If the proposal had been to create a brand new game, the decision would have been much harder. We figured the tie-in could also only help get more visibility for Mega Run in the long run, as it were, so that would be a good thing.

Third, the game was targeted for release around the launch of Monsters, Inc. 3D, so that meant an 8 week (at the time) dev cycle! It seemed slightly insane to try and produce a Disney/Pixar quality game under that pressure, but at the same time it meant we weren?t looking at carving half a year out of our in-house dev time. If the project didn?t work out, we wouldn?t have lost too much time.

The last hurdle really was in finding out how the partnership would work. As it turned out Disney was straightforward and put us very much on an equal footing with them for the development of the project, even to the extent of giving us the lead on how the game was designed and developed. Disney put their trust in our ability to execute on the project and make the core decisions on gameplay, features and design, so we felt ownership of the project, which was crucial for us. Bart Decrem and Ed Baraf at Disney really helped seal the deal because it was clear that they were excited about the project and that they trusted us to be able to do a good job with the game, which I think we did, judging by the reviews for Monsters, Inc. Run.

Given your success with Mega Jump and Mega Run, what’s the reason to work with a company like Disney? Is it just the cash?

As much as we all love Monsters, Inc. and Pixar in general (we?re all big fans of the studio), and the idea of working on a game based on the movie was really exciting to us, we were hesitant at first. Like many indie companies that have done well, we?ve had pressure to sell the company, or work with publishers and what have you. We?ve always turned down those offers because, as lucrative as they might have been in the short term, they were counter to our goal of owning our work and our future. When the Disney offer came along, we discussed the pros and cons as a team, and debated about whether it would be good for us and our other projects ? after all, this would be an outside company telling us what to do and how to do it. Or so we might have thought.

As we learned more about the proposal, and the fact that this would be a partnership, not a white-label deal, and that we would be able to design the game as we saw fit, and that the guys at Disney Mobile were just as passionate (and nerdy) about games as we are, then the equation changed.

One draw was the fact that, as a small company in equal partnership with Disney for this project, we knew that this would help shine a spotlight on us and get visibility for our own games, and that could only be a good thing. That was predicated on making a good game, however, and we wouldn?t be satisfied with just creating a phoned-in movie-licensed game, so our highest priority was to make the best game we could in the time we had. If people liked it, it would help our other games as well, and I think we achieved that.

Yes, the potential revenue was good (although not guaranteed, especially if the game was terrible) ? that shouldn?t to be discounted, but we?re quite comfortable as it is with our own games. The biggest benefit for us in the long term was that we knew we would learn a huge amount from the partnership and the process. Disney Mobile has had a string of hit games with Where?s My Water, Where?s My Perry, Tap Tap Revenge (with Tapulous), Temple Run: Brave etc. They know what they?re doing, and we still have a lot to learn in terms of process, production, promotion, you name it. And learn we did.

Creating Monsters, Inc. Run was a formative experience for us. It validated a lot of what we?ve learned over the past year working on Mega Run, and it taught us a lot about scheduling, quality control and teamwork that will prove to be invaluable in future. Mostly though, it proved to us as a team of 10 that we could turn around a project we could be proud of in 10 weeks with minimal changes to our original plan. That was a big success for us.

Get Set has always been quick to experiment with business models - F2P, Kiip, Chartboost etc so what’s your current thinking about how small studios can monetise best across iOS and Android?

The market is always changing, so there?s never one surefire way to make money on the app store. That being said, it looks like free to play is here to stay (and that?s all I have to…say?). This is especially true on Android, where paid games tend to suffer. We actually can?t say enough good things about the reach and inclusivity that free to play brings.

Paid games have a place ? it?s how games have always been sold until now, and should be an option even for smaller devs, although it is a tougher market to crack when you?re just starting out. There?s also an element of prestige that goes along with paid games (even at 99c or 69p!), that free games somehow lose out on. We?re excited to have created a paid game in the form of Monsters, Inc. Run; we think it?s appropriate and that the game can compete with the other big games on the paid charts since Monsters, Inc. Run features well-loved characters and is based on a well-loved game, so people know it?ll be a good purchase.

Here?s where I come out swinging for the free to play option though: paid games are a gamble for players. They are like an exclusive club with an entrance fee, and a lot of people aren?t willing to take the risk to get in, which is understandable. Free games, on the other hand, have to live or die on their own merits, since players can figuratively walk away. There?s no barrier to entry, which also means free to play games are more inclusive, and can reach far, far more people. I think it?s important to emphasize the positives of free games for small devs, because the reach can be so crucial, especially when you?re just starting out, and if you do it the right way.

We love the fact that kids who have run out of pocket money (or are saving it for something else) can still download and play our games, and we don?t care if they don?t pay a penny. If players like our games, they?ll tell a friend or two and we?ll reach more people and make more people happy, and in the end we?ll generate more revenue that way and grow a huge and happy fan base to boot. Like most free to play games, a tiny fraction of players actually pay any money for, or in, our games. And that?s fine.

What it means though, is that we can?t aggressively promote our games by throwing money around. There?s no ad budget for free to play when it costs more to get a player to download your game than you?ll ever make back from them. Networks like Chartboost have been invaluable for us in that regard. Using Chartboost we?ve been able to cross-promote with other partners via click-exchange, essentially, and reach huge numbers of people via a quid-pro-quo arrangement with developers we work well with. Chartboost also generates healthy revenue for us via interstitials that we run (very minimally) in our games.

We also run opt-in video ads from Flurry, Ad Colony and Vungle that work well for us. The nice thing about those is that players never have to see them unless they choose to, but they still generate good revenue, so everybody?s happy.

Kiip has been great for the feel-good factor, and they?ve run some great competitions (including Guinness Book of Records attempts and some big-prize giveaways), giving out real-world prizes willy-nilly to our players for doing well in the game, which players really seem to like!

We?re always on the look-out for ways to promote our games with a zero dollar budget, and generate revenue in ways that aren?t awful or force the player to pay for things they shouldn?t have to. We could probably make more money by being more aggressive with our IAP or in-game advertising, but we?re gamers and we hate that stuff too, so we try to keep it respectful and appropriate, so that players know that they have a choice and so that the IAP or monetization options don?t get in the way of the game, which always comes first.

How active are you in terms of metrics/analytics and feeding back results into your games?

We do generate a lot of anonymous data from our games, which has been very useful, but to be honest we think we could do more with it. Next year we?re going to be more pro-active with our data to try and improve our games (for instance to see where people are struggling, or what feature players use the most). We?ve already started making changes to our games based on some of the metrics, and to put the focus of new feature updates on to things that players will appreciate the most.

How important is cross promotion between your games and can you pony up any numbers that back up your no-doubt positive general assertions?

Cross promotion is really our best bet as far as free to play goes, and we rely on it along with word of mouth to gain new players. It?s one of the few viable options for small company giving away games for free. We used to cross-promote ?manually? using our home-brewed system for a while, and that worked quite well, but over time we noticed that this upstart company called Chartboost was making a bit of noise among developers we worked with so we looked into it. Hooking in to the Chartboost network has really helped to take a huge amount of the legwork out of the process, which saves us time and money. We don?t have a marketing department. We have one guy, so that really helps. In general, on a weekly basis we send hundreds of thousands of clicks to and from our games via cross promos, so yes, it?s effective!

What are your plans for 2013? Is it time for a new Mega game yet?

Well at least one of our games is getting a little long in the tooth, so we?re about overdue for a jump-start there perhaps. 2012 was a phenomenal year for Get Set, and we think 2013 could be even better, including for Android players, who have been neglected for too long! We?re very excited for what we have planned.