Sponsored By

Making a good game is not enough when pursuing fame and success. Your superb game is just one of the thousands of fantastic, cool and spiffy games out there. How could any small and unknown game studio with a shoestring budget even dream about success?

Sonja Angesleva, Blogger

April 3, 2014

4 Min Read

Global mobile game success stories like Clash of Clans (Supercell) and Angry Birds (Rovio) have spurred an unprecedented number of mobile game startups in Finland. One of these companies is Mobilive, which has released five iOS games so far with only little success. The games have varied stylistically from retro atmosphere to pixel graphics. Now, the company is about to release its first F2P game. But how this relatively unknown and small-budget game studio is going to make it in the international market?

The game - King Duckling - looks and feels great, fun and addictive. But today, it is not enough when pursuing fame and success. 

There are over 2 million apps on the most popular app stores and Apple's benevolence and marketing assistance is directed to only a few which will succeed for sure. And marketing and user acquisition costs are on the rise.

Besides Rovio and Supercell, Plain Vanilla is one of the most recent companies to break from unknown to success comes from a-far-away-land Iceland. Plain Vanilla released QuizUp! last year. It became an instant hit. Plain Vanilla’s CEO Thor Fridriksson have identified critical success factors:


Learn from your mistakes.

Before QuizUp’s - success Plain Vanilla had failed in the previous publications of their games, and funding was low. They learned the lesson of right timing the hard way. You should not go to a battle against the giants (aka companies with similar games but bigger marketing muscles).


Make a game that has something familiar to many.

Trivia game is a great choice. Who would not know “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” or know how to play it?


People are passionate about certain things.

It is important to reach out to various sub-cultures and groups. If the quiz themes are too generic, no one is passionate or interested. But if you offer Game of Thrones or FC Barcelona quiz, it is a whole different story.


Build a community.

Community binds the players in the game and extends the time on the game.


Focus on things that work.

Plain Vanilla focuses on QuizUp – game and will add content and release it on different platforms instead of starting something new.

Hasan Alkara CEO of Mobilive agrees with Fridriksson.

King Duckling has something familiar, something borrowed and something unique. The game's protagonist is a little boy called Teddy. He dreams about the duck kingdom and becoming crowned as the King Duckling himself. But as we all know, with power comes the responsibility. One night, a black hole appears in the kingdom, a sort of port to the nightmares. Of course the curious ducks want to see what’s there. When entering the black hole, the ducks are driven around the nightmare worlds full of ghosts, monster dogs and other creatures. What does King Duckling? He has to keep good care of his citizens and thus there is no other way than to jump after the ducks and bring them back to safety.

 “As a revenue model, in-app purchase is very limited today. The vast majority of current in-app revenue is being generated by a tiny percentage of people who are highly-committed mobile game players. We don’t believe the percentage of mobile game players making in-app purchases will grow significantly.” (Mark Beccue, ABI Research)

One of Mobilive’s earlier games is titled Death Golf. In that game player (golfer who clearly does not have his best day on the green) has ducks as enemies. The players liked the ducks so much that Mobilive decided to put them to a centre of their new game. One other fun idea to introduce different behavioral patterns of the ducks. Some ducks are easier to collect to be sent back home, while others are running away, or flying around unpredictably from platform to another. King Duckling has also taked some inspiration from 1990s Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) game Flicky, where a player had to rescue chicks from lurking cat's claws.

Alkara says that the two biggest challenges for them are financing and marketing. 

Marketing and user acquisition is absorbing more and more money. Success requires luck, timing, contacts, marketing, quality... and money could make many things a bit easier.

After wards it is so much easier to pinpoint the key success factors of Angry Birds or Clash of Clans. In case of Mobilive - will they make it or not - we will find out within months.


King Duckling was just soft launched in Finland and Australia. The game will soon be released worldwide. One thing is for sure, the company is not alone with its dreams.

Read more about:

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like