Spymaster: Hitting Mainstream by Going Against the Trends

Some people wrote them off because they went against the trend. But WW2-themed iOS game, Spymaster, instead ended up on the top of the charts in almost a hundred different countries. 

Not too long ago, Finnish developer PlayRaven let their debut game, Spymaster, loose on the unsuspecting Apple Appstore. And within days, Spymaster was on the Top-10 list of strategy games on the App Store in no less than 99 countries across the globe. And even if PlayRaven is comprised of veterans from companies like Remedy Entertainment, Supercell, Wooga and Unite, that’s no small feat for a debut title. spy1With a game that is pretty far from the casual style that usually rules the top of the App Store charts, it’s no wonder that PlayRaven themselves were quite amazed by what their game had achieved. “To be honest we were totally surprised with the stunning success,” Lasse Seppänen,  PlayRaven CEO tells Nordic Game Bits.

However, he does have some suggestions as to what it is that made Spymaster a standout success on the App Store. “We believe this success is due to a unique theme, WW2 espionage, a distinctive visual style that is not based on bright cartoony colors and original game mechanics based on research we did into real WW2 special operations.”

 

But Lasse Seppänen also believe that they set themselves up with a better chance for success by going against the dominant trends on the App Store. A strategy he would also recommend for other small developers aiming for the App Store as their sales channel.

Fighting fire with fire is very hard. If your game sounds, looks and feels just like every other game out there, it’s going to be extremely hard to get noticed and you will end up bidding your limited marketing resources against big and powerful companies that already have a dominant position in similar content. We think it pays off to think about what the future of mobile games could look like, and then make original and fresh new games based on that.

The team at PlayRaven

The team at PlayRaven

Seppänen also tells Nordic Game Bits, that they never saw Spymaster as a niche game, even if it did not conform with most of the current trends on the All Store, and some people wrote them off early in the process. “We always aim our games for a large mainstream audience. The trick is, we don’t believe the mainstream of tomorrow is the same as the mainstream of last year,” he explains.

“Specifically for Spymaster we picked two globally very well-known and successful entertainment themes: World War 2 and spying. We never thought bringing them together would be a niche, rather we thought there should be a lot of WW2 and / or spy story fans out there. Yet all the feedback saying “you are going for a niche” did make us hesitant, but at the end of the day we thought there’s nothing to lose, and tested the market.”  

 

Bspy3ased on their experience, Seppänen recommends getting as much feedback on your game, but also to remain cautious about taking it all at face value. In the end, it’s up to the customers themselves to decide, if they want to buy your game. “Get as much feedback as possible, but be prepared not to believe it all. Test your ideas on the market and you may find answers that no-one else can give,” he says, before giving a shoutout to the Nordic game development community:

I think the Nordic developers have massive talent and an awesome community. Mobile game development is something we’ve all done for years so I think together we will be able to define how the future of games on this new platform will look like! All we need is an open mind to new ideas.

Jesper K. Kristiansen

Multi-passionate game developer and journalist. Has been writing about the Danish games industry for more than ten years, and creating audio design for both Danish and International games for almost as long.

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