Joybits are one of the most successful mobile games development studios – with their most popular app – Doodle God having been downloaded over 75,000,000 times.
We caught up with Joybits President Paul Baldwin to find out what makes their development process tick, why they decided to port their games to Windows 8 and what advice he can offer new developers.
Can you tell us your background and how it led you to Joybits?
The original founders of JoyBits, Anton Rybakov and Sergio Manucharian, have been friends since they were 12 when they spent their free time playing and designing their own games. After university they decided to make their games hobby a career and started JoyBits in 2002.
What has been your most successful game so far and why do you think that is?
JoyBits most successful game thus far has been Doodle God which upon it’s launch in 2010 has been downloaded over 75,000,000 times across 13 platforms. Doodle God literally created a new genre of “civilization builder” apps that took some inspiration from early PC games like “Theme Park” but offered a new twist. The mix and match puzzle game play appeals to men and women of all ages. The ability to create and discover hundreds of new elements from starting with only four has really sparked people’s imaginations. The franchise has been so successful that the team has launched two new Doodle apps, called Doodle Farm and Doodle Devil.
You’ve committed to develop for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, what is the reasoning behind this?
We have an extremely talented team who can tackle any platform. With that in mind, our goal is to expand the Doodle franchise to as many viable platforms as possible. To date we have had over 75,000,000 downloads across all formats and we are always looking for new markets. With Windows 8 we see a real opportunity. We have enjoyed some early success on Windows Phone and we feel that with Windows 8 there will be a growing installed base of gamers. You can’t deny Microsoft’s ability to create marketplaces i.e. Xbox Live, so we feel it’s a good bet. Additionally the touch screen interface is impressive and works well with our game play.
What game titles are you planning on releasing on Windows 8 and what can players expect from these?
JoyBits has made a significant investment in the Windows 8 platform.
We have optimized the Doodle franchise comprised of Doodle God, Doodle Devil & Doodle Farm, for the platform delivering a new UI experience, HD graphics and loads of cool new content. We are also working on an exciting new addition to the Doodle franchise that we look forward to talking about in the coming months. First up however, will be Doodle God, Doodle Devil & Doodle Farm for Windows 8 desktop, notebooks and tablet devices then Windows Phone 8.
What is your process for developing a new game from concept to final product?
We try to do a study of the marketplace and understand what genres there might be opportunities in. A lot of this research is by gut as well. Then we go into concepting stage where we look at several concepts and drive down to one idea to start more deeper design and then prototyping.
Our goal is to get a working prototype done as fast as possible. If your prototype drags on and there is no “game” there, its a good sign that the game is broken. You want to understand whether a game is a game, or broken equally as fast. So don’t take too long. Once we have a working prototype we start full production.
When developing for Windows 8 do you consider the international market?
We are excited to be supporting 13 different languages for Doodle God, Devil and Farm. In the past it was just English. Now we have all major EU and Asian languages supported. We try to get to over 85% of the total market covered when we pick languages.
What did you have to consider from a design and UX point of view?
The Windows 8 “titles” UI offered an entire new way for us to think about the UI of Doodle God. Most restrictions were removed and we had lots of design freedom. A challenge then became to not over design.
What did you enjoy most about developing games for Windows 8, for example the focus on content or the intuitive, customisable menus/bars?
Our team was impressed with the quality of Visual Studio. Currently, there is nothing comparable on the market. Our team had a fast learning curve where our programmers used their previous Windows experience and started to deliver really fast. Additionally, debugger and simulator proved helpful as well making the overall development process more efficient and less of a hassle. We were also able to leverage our previous code base for the most part.
What pricing model are you planning on using and why?
We are using both paid and free with IAP.
How will you approach promoting your game?
One of the keys to our success is our ability to download via in-app cross sell promotions of our other apps. We will also utilize our growing Facebook and Twitter audience. Additionally, we hope to work closely with Microsoft and OEMs on promotion. That is one of the benefits of being on a new platform first.
What advice would you give aspiring game developers who are looking to turn their idea into a reality?
Go for it but don’t develop your game in a vacuum. You need to understand where it fits into the current gaming landscape. Don’t try to create Angry Birds because that already exists . Also start thinking about how you are going to publish the title – are you going to self publish and do you have the funds or partner? And if you partner do you know what publishers have audiences who will actually play your game. You need to make sure your game is a publisher fit.
Many of the same challenges to discovery that developers find on iOS and Android exist in the Windows Store, but we see some real “early adopter” advantages. As with any new platform, being included in the initial “launch” group of titles has advantages in terms of promotion in the store, PR and ultimately being discovered by gamers.
For instance Doodle God was included in Microsoft’s New York City launch event on October 25th. It was awesome to see our game on stage.
Another benefit we find is the additional exposure we receive from all of the PC manufactures who also have a Windows 8 store. So for instance, in addition to the general Windows Store, our games are also available in the Lenovo, Sony, Acer and Dell stores also.
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