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Publisher Spotlight: Hipster Whale

Posted Jan 16, 2015

Although the name Hipster Whale isn’t necessarily a household name, their debut title Crossy Road assuredly is. Founded shortly before the release of Crossy Road, Hipster Whale is a new Australian studio comprised of Matt Hall, Andy Sum, and Ben Weatherall.

Rapid Success
Despite the name, Hipster Whale is far from a whale of a company with a long development cycle or large budget.

In fact, the team of three launched their first game Crossy Road in only a couple of months, in which time Hall stated in a Mac World interview that they, “we were able to create a simple, fun game that was featured on the App Store and climbed to the top of the App Store charts around the world,” a feat that he righteously describes as “amazing.”

Over the holidays, Hipster Whale was already celebrating over 10 million app installs for Crossy Road, an impressive feat, particularly for an app that had only been available on iOS for a month.

Partnering Across Platforms
To deliver their debut title to the Android market, Hipster Whale recently partnered with Yodo1. “Our tiny studio has been working with Yodo1’s massive publishing team on the Google Play version of Crossy Road pretty much from the moment we started developing the game,” said Matt Hall of Hipster Whale, in a statement. “It’s great to finally see our game in that app store, where it can be enjoyed by tens of millions more players around the world.”

Quirky & Endearing Design
crossy-road-snail-raceHipster Whale’s Crossy Road has a distinctive voxel artwork look. This resulted from Hall’s discovery of the Qubicle tool when looking for a way to produce 3D game concepts quickly and easily.

The result? Endearing and amusing animations for cherished characters.

Making Monetization Friendly
Obviously, every studio needs to make money somehow. However, Hipster Whale didn’t want to put up paywalls that prevent players from continuing to enjoy their game. Instead, Hall looked to other monetized apps for examples, and was fond of Punch Quest, which he describes in a Gamespot interview as having “a really friendly approach to monetization.”

When AdColony spoke with Hipster Whale, Hall elaborated on this sentiment, going on to tell us:

“Making a game like Crossy Road with “friendly” monetization is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while. We really weren’t sure if this was going to work and we had plenty of people shouting in our ear that it wasn’t. But I was hoping that there were lots of players out there seeking alternatives from the App Store Grossing Chart giants who were happy to pay in other ways. And, yes – there are.”

Thus, instead of a paywall or subscription approach, Hipster Whale has created over fifty characters for Crossy Road. While players can strive to unlock these characters, many expedite the process via in-app purchases. When asked what inspired this monetization method, Sum stated:

“I was particularly inspired by Dota 2’s model for payments: that anyone could play the same game, but it has cosmetic changes.”

So what made their monetization method work, and what advice do they have for new studios who are thinking about using value exchange videos as a form of monetization? Hall offers this advice:

“There’s two real things you need to get it to work:  fantastic retention and a fun reason to click on an advert.  We put a lot of thought into this early on, and our “character” system drives both of these things.  Every few hours, a player can come back and unlock a new cool character, and then watching ads while playing speeds up this process.”

So just how successful are they? Hipster Whale will be presenting at the GDC 2015 Free to Play Summit this March, so be sure to check it out!

Crossy Road Merchandise
crossyroad_chicken_travelAfter the Crossy Road chicken made its debut traveling to CES, there’s been quite a buzz and demand for Crossy Road plushies and swag. Matt Hall offers hope for official merchandise: “This is something we”d love to do and will be working toward in the coming months.”

Future Projects
Thanks to smart monetization and a brilliantly addictive first title, Crossy Road fans have a lot to look forward to from Hipster Whale. As Hall puts it:

“Both Andy and I have idea books filled to the brim.  Now that Crossy Road has been financially successful we can make some of our bigger and wilder ideas come true without stressing whether or not we’ll go broke.”

Of course, Hipster Whale wants to see their first title “be all that it can be,” so fans can expect “plenty of Crossy Road updates moving into the future.”

Follow the Developers
Although there isn’t an official Hipster Whale Twitter account, you can follow the individual developers:

About the Founders
Outside of Hipster Whale, Matt Hall runs KlickTock studio in Victoria and has four App Store #1 games: Doodle Find, Little Things, Little Things Forever and Crossy Road.

Meanwhile, Andy Sum keeps busy running the Melbourne based studio Jigxor, where he created the PC title Dungeon Dashers. He also regularly participates in game jams, creating experimental games such as Game of the Year: 420BLAZEIT.

Join the Conversation
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