As more and more apps are released, small publishers face an uphill battle in getting discovered by users. Despite this challenge, Korean developer Idiocracy, founded in 2014 by talented a crew calling themselves ‘idiots’, proudly placed in the Top 7 at Google Play Indie Game Festival with their game Pirates War – The Dice King. The game has also been featured on the App store and Google Play store multiple times. As of right now, the game is sitting at 150,000 downloads.
We spoke to Idiocracy’s founder and CEO, Sungki Kim, and Business Manager, Thiago Oliveira about their journey to success to find out what pushed this fresh game publisher to surpass over 200 other developers at the indie game festival.
Simply doing what they love, this was a start of their journey.
Idiocracy’s young founders, who deeply love games themselves, wished to develop their own titles with a low barrier of entry. Accessibility regardless of age, taste, and even platform, were the major factors that led Idiocracy to mobile gaming.
Idiocracy uses what they call a “kidult style” in their games, giving users a feeling of nostalgia from their childhood. The toughest part of this is that the games also have to appeal to a younger audience. “It’s not the easiest thing to do, but we think our art team has pulled off a hell of a job,” Kim said.
When it comes to the source of inspiration for their games, Idiocracy pulls from a variety of things including, news articles, novels, movies, and more. If they had to pick one though, children’s storybooks, which Kim says are a common gateway for nostalgic memories, are their biggest source of inspiration.
Monetizing, Acquiring, and Engaging
Unlike some game publishers, monetization was not Idiocracy’s number one priority. While they agree that monetization is the key to surviving amongst the competition, Idiocracy prioritizes an enjoyable gaming experience for users. “If users are able to have a fun experience only by participating in the monetization service, then that game is bound to perish,” Kim explained.
Since Idiocracy focuses on user experience rather than only monetization, they continually ask themselves “Will a non-paying user enjoy this content?” Since Pirates War is a player versus player (PvP) game and paying users would have a bigger advantage, it is important to be aware of the non-paying user experience. However, by utilizing rewarded video and other ad monetization in the game, they evened out the playing field as much as they could for users.
When the Idiocracy team approaches engagement, their basic thoughts are that users don’t necessarily have a large degree of loyalty to one game because they have a huge selection of free mobile games and are able to jump from one to the next easily. “This means that when most users leave, they don’t tell developers why, or write their frustrations about, they just leave,” said Kim.
For the team at Idiocracy, the most valuable users aren’t those who spend a considerably high amount, but those who share their feedback with them. This is why Idiocracy focuses not only on push notifications and other one-way communication methods but also on forums and reviews. By responding quickly to users, and listening to feedback, Idiocracy is able to make their games better while maintaining a loyal player base.
“For a while now, we have mainly focused on optimization for our game. Starting from November, we are planning to bring in new content for our players. These include ranked mode, new maps and the clan system,” Oliveira said.
One key to Idiocracy’s success is to never make games “too hardcore,” said Oliveira, “If your monetization is too hardcore, then the users who aren’t willing to pay that much leave from ‘shock,’” he said. “However, if you create a game that virtually requires no monetization then your company can take a hit due to that economic shock.”
For Idiocracy, conducting focus group tests, other internal testing, a soft launch, and focusing on hearing the feedback of your user base became an important part of the process, Oliveira added.
“When you are trying to reach the mass audience in mobile titles, you must listen to user feedback,” Kim said, “Even if everyone of your employees like the game that you created, that means it’s only validated by 10 or 20 people.”
Another tip from the Idiocracy team for the developers working without a large publisher, is to launch in a country where you can understand and speak the language. “You can read 100,000 logs within your game to see what you game lacks but without user feedback and talking to your users, you can only guess what the problems are,” Oliveira said.
“Before we launched we did close to 10 focus group tests, and had a soft launch,” Kim said. “The feedback we received from those really helped us better shape our game.”
Working under Democracy
Around 20 people work at Idiocracy, and the team is adamant it is the most democratic company in South Korea. Despite the preferences of each individual of platforms and genres, they strive together as a group of people who love games and gaming.
“Many people worry about a Korean company who strives to target the Western audience. That is why some may call us idiots!” Oliveira said, “However, we are working on this title as a group because it makes sense for us to target the larger audience.”
A year ago, the whole company went to Japan as a little getaway. The original plan was to have one big blast of fun before the first quarter launch of Pirates War. Since then, a full year has passed and the team hasn’t been able to have a big outing again due to their need to input more content for the game. “However, we still have a great time with ourselves as well as our family,” Kim said.
Keep in Touch with Idiocracy
Idiocracy maintains a Twitter and Facebook for Pirate’s War under “The Dice King,” leaning into the gameplay and universe it’s created for the title. Their Facebook puts the great artwork front and center, as does the Twitter, @TheDiceKing.
Preparing for the Future
Pirates War is Idiocracy’s first title and other games that they wish to create are being worked on on a concept level. “We want to focus on Pirates War at the moment” Oliveira said. For the past year they have learned a great deal about developing and launching a mobile title, according to Oliveira, “learning how to service the game” is their next major goal as a company.
“We plan to focus on bringing new content to Pirates War for as long as we can,” said Kim. “We’ve also started production on a spinoff of Pirates War as well as some other new game projects that should be hitting the markets by Q3 2017 and Q1 2018.” Kim said fans should keep an eye on Idiocracy’s social media channels for more news.
It looks like simple agenda, but Idiocracy takes it as a very serious quest.
“To put it as a pirate story, we have just set sails for our pirate ship,” said Kim “What awaits us ahead is a level 5 typhoon called ‘live service.’ What we lack in experience, we shall make up with passion! With the help of our users/communication, we shall reach paradise. It’s scary but we are excited!”
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