Tomato Can studios just released their third game on mobile, with a pc port in development. We had a chat with the developer about the making of Wrassling.
When Wrassling released on the 19th of May it was a nearly instant success, getting a lot of positive press from youtubers and gaming magazines. “The pre-release marketing for Wrassling went very well. The originality of the game seemed to catch the attention of the media. We got articles in most of the major mobile gaming sites and AppSpy and Lonniedos made YouTube gameplay videos.”, Colin Lane, the founder and primary developer at Tomato Can studios, explains.
“On launch, Wrassling was Featured in the Best New Games in USA and Canada as well as a few South American Countries. The downloads were over 30k a day, and we ranked #3 in sports in USA and Canada. The Week after the first set of features, we were featured in Best New Games in 95 other countries including some European countries.”, Lane continues to explain.
Although the game was getting a lot of traction in America, it didn´t catch on as quickly in Europe. “Wrassling didn’t catch on in Europe as it did an America although we got plenty of downloads from Russian and the UK. It currently has just over 255k downloads on iOS.”, Lane says.
Tomato Can studios is a one-man operation run by Colin Lane who works with freelancers for the art and music.
“I’m a Enskid Firma/Sole trader, so it’s just me in my company. I buy the music and sometimes buy the art. However for my last 2 Apps Folmer has done the art for a share of the revenue. A friend of mine in Bucharest publishes the games to Google Play and Amazon for a small fee. So really we are just a collection of individuals around the world collaborating to make these apps.” Lane tells Nordic Game Bits.
In the beginning, Tomato Can studios mainly worked on small scale projects, the first game being a small app developed in just three weeks.”The project was called Wheelie Legend. I approached Folmer to do the art as I like pixel art and was a fan of his work. He agreed, and we pushed the project out at a extremely fast pace, submitting to the App Store around 3 weeks after starting the project.”, Lane explains.
That game, too, was a nearly immediate success after the launch, Lane reveals:
“After a quiet launch Wheelie Legend got a minor feature in the App Store in Europe. The feature instantly launched it to #1 in Sports and Racing in Finland. The game stayed in the top 5 sports/racing games from the 9th of September until the 24th of October.”
But when Lane started working on his next project, it had to be done on a larger time frame, due to higher ambitions and less available pass time. “Encouraged by the success of Wheelie, I started work on my second app, which was called Golf is Hard. Folmer once again came on board to do the art. This time we worked more closely, discussing things like gameplay and flow in more detail. This project took much longer than Wheelie Legend partly due to me starting a full time study of game design at Futuregames.”.
While the game was less successful than Wheelie Legend, “Golf is Hard launched in December 2014 again to a reasonably quiet launch”. Colin Lane continues to explain that the game did pick up quite some steam over time, though. “In January 2015, Apple featured it in Best New Games on the front page of the App Store in most of Europe. The downloads jumped from 16 a day to 30k at its peak. It Ranked #1 in sports in 7 countries including Denmark, Finland and Sweden. It was top 10 in around 20 countries.”.
It was during Tomato Can studios’ work on Golf is Hard that Colin Lane was working on a new prototype, the concept that would later evolve into Wrassling.
“While meeting for a coffee in Stockholm to play-test Golf is Hard before its release, I showed Folmer a prototype. The prototype was a rectangle with one arm furiously fighting with another rectangle with an arm. Folmer immediately declared that it was the best thing ever and demanded we start work on it immediately.”, Lane explains.
This time Tomato Can studios initially moved away from mobile development and started experimenting with pc gaming. But Colin Lane quickly returned to mobile because he felt he lacked the experience to make a successful release on steam.
“We initially started building Wrassling as a desktop game. We even produced a 4 player demo with gamepad support that was an instant hit with play testers.”, Lane explains. “However, desktop was a new world, and we were unsure if the game was Steam-worthy. Additionally, changes in the EU VAT rules made other means of selling complicated. So we decided to stick with what we knew and made an iOS version of Wrassling.”, Lane elaborates.
Despite having a lot of success with mobile gaming, Colin Lane still states that it is tricky to earn money on these platforms. “Paid apps have to deal with several problems. App piracy is an epidemic, only 5% of Monument Valleys installs on Android were paid. iOS was much higher at 40%, but still over half the downloads were pirated copies. You need massive download numbers to make a profit from a paid app if 60% of them are pirated versions.”, Lane says.
And as Lane continues to explain, “As a Paid app you are competing with an almost endless selection of free games. To the casual mobile gamer Threes and 2048 look like very similar puzzle games, the most noticeable difference is that 2048 is free. On Google Play, Threes has a very impressive 100,000 to 500,000 downloads (don’t forget that 95% piracy rate), 2048 however is in the 10,000,000 to 50,000,000 range. That’s the difference $1.99 makes.”.
Colin Lane sees free Apps with In-app purchases and advertisement as a more viable method for earning money on mobile gaming, because of the rampant piracy and tough competition. And it is also this model that he uses in his own games.
“I use the free with adverts model and an in-app purchase to remove the adverts. I will get downloads from people who will never pay for a game and will happily accept the fact there are some adverts. I will also get downloads from people who would normally pay for games, and if they dislike the adverts, they can pay $1.99 to remove them and they essentially have a paid version of the app.”, Lane says.
But despite his love for free-to-play, Lane is of the opinion that the user-experience should be positive and not hampered by the advertisements. “I try to find a balance with the adverts. I don’t want to be too aggressive as to be annoying, but I still want to earn money for my work. I use little tricks like I won’t show an advert if you score less than 5 points. So if you are still getting used to the controls and loosing a lot, I’m not going to annoy you further by pushing an advert in your face.”, Lane concludes.
Wrassling was released on mobile devices on the 19th of May 2015, with a planned pc release on the horizon.