Many casual game studios seem to be struggling these day, but Gogii Games isn’t one of them. The studio has been on a roll lately cranking out an impressive number of hidden object game hits including Escape the Museum, Princess Isabella and The Clumsys. We caught up with George Donovan, Gogii’s CEO, who weighed in on everything from what makes a good hidden object game to how to keep a studio profitable when you’re selling games for $7 a pop.
Gogii is releasing 8-9 hidden object games in 2010, 18 hidden object games so far, and 7 more by the end of the year. Why are you so bullish about developing hidden object games?
My bullishness comes from numbers. It’s not hard to see the gross units, and conversion rate on HO games alone the “take rate” of this genera of products, hence the reason we have gone away from building card/match 3 or TM games. We had great success with Nanny Mania and Escape from Paradise(EFP) but even with Happyville the number of customers that want to even try it(alone buy it) is quite low. Our Conversion rate on EFP2 is still above 13% but its gross unit sales are 1/3 the original.
Since you are developing so many HOG’s, you must be an expert by now. What do you think is the secret to a good hidden object game? What are signs of a bad hidden object game?
I would love to say I am an expert but it’s not like making iron beams. The customers interests and demands change and the game that is #1 today with a certain mechanic may not be at all what they want 6 months from now. We try to do different things(like 3D) and give a different customer experience rather than a different story and the same list based gameplay but sometimes customers want what they know and like playing.
What game are you coming out this year that you are most excited about and why?
Well since I have 6 teams I don’t want to play favorites. I do however have a lot of surprises that could be huge or just be ripples in the casual world. I can say that we have 1-2 titles launching every month and each could appeal to a niche segment of the HO market or like Princess cross all aspects of the market and be HUGE.
There has been much discussion lately about the impact of pricing (the drop to $7 and the rise of the $20 Premium/Collector Edition) on the state of the casual games downloads business. As one of the best most prolific business guys I know, what’s your take on casual game downloads and pricing?
I think our business started off poorly by giving away content and as you see the biggest player in the space (PopCap) have now focused on the major money markets and do not focus on downloadable very much at all for that reason. I think the key for developers is keeping costs low. Making $300-500k HO games may be great for ego but not for the pocketbook. I like to get the budgets lean and force innovation and creativity which to me is what customers really want anyway.
Collectable vs. credit or regular editions is a great debate and I think a few studios have done a great job of providing value, but I can count them on one hand. If we are to launch a collectable game it will have real value. Our next two titles I think are really strong but I think they are $6.99 games and will be priced that way because I think Customers are still happy paying that amount for a 3-4 hour gameplay experience. Our Voodoo title is looking like it has over 200 scenes which are epic and that to me is a collectable game as the length and value is there for $20.
How does the casual games downloads business differ from any other games businesses you have been involved in?
I have owned web and dotcom business and Casual for me is my favorite. I like watch the market and keeping a pulse on what people are enjoying. I find challenges every day with little to huge decisions within our development studio and since I keep my family involved its great honest feedback that keeps me closer to the people that truly want the best game experience.
What do you think the next big thing is in casual games?
I would be foolish to give that away! I am fortunate to have a passionate team that are well rounded and with our hands in facebook, Ipad/Iphone, Wii/NDS development I get a real well rounded sense of what the demographic we target is playing so I can best plan the product line for the future. With studios like Skunk, ERS, and Blue Tea games we at Gogii have to remain sharp.
Are you really answering these questions from your vacation in Miami? Do you ever stop working?
Yes its research for an incredible game themed around Miami and the luxurious lifestyle and celebrities that live here (maybe).
Any final words for your fans out there?
I love getting feedback and especially what you see and enjoy about anyone’s games. We are always interested if people play mini games, like certain game modes or want to see something that has not been made. I know every customer wants longer games cheaper, but as a developer the price of makes games for our space has doubled in less than 2 years and that is significant and in order for us to deliver the experiences you want we need your help.