Tiger Style Practices That Increased Sales and Engagement
Smith points to several features in Tiger Style's games and the studio's development practices that have greatly helped sell more units, while keeping existing players engaged:
Updates: Spider had a very significant update called the Director's Cut that added 10 new levels for a total of 38. These new levels patched some holes in the story that players were confused about and contributed to fun new gameplay.
"The Director's Cut was such a significant update that it attracted new players, more attention, and some additional press," says Smith. "The iOS market likes to know that developers are listening to them and keeping their games updated and fresh. Updates also increase the chances of a promo spot in the App Store and draw attention from your existing install base."
Smith notes constant updates are a common feature in iOS games: "Some developers go so far as to release a game with only the bare bones that make it enjoyable, and then update continuously, targeting improvements and extensions to the aspects of the game that seem to satisfy players the most."
Playtesting: "For both Spider and Mars we did very extensive playtesting before shipping the games," continues Smith. "We really refined this process for Mars, having players focus on the iPad in front of them while the rest of the team was watching on a big screen.
"Fellow developers often had great insights, but the highest-quality data came from playtesters who were most like our target audience. Sometimes it was really depressing to watch these players get tripped up on designs that we thought made learning the game easy." (Casual gamers who were new to some of the deeper features Tiger Style was attempting.)
"We refined the opening levels of Spider and Mars over and over and over again until they were as tight and economic as possible while still easing casual players into an exciting, new experience. This all happened before we shipped the game, so we can never be sure how it impacted sales, but our guts tell us this emphasis on reaching the casual audience is one of the major contributors to our success on iOS."
Discrete Levels: Waking Mars originally featured a seamless world that would stream in as you explored. This made the caves seem vast and rambling and very believable. It soon became evident that the trade-off was player clarity. Players didn't know when one experience was starting and another was over. It was hard for them to tell if they were winning or losing; instead, they just kept stumbling forward into new things. Changing Waking Mars to have discrete levels that a player must finish one at a time helped with pacing and clarity. It also gave players the sense of accomplishment and an understanding of the game.
Leaderboards/Achievements: To provide more dimension to Spider, Tiger Style added leaderboards, achievements, and different game modes. "Waking Mars was a much larger game with more gameplay variety, so we felt those would be unnecessary additions," says Smith. "In retrospect we were probably wrong. Some players really got attached to the leaderboards, and most players had fun questing after the achievements. Without them, the game feels akin to a movie that you watch once. With them, the game feels more like a hobby that's worth coming back to."