Nearly four years after it was launched by Zynga expats as a "mid-core" mobile game studio, JuiceBox Games in San Francisco is closing because, according to chief Michael Martinez, "we didn't build good enough games."
That's a depressing statement that sums up a complicated story, and Martinez unpacks the details in a Medium blog post that's also an interesting postmortem of a modern mobile game studio.
"We never built the game that could serve as JuiceBox’s revenue engine — funding infrastructure build out and development of more games," writes Martinez, noting that the studio ran into trouble when its first game HonorBound wasn't a breakout success and it had to figure out how to allocate resources between working on its second game, StormBorn, and supporting its first one.
Martinez acknowledges that both games had ups and downs, but claims a widespread shift in mobile game discoverability between the two games' launches saw StormBorn downloaded less than a tenth as much as HonorBound.
"My failure to address this (whether through IP, marketing budget/expertise, unique take on community/YouTube/Twitch, or eSports) is the largest reason for our failure," writes Martinez. "We used a playbook that would have worked for a game released in 2013. By the time of our second game’s release in late 2015, we didn’t have a new distribution strategy for the new reality."
Check out his full blog post for more thoughts on what went right (and wrong) during the studio's lifespan, and what other mobile game makers might be able to learn from the experience.