How Big Huge Games? Chart-Climbing DomiNations Got Its Start

Developer Stories

August 17, 2015


min read

The following is an excerpt from Chartboost?s quarterly Power-Up Report. This edition focuses on the business of mobile strategy games.In the mobile strategy genre, Clash of Clans remains the undisputed kingpin. But rather than simply emulate the chart topper, Baltimore-based Big Huge Games tried something different with DomiNations?creating a world history-based take on the popular genre.


The 37-person studio?with a team whose impressive pedigree includes seminal PC strategy titles Civilization II and Rise of Nations?teamed up with free-to-play expert Nexon to release DomiNations in April 2015. And they?ve collectively knocked it out of the park: The game accumulated 7.2 million downloads within its first 60 days, has earned glowing reviews and is proving incredibly addicting with both hardcore and casual gamers.Big Huge Games co-founder Tim Train recently walked us through Big Huge Games? transition from PC to mobile, its pairing with Nexon, and DomiNations? journey from prototype to profit-maker.

Entering The Mobile Age

Mobile and PC game development may be worlds apart, but mobile was too big an opportunity?and potential audience?for Big Huge Games to ignore. The studio wanted to share its passion for history (something often seen as a dry topic) with mobile?s large and diverse audience.?We don?t really try to teach facts,? Train says, ?but we do try to convey our love of history, and designing for mobile meant we could do so for a much broader audience than other platforms. In the old days, if one of our games sold two million units, that was a staggering amount?[but] with DomiNations we have a real chance to reach 100 million players or more.?

Forming a Dynamic Duo

While Big Huge Games is well-versed in designing strategy games for PC, it needed a partner that?s a mobile gaming industry ace. California-based Nexon M?which is the mobile division of 21-year-old, free-to-play pioneer Nexon?was the right fit.?For a game with such a broad topic and worldwide appeal, we also wanted a partner with global strength,? Train says.


Nexon brought its experiences from previous free-to-play strategy titles to DomiNations, including lessons on when to add as well as not add new features. It also provided mathematicians and economists that could help drive mobile game success.?These roles definitely play a big part in making a successful mobile product,? Nexon?s Heenan says. ?Not just with tuning games so they have strong retention and monetization, but also so they offer a great experience.?Having access to sophisticated analytics allowed the team to identify an even pace at which to unlock and upgrade content, says Heenan, which keeps players engaged and constantly discovering something new. It also let them carefully calibrate player matchmaking to ensure fair (and satisfying) battles.Read the full article here.