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2. No 3.0 firmware functionality.
In an effort to ensure that our game worked seamlessly on all hardware/firmware configurations, we opted not to present any 3.0 firmware-exclusive features. It seemed safest to build to the 2.2.1 firmware instead, which guaranteed full compatibility across all handsets.
Drawbacks to this approach included substantially reduced user interest in the multiplayer option, as Bluetooth support (only available on 3.0 firmware) was not made available as an option for connecting devices.
It also reduced our ability to let consumers know when new features were available, and made it impossible to integrate a micro-transaction driven storefront.
3. No leaderboard or achievement support.
It'd be great if the iPhone ecosystem featured a universally employed achievement and leaderboard system, as Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 do. But since it doesn't, the issue of integrating these features becomes a bit complicated, particularly for major publishers.
Fortunately, these are the kinds of features that are possible to activate through updates, but it would have been ideal to have launched with them day one.
Super Monkey Ball 2 is about racing to the finish line as quickly as possible while trying to collect 10 bananas without falling. It would have been great to let your friends know that you're able to beat a stage with incredible speed by posting to a leaderboard, setting a bar for them to try and reach.
Some of the challenges late in the game are pretty tough; even getting to the Crown World (which requires you to collect 10 bananas in all 110 standard boards without falling) is an accomplishment. When I perfected every stage, I wanted to see an achievement unlock! I wanted to have my skill on public record! Instead, I found myself posting a message to my Facebook contacts after I jumped out of the game. Achievements and leaderboards can significantly improve the lifespan of a game -- they keep you going well past finishing the final board.
Currently, I believe that achievements and leaderboards are more interesting to core players than casual players, but that doesn't diminish their importance. If you've been playing Xbox 360 or PS3, and you just got a shiny new iPhone, you're going to want to see achievements pop up -- it's a key component to the enthusiast gaming experience. I believe that most major games will support leaderboards and achievements in one fashion or other by the end of 2010.
4. Splitting the content offering into two pieces.
When Super Monkey Ball 2 launched, the "minigames" button lead players to a landing page that allowed them to play Monkey Bowling. The page also promised that Monkey Target and Monkey Mini-golf would be coming soon. It was not made clear that the missing content would be coming free of charge, and no expected release dates were provided for the expanded content.
We answered these questions in interviews (yes, the content would be free, and the new content would hit in the first quarter of 2010), but most players didn't get the message. As a result, there is an increased risk that many people have finished the main game, and have dumped the App from their device... not knowing that substantial free content is on its way!
The game's release date had been pulled up to ensure that we hit the holiday season. The original strategy was to launch in February, alongside the new Wii Super Monkey Ball game. The shift was good, in that it was a demonstration of Sega's confidence in the quality of the product, but it was also difficult, because it put us in a position of not having all of the intended game content ready for launch.
The initial $9.99 asking price last November would have seemed more justified if all of the content had been there from day one. We were very happy with the value proposition the launch package offered, and we believed that it was better for consumers to enjoy a great game right away, rather than making them wait for all three mini-games to be finished.
But with all three mini-games in place, SMB2 feels more distinct from SMB1, and that differentiator would have been very valuable to have at launch. It'll be interesting to see if the delivery of that free content helps to boost the overall sales of the game.
5. Not effectively using SMB1 to cross-promote SMB2.
When SMB2 launched, there was a surprisingly robust uptick in sales of the original game. Looking back, I wish that we had done more to use SMB1 as a platform for informing consumers about the value of the new game. One example would be to offer an update to SMB1 featuring three sample boards from SMB2 (effectively, a "lite" version of SMB2 made available only to SMB1 owners).
We're proud of the work we've done on Super Monkey Ball 2, and we feel that it's the definitive version of the brand on the iPhone platform. A lot was learned from the development experience, and we continue to work towards improving and deepening the game's player experience through updates.
The App Store has evolved significantly since the original Super Monkey Ball was released, but even in light of the sheer volume of content available to consumers, we've seen first-hand that there's still plenty of room for premium 3D games to thrive.
Developer: Other Ocean
Release Date: November 2009
Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch
Number of Developers: 9
Length of Development: 9 Months
Development Tools: Proprietary