The casual games marketplace can be a harsh mistress. It’s all too often that we hear about a developer leaving the PC market behind for greener pastures, or worse yet, shutting their doors all together. The fact is that it’s just harder to make profitable games in the current climate. Despite this fretful trend, though, some developers are still seeing great success. Take Funkitron for example – a developer that’s still putting out top notch casual titles without fail. We recently had a chat with Funkitron’s President Dave Walls about the company’s continued success, passion for originality, and their desire to put games in front of gamers regardless of device.
In recent months, we’ve heard from numerous casual PC developers that the downloads market isn’t what it once was. Has Funkitron felt a similar sting in the downloads market?
Not too much. We’ve recently released Solitaire Kingdom Supreme and Slingo Quest Amazon as downloads, and both have been performing quite well in that space. Solitaire Kingdom in particular has found quite a large number of fans, so we’ve released it on iPhone (iPad on the way) and are also creating Solitaire Kingdom Quest that I think players are going to really love.
I think some companies may have been stung as they chased the clone market, or possibly expected returns to be larger than reality. At Funkitron, we try to always come up with something new and different, like Trinklit Supreme, or put a really fun twist on a classic, like the Kingdom Cards in Solitaire Kingdom, that the casual market hasn’t seen before. This has allowed us to avoid getting stung by the dynamic and ever changing nature of the game business.
A lot of developers are shifting their focus to the growing markets of social and mobile. We’ve already seen Funkitron releases like Slingo Supreme and Solitaire Kingdom Supreme make their way to Apple’s App Store. Are there any plans to bring your games to other platforms, like Android or Facebook?
We are a design focused company, in that we focus on game design first, so we are platform agnostic. We just keep our eye on making great new games, while making sure they will work anywhere where people play casual games. Our Guru Game Engine now takes our games seamlessly to PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad and future platforms are on the way, so it is very easy for us to code once, and then have the game travel to the various places people are playing.
Facebook is a bit different because games as a service is a different business. We design all our games to be Facebook ready, but are still figuring out whether we take them to Facebook ourselves, or to partner with a specific company that is in the business of running the service, so we can keep our focus on designing new games.
Slingo Supreme has been on the App Store for more than a year now. In terms of sales, how has it performed compared to its desktop counterpart?
We’ve been really psyched to see that, even a year after launched, it has maintained a great 1 or 2 spot in top Casino games, and a nice rank in Puzzle too, all with a solid 5 star rating after over 10,000 reviews, which I’m most proud of the team for. We are working on getting the word out about Solitaire Kingdom Supreme so it can reach the same player that is enjoying Slingo Supreme, as it is getting lots of 5 star reviews too. Poker Superstars is out on iPhone too, and it has been finding a nice audience who enjoys the PC version as well.
In addition to iOS, you’re one of the few game developers to approach the Kindle platform. What was that experience like?
Have you seen all those new Kindle’s coming out? Very cool! Can’t wait to try Slingo for Kindle on them.
For the Kindle game, we teamed up with one of the earliest and best developers in the Kindle space right now: Gameblend. They did a great job creating Slingo for Kindle, and now I love taking a break from what I’m reading for a quick Slingo fix. I think with Kindle, Amazon is reaching a whole different audience than the iPad, and the casual play of Slingo really fits in well for a quick reading break.
What goes into taking a game that’s originally conceived for the desktop (like Solitaire Kingdom Supreme, for example) and adapting it for a portable touch screen?
We decided early on that we would design with all platforms in mind. So something like Solitaire Kingdom Supreme and Trinklit Supreme is designed at start for desktop and portable and even social. Our first question when coming up with a new game is: Will it work everywhere? With Solitaire Kingdom this approach worked very well, because it’s great on the desktop, awesome on iPhone and amazing on iPad. In fact, combined with Gamecenter, the iPhone version is the best husband vs. wife game to play. Though I warn you, you will lose sleep if you don’t have the top score that day.
Do you find it tough to stand out on the App Store? With so many new games coming out every week – and hundreds of solitaire games to choose from – is there any worry that the newly released Solitaire Kingdom Supreme might get lost in the shuffle?
With something like Solitaire Kingdom Supreme, we know it offers an increased level of fun that all those hundreds of vanilla solitaire games don’t. With its Kingdom Cards and Build Your Own Deck play, it is totally unique and innovative and there is nothing out there like it. It is also hugely addictive, so once you start playing it, it becomes part of your daily routine. For me, I can’t even go back to regular Solitaire at this point, Solitaire Kingdom is just so much “funner”.
We are also lucky to have a nice customer base and footprint after being in the business these past 10 years. So when we put something out we can get some inertia behind it and then keep at it to make sure all our players find it.
There seem to be a number of games in the Funkitron catalogue that would be good candidates for a touch screen adaptation – WordJong, Trinklet Supreme – even Dicey. The list goes on and on. What can we expect to see on the App Store next?
Hey, Dicey! Our very first game. Thanks for mentioning it. Dicey appreciates it! Yeah, we have a lot of content that works for many platforms. The challenge is getting it all out there, which is a nice problem to have. I am looking forward to getting Trinklit Supreme on iPhone and iPad very soon, and then some titles from the Funkitron library and some more new original games out too. And yes, Dicey deserves to be on iPhone too! It keeps on bugging me to put it there…