Success is a hard thing to quantify. In the video games business, as with most entertainment mediums, you’re only as big as your last hit. But if you manage to string a few hits together you’ll cultivate a pretty great reputation. That’s certainly the case for the Montreal-based indie foursome Juicy Beast.
Following on the heels of the critically-acclaimed Burrito Bison and Burrito Bison Revenge, Juicy Beast recently launched Knightmare Tower onto the App Store. More than simply a new release, the game represents a new business model for Juicy Beast – Knightmare Tower is the first game they’ve chosen to self-publish. And if the early results are any indication, it’s a model that works.
Despite the lack of a publishing partner, Knightmare Tower managed to net two coveted positions in the App Store; it was featured as “New & Noteworthy” in the US and as “What’s Hot” in Canada. “Most of our downloads came from these features,” Juicy Beast co-founder Yowan Langlais told Gamezebo. “It’s selling relatively well overall, and we hope we’ll be able to keep it running like that for a while. We’re still experimenting with the publishing and everything, since it’s our first self-developed AND self-published game, but bottom line is we’re pretty pleased with the results!”
Getting to the point where they could net these App Store features as a first-time publisher didn’t come overnight. Juicy Beast’s earlier successes had other names tied in, and those names managed to carry some clout of their own.
For the iOS version of their popular browser game Burrito Bison, the team partnered with Ravenous Games. “Ravenous were already porting the game and they had more experience than us on the mobile market,” said Langlais. “It felt pretty natural to let them publish it at this point.”
Its sequel, Burrito Bison Revenge, launched as a browser game too – but not without a huge portal attached for publishing. “Adult Swim were the ones who ended up offering the best publishing deal for the Flash version of Burrito Bison Revenge, meaning that they had the right to exclusively publish the Adult Swim branded version of the game on their gaming site (which would later spread everywhere on the web).”
The deal, struck through the licensing service FGL.com, was limited to the Flash version only. This frees Juicy Beast up to do whatever it would like with Burrito Bison Revenge on other platforms – but more on that in a bit.
Even Knightmare Tower itself wasn’t completely immune to outside involvement. The game began as a pitch they were making to a relatively big client. “The project got canceled and we were left with a prototype on our hands,” Langlais told us. “We really liked the gameplay (we spent nearly as much time playing it as we spent developing it) so we decided to push it further and make a complete game out of it.”
Burrito Bison Revenge
In its first incarnation, Knightmare Tower was a free Flash game (which is still available for play at juicybeast.com). But to bring it to other platforms, they decided a major overhaul was in order. More than just a change in art, the retooled version of Knightmare Tower was the team’s first foray into the world of Unity3D programming.
“[Unity3D] could offer us a lot more publishing options than Flash was offering,” said Langlais. “We still use Flash to create our art and animations, but everything else is done inside Unity now.” Because of the switch to Unity, Knightmare Tower became much easier to port to other systems – a fact that helped secure it a spot in the pre-launch OUYA line-up. “The game did pretty well on OUYA so far, considering what the OUYA market represents at the moment,” said Langlais. “We would publish to OUYA again if it’s not asking too much resources to do so. The market is still pretty new, so we wouldn’t really make an exclusive game, but we think the console has some potential and we’re definitely keeping an eye on it as it grows!”
Burrito Bison, Burrito Bison Revenge, and Knightmare Tower all have one thing in common – they each began life as browser-based projects. What’s more, a quick trip to juicybeast.com will reveal a number of other Flash titles that yet to leave the web. The process of making a game on a smaller scale, gauging the public’s reaction, and then taking it to a larger audience based on that success can work wonders: after all, that’s been the secret to King’s success, the makers of Candy Crush Saga.
“It’s definitely a good strategy to test your game out like that before investing more time and resources into it,” said Langlais. “It wasn’t necessarily our plan from the start, since we were not really thinking ‘If this game works, we’ll port it right away,’ but we’re definitely investing our time in our most popular games right now. We might apply this strategy more rigorously for our upcoming titles. We’d like to make slightly bigger games, so it might be a good idea to work this way.”
There’s another thing that Juicy Beast’s top three hits have in common as well – they’re all about bouncing on people’s heads. It’s a funny fact that Langlais chalks up to little more than coincidence. “Since the initial goal [with Knightmare Tower] was to create a new game really quickly for a client, I think we subconsciously went with a formula we knew could work. But we never really told ourselves ‘Hey, let’s make another bouncing game!'”
Toto Temple, their entry in TOJam 2013, might be coming to OUYA
Their next title is one that is likely to break that trend. When we asked about what the future held for Juicy Beast, talk turned quickly to Toto Temple – a game that the team made for Toronto Game Jam 2013, better known as TOJam. “It’s about small, colourful dudes battling for a goat in some temple,” says the Juicy Beast website, where it can be downloaded in its early game jam form.
“We’re thinking about refreshing it a bit, adding a tiny bit more content and releasing to OUYA,” said Langlais. “It’s a cool little party game and we think it would fit well in a living room… We might make a bigger version à la TowerFall in the future!”
Having said that, Langlais stresses that no plans for the future are set in stone. In addition to weighing their options with Toto Temple, Juicy Beast’s next project will “probably” be Burrito Bison Revenge on mobile, he says.
Considering how well their first self-publishing effort has gone, I wouldn’t be surprised if that “probably” firms into something more definite soon.