The process in creating a game is a difficult, long and often stressful process, but it's one that can reap many awards alongside actually seeing your ideas come to life.
No matter the size of the game or how long it ultimately took to make, each new title involves a lot of hard work, hard decisions, and a little bit of luck before it even gets out the door and onto devices. And in the current mobile market, that's only the first step in having a successful game.
To highlight all of the hard work that often goes on unseen in the background, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to developers to learn more about the general rigmarole of releasing a video game, with our 'Making Of' series.
This week we spoke with Scopely senior vice president and studio general manager Victor Díaz-Roig, who oversees the recently launched Scrabble GO on mobile devices, and helped the game to earn itself the best launch for a mobile word game ever.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you start off by telling us about Scrabble GO?
Victor Diaz-Roig: Happy to! Scrabble GO is a free-to-play mobile game that brings the iconic word game to life in an all-new way. Together with Hasbro and Mattel, along with our collaborators PierPlay game studio (who we also recently acquired), we reimagined the beloved experience for today's digital audience. The game maintains the spirit of the authentic Scrabble brand alongside many new ways to play, including boosts, rewards, new game modes, and more.
From casual gamers to the fiercest competitors, we aimed to create a game that appeals to all types of players. Scrabble GO is highly social, allowing players to easily invite and connect with friends and family via Facebook, WhatsApp and personal contacts as well as play with others around the world. It also offers highly competitive play, bringing tournament-style matches loved by enthusiasts to mobile.
Over 2.5 million people are playing daily for an average of 100 minutes each day.Victor Diaz-Roig
Scrabble fans have a deep connection to the brand for its long-standing tradition of competition and we wanted to ensure this aspect was an important element of the experience. Players can track their stats with their Scrabble Score, one of the richest player profiles of any word game in the world.
Overall, Scrabble GO is a vibrant, personal, extremely dynamic and truly social experience for our players. The game launched worldwide on March 5th, 2020 and we are thrilled by the response so far. Over 2.5 million people are playing daily for an average of 100 minutes each day. And, we've heard some incredible stories from the community about how Scrabble GO has helped them stay connected with family and friends - both new and old - around the world.
Where did the initial idea for the game come from?
We've had a long, successful relationship with Hasbro, having brought the beloved Yahtzee brand to mobile over five years ago with Yahtzee With Buddies. A few years ago, we also began discussions about other brands in their portfolio and Scrabble felt like a great match.
We had a lot of ideas on how we could reimagine the experience both for the current fan base and how it could appeal to a new generation of players. We were excited to put our own new spin on the brand in a way that would feel dynamic and exciting to players of all skill levels. We knew we wanted this experience to be highly social and highly competitive and began building accordingly.
How long did development take, and how many people worked on the game?
We began working on the game in 2017. It went through many iterations and rigorous soft launch testing until we felt we had an experience that players truly loved and kept coming back to. Our game team size fluctuates based on where we are in a development cycle.
And beyond development, I'd be remiss to not include the many team members who touch the product across marketing, creative, customer service, platform partnerships, etcetera., so I would say over 75 people have had a direct impact on the Scrabble GO experience that's out in the world today.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome during development?
There aren't a lot of brands that transcend language, cultures, and generations as Scrabble does. This is a brand that is highly nostalgic for people around the world and means a lot to them. With this in mind, we wanted to strike the right balance between maintaining the authenticity of the Scrabble experience while still innovating it for mobile audiences.
It can be challenging to balance the true spirit of a simple board and tile experience with a mobile product that needs to feel dynamic enough to keep players coming back. It was also important to us to maintain the social element of the classic board game experience - playing with family and friends at home. We spent a lot of time thinking about the best ways to create a new version of the 'game night' environment on mobile - where players feel connected and safe while enjoying the game they love.
At what stage in development did you feel you had a game that you were happy with?
Early on during soft launch, we started to see really positive engagement in our test markets. One of our core tenets at Scopely is to iterate to success, with a mission to create unforgettable experiences our players love.
So, with this in mind, even though we were seeing strong engagement, we knew it could be even better. We solicited direct feedback from players, Scrabble superfans and champions, and used our technology platform capabilities to continue tweaking and evolving the product to retain and engage audiences for longer periods of time.
We haven't stopped iterating since then and will continue to do so for the entire lifecycle of Scrabble GO to ensure players have the best experience possible.
Every day we hear stories from players about how they use Scrabble GO to stay in touch with friends and familyVictor Diaz-Roig
Why did you feel this was the right time for Scrabble Go to make its debut on mobile?
For us, it is always about the readiness of the final product rather than pegging a release to a certain moment in time. We have extremely high standards and will not release a title that we aren't 100 per cent proud of and confident our players will love for the long-term. We want our game experiences at Scopely to live on for many, many years and always have this lens in mind before going to market.
Was the game soft-launched? If so, what did you learn from the soft launch period, and what were the biggest changes you enacted as a result?
Yes, and during this time we learned a lot about what this audience was looking for in a Scrabble mobile game. Above all, we learned which features to prioritise and how to fine-tune them to make the game as fun and engaging as possible, while still challenging!
How happy are you with the game's launch so far?
We're blown away with the reception of the game so far. We are seeing market-leading retention and engagement, with thousands of players inviting their friends and family into the game every day. Our players are highly committed to the product and coming back daily, and we also continue to reach new audiences around the world.
The most rewarding part of this launch has been the impact we've seen on our players lives. Every day we hear stories from players about how they use Scrabble GO to stay in touch with friends and family, how the game has become a part of their daily routine and pure excitement for the gameplay experience.
How are you approaching live ops? What can you tell us about your plans in terms of updates?
Our games are truly a service, offering players a live, personal form of entertainment that needs to be looked after and innovated on each day. Every day we aim to offer a new experience to players, allowing them to choose how they want to experience the game.
One of our Scopely Studios based in Barcelona is now continuing development and operations of the game (with PierPlay game studio focused on a new Scopely project), and we will continue to introduce new elements such as dictionary updates, improved functionality and more.
Scopely previously stated that Scrabble Go achieved the best launch ever for a mobile word game, can you expand upon this? Any other numbers you can share, revenue, DAU etcetera.
Scrabble GO was the number one most-downloaded word game at launch, with over 2.5 million daily active users. We see players spending an average of 100 minutes per day in the game and 60 per cent of players are playing 7 days per week.
This engagement is highly encouraging, highlighting the social nature of the experience. People are loving it and we look forward to continuing to introduce more exciting features and gameplay for players.
What can you tell us about your future mobile projects?
We have a number of projects in development across many genres. All I can say is, stay tuned!