Finnish developer Seriously took several headlines last week, as they announced that an Apple Watch version of their wildly popular Best Fiends smartphone game was to be released soon. This week, we had a talk with the team about why Apple Watch excites them.
With 1.33 million active daily users, Best Fiends has been off to a great start since its launch in October 2014. But Best Fiends is more than just a smartphone game, it is a franchise. And the plan has always been to move to other platforms, and maybe even into movies or physical products.
“Given the huge audience shift to mobile devices, now is the right time to challenge the traditional way Hollywood has been creating IP”, Seriously‘s Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder, Petri Jarvilehto, says to Nordic Game Bits.
But as Jarvilehto continues, it doesn’t stop here. Mobile is just where Seriously and the Best Fiends franchise started.
“Best Fiends for Apple Watch marks our platform expansion into wearable devices. We have some exciting announcements coming up as we expand the Best Fiends brand to new markets and platforms to build a global entertainment franchise starting on mobile first.”
With a screen-size vastly smaller than that of mobile devices, many are wondering how well games will do on the Apple Watch or smartwatches in general. But according to Jarvilehto, it is certainly possible to make games even for very small screen sizes. But you have to take the screen size into consideration when developing the game.
“Once we started building the design, the first decision was that replicating the existing gameplay wouldn’t make any sense. We wanted to create a game that’s custom designed to the Watch as a platform and that would leverage its unique opportunities. With Best Fiends for Apple Watch, we’ve created an adventure game that’s really “gameplay at every glance””
What this means is that you won’t have to constantly be looking at or tapping your wrist when playing Best Fiends, but instead you can play the game throughout the day in very short increments and quick glances. And seeing as Best Fiend is already doing well on mobile, it was of course only natural to make a deep integration between the smartwatch and mobile versions of the game, Jarvilehto explains.
“The entire game is seamlessly integrated with the mobile game, so you can actually spend all your rewards in the mobile game, which is probably the very first time anyone has created an experience like this.”.
But what fascinates the team at Seriously the most about games for smartwatches seems to be that the smartwatch is the next step in moving games closer to the player.
“I think in general, through the past 20-30 years, games have been in a constant movement physically closer to the player — from arcades into living rooms, and then from living rooms into our pockets and backpacks with mobile devices. Now, we’re seeing the first movement from our pockets onto our wrists. Playing games on your watch means that the game is always accessible and can always exist in your peripheral vision. That’s really cool.”, Jarvilehto says.
Smartwatches are rewriting the rules of game development. It’s a new media, a new screen size, a new type of experience. And developers have to adapt to that. Therefore, Jarvilehto recommends other developers who are interested in developing games for smartwatches to sit down and consider how the player will be using the smartwatch devices.
“Before rushing into wearable development, I think it’s important to think about how players are using these devices. Just as you couldn’t really take a console experience and port it over to a mobile platform, you can’t really take a mobile experience and port it directly over to a wearable platform. The real strength of the wearable platform is that it’s something that is always with you. However, at the same time you’re really limited with input and screen estate, so most of the rules of what used to work are completely rewritten. As a developer, that’s super exciting.”
Another issue is monetization. Because how do you monetize a free-to-play title on such a small screen? And according to Jarvilehto, that is still something that Seriously has to figure out down the road. For now, the most important goal is to make a great game and obtain the smartwatch users’ attention.
“For now, we’ve just been fully focused on how to create a great game experience on the Watch. Once the market for these devices grows, I think there are a lot of valid options on how players can also spend in these games. Our first priority is always to focus on the game and if we do that well, the revenue will eventually follow.”
The second game in the Best Fiends trilogy is set to be release later this year, and with the first game already reaching 11 million downloads, and the Apple Watch game being released soon too, it’ll be interesting to see how fast Seriously will be able to move their userbase from one game to another.