Immersion’s mobile games evangelist Bob Heubel recently spoke with Robert Faludi, managing director and graphic designer at Fat Bat Studio Ltd. about the company’s strategy for finding success in the saturated mobile game market.
BH: Hi Robert. Tell me a little about Fat Bat Studio.
RF: Well, our company is really small, only two people, in fact. I am responsible for all the graphics in our games as well as marketing materials like game trailers. My partner in crime and co-owner is Gergő Nagy who handles all the programming. Our games are small and consist of tried-and-true conventional gameplay with a twist. For example, our latest game is a classic Mahjong puzzle game that includes a multiplayer element.
BH: I’ve played it, yes. And I like how you have three-star achievement system based on how quickly you complete each level. Fat Bat games have been received well. What do you think it is that makes them popular?
RF: I think high quality, fairly small install size and familiar gameplay is at the core of our success. That is the starting point. But it is the slight twists in the gameplay that make them popular. For example, in our Archery Tournament game you have targets to shoot at, but aiming involves concentration and timing. It is not just a click and flick kind of game. Also, we do not use in-app purchases. Our only income comes from advertisements, so the users know that what they see is exactly what they get.
BH: What is it like actually developing a mobile game from one day to the next? From the first concept to publishing it?
RF: It is not an easy process as you need to constantly tweak your ideas all while thinking about certain limitations. It is challenging, but the day of release is very exciting and definitely makes it all worth it. We try not to make anything too strange or hard to understand, and our games have good quality with no errors. But, admittedly, knowing what people will like can be like picking numbers in a lottery.
BH: Sounds like a lot of stress to me. Do you listen to any music during the process to ease the stress or is there another source of motivation that keeps you going to get to those game day launch parties?
RF: I do enjoy listening to music while I work, but I do not have any specific taste or style. I listen to many things, but my main motivation is making graphics and playing games. I have played games for more than 33 years now. So this is really a dream job.
BH: What are some tips you can give to aspiring game developers about how to make their games successful?
RF: I think the mobile games market has reached a point of over-saturation where it is hard to be discovered. Our approach is to quickly make many small games with good quality so we have better chances at success based on sheer number of games. If a game is unsuccessful, we drop it quickly and move on. My tip for small studios is to develop good quality games as quickly as you can. Once you have a hit, support it and see how you can improve it while also working on the next project. Our biggest success is Archery Tournament, which has close to 20 million downloads on Android alone.
BH: How long does it typically take for you to develop a game? What kind of tools did you use?
RF: We have made games in a single week. Sometimes it takes two to three months, sometimes as many as six months. It all depends on how well we understand the game we are trying to make and how complicated we make the game mechanics. We have our own game engine and we use Unity. For leaderboards and achievements we use the standard Google Play Game Services.
BH: Take us behind the thought process behind developing any specific game. What was your inspiration for it?
RF: We usually check what games are trendy, or which game designs have been successful in the past. Our strategy is to stick with those game types while adding some twist to the gameplay. We have found that developing and creating unique game ideas is much more risky. You spend a lot of time on something that has a much smaller chance of resonating with the general community. For example, in a past company, I had a big impact on the game design for PinWar and AntRaid. And even though they were incredible quality and quite innovative, they were not commercially successful.
BH: Of course, I have to ask about the feel of your games. Why do you use vibration effects in your games? And just to be clear to our audience, we are not talking about “dumb buzz.” You use the Immersion Haptic SDK that has a library of pre-made tactile effects, some quite subtle.
RF: Yes, tactile effects give the player another layer of user feedback, which is a great thing. So, it is not just audio and visual that we can design into the games now, but this third element. When you have only two basic senses in a game and you add sense of touch as one more element, it’s a big addition.
BH: Can you describe how user engagement has changed with the implementation of haptic feedback in your app? Do users even notice?
RF: We do not have any statistics about this, but we believe that if we removed the haptic feedback from our games, users would definitely recognize the change and miss the effects. If you are thoughtful about where you add the tactile effects and do not overload the user, the feeling of the game just makes sense and improves the overall enjoyment. But then, if you remove those effects, the experience is definitely missed.
BH: What is next for Fat Bat Studios? Anything you can share?
RF: We just completed our Mahjong game, so we are just now trying to figure out the next project. We have many ideas, but figuring out what would be the next viable game to make is the hardest part of the job. If you choose poorly, you will spend a lot of time on something with no payback, even if you loved making it. But as always, we will do our best to give our audience great games to play in the same spirit as before.
BH: Thank you for your time, Robert. We look forward to the next big Fat Bat Studio game.
RF: Thank you, Bob.