Moving past Cut the Rope -- the future of Zeptolab
Cut the Rope may not be as popular as Angry Birds -- what is? -- but it put the small Moscow developer Zeptolab on the map. With tens of millions of copies downloaded and continual high chart placement on iOS and Android, Cut the Rope's success ensures that all eyes will be on the studio's next project.
"Of course we really want to release new IPs and new titles. That's what really drives our interest for me and Semyon and our team. Of course, we're looking at releasing new titles this year," says Efim Voinov, CTO and co-founder of the company.
Cut the Rope "opened a bunch of interesting opportunities for us," says Semyon Voinov, co-founder and creative director, but thanks to that, "it's quite time- and resource-consuming to use all of those opportunities, so it takes a bit longer for us to release the next title."
"Our current plan is to continue expanding Cut the Rope and at the same time to start work on and release new IPs for many different games not related to Cut the Rope," he says.
But Semyon recognizes that this puts a lot of pressure on the developer. "Of course, we want our next project to be as successful as Cut the Rope or -- who knows? -- maybe more successful."
However, he also understands that this is anything but assured. "[We] don't really put all our bets on the next title," he says. "We want to just continue creating good games and enjoying the process, trying not to focus too much on what people expect of us, and just focus on the product. That is the best way we will get another great game, and hopefully another hit game."
The studio is even, he says, exploring some "niche ideas." "They're also cool to try, so we don't want to limit ourselves ... Our drive, our motivation, is about cool ideas; if we see that something is cool, we don't want to drop it, or cut it, because we see that the audience can be a bit more niche. In some cases, having a niche game is a good thing."
Zeptolab has the resources to let its developers experiment; chief revenue officer Diana Moldavsky confirmed to Gamasutra during the meeting that the company is cash-positive and has no need of external funding.
That sets up a situation where CEO Misha Lyalin is happy to let the developers try different things. "It's a combination of investing in new and existing IP. I think that's the right mix for any sort of company. If you really want to make something really successful, just continue doing what you're best at," he says.
"If we start focusing on what we're not good at, bad things will happen."
Lyalin doesn't see the company following in Rovio's footsteps and aggressively merchandising Cut the Rope simply because it could. "A stuffed Om Nom isn't a good idea if a stuffed Angry Birds exists, for example, because the brands are very different," he says, of the green candy-eating alien from its games.
"Om Nom is about different emotions than Angry Birds are, obviously, and if you just create the same products and earn the ground that way, you cannot be successful long-term."
He sees it as a way to maintain momentum for Rovio's brand -- something he also wants to do, but in a way that is unique to Zeptolab's strengths. "To us, it's really important how to maintain our momentum. I think we've got a very good grip on how we're doing this. Rovio has their way, and we have ours; everybody's different," he says.
"We're going to continue to invest... and make sure that the company stays strong at what it does best: making stuff," says Lyalin.
Of course, Lyalin is aware that the company can't necessarily find a second success on the scale it has with Cut the Rope, and even though it had an early iOS hit, it might be disrupted by a company with fresher ideas -- one less tied to its previous success. "Disruption happens when you forget why you do certain things... Innovation happens because you do what you do," he says.
"The company's led by making good games," says Lyalin. "We can theorize here all we want about brands and disruption and new spaces, but if we don't know how to write games..."