DevDialogue – Cupco Games Developers Speak

Splat AttackCupco Games recently launched Splat Attack, a thrilling game in which your objective is to squash the incoming bugs by aiming and shooting at the right direction with the perfect precision. The game appears to be doing quite well on the App Store and in this DevDialogue, we have a chat with the development team at Cupco Games to know more about what inspired them to develop Splat Attack, their marketing strategy and thoughts on Apple’s developer ecosystem.

1. How did you conceive the idea for the App?

There was so much excitement when Cupco Games was formed we had trouble deciding which of our game ideas should see the light of day first. A lot of internal game pitching went on before finally electing the touch screen, sling-shot mechanic to base the design around. With a twist on the tower defense genre in mind, we quickly established a variety of themes to fit the gameplay, the same concept re-skinned multiple times – there was an underwater setting, another in space, and of course, there was one with a bunch of bumble bees. We decided the bug theme was the most unique and would be the most fun to play with, so we went with that.

2. Do you think Apple’s offerings for developers for developing Apps is good? Are there any changes required?

I can’t recall having any major issues with Apple’s development tools, and their documentation is quite extensive, so yes Apple certainly put a lot of effort into making sure developers can work without hiccups. Contacting them directly is another story, usually long and frustrating delays – but it was very rare not being able find what we were after documented somewhere.
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3. What is your marketing strategy? What marketing techniques do you use to promote your App in this heavily competitive application space?

Heavily competitive application space is an understatement! Marketing has probably been our biggest obstacle. Stats I saw last week showed over 650,000 active apps, over 115,000 of them games – that is just insane! For Cupco Games, or for any developer who is debuting their first game on the App Store, this is easily the most under-estimated and complex aspect of today’s ‘game development’ – maybe less so for hobbyists, but certainly for anyone developing ‘full-time’.

We started looking into marketing since quite early in development, we knew we had to. All members of the team have worked for major developers / publishers in the past but none of us in marketing – our strength is development – and now that Splat Attack is released, I’m still not entirely sure that I fully understand app marketing, or that it can really be understood.

With such a saturated marketplace that the App Store is, it begins to feel closer to a lottery system where you submit your application in hopes of getting featured by Apple. I’d liken creating a commercially successful app to creating a successful internet meme, no one person can create a meme, it’s a movement that just sweeps through… it’s viral. Now I should say I don’t think a commercially successful app is quite as extreme, there are many factors and variables you can tweak to try and maximise your app’s exposure. Money is a big one. But I think there are two much more accessible ones for independent developers; a fun and engaging game, and word of mouth.

That in a nutshell is my answer to the question. Our ‘strategy’ was always to make a fun and engaging game, so much so that people would want to share the experience.

4. Can you describe your “Eureka” moment while developing the App?

Without a doubt it was after seeing our artist / designer’s design document. Shortly after giving the ‘bug’ theme the nod of approval, these documents made their way to our emails. It was all there. A comprehensive instruction manual on how to make an awesome game – it even had mock-up screenshots in color (there was a note under each image saying “not final art” – but it may as well have been). It looked like a fun and engaging game, my head was animating the bees and projectiles in the images – and it made us smile!

There was of course a lot of work done in the months following, some of the design became quite dynamic in response to testing feedback – but for the most part, the game still holds true to the original design doc.

5. How did you come to decide the price that you would be charging users to purchase your App?

Not lightly, that’s for sure. We had numerous discussions about whether to go live paid or free to play – knowing that we had an in-game app store. At one point we were switching between the two on a weekly basis. There were a number of articles and post-mortems we found online, and it was great to read about other developer experiences. In the end though, it just felt like a quality product should have a monetary value on it.

6. What gave you the kick to convert your idea into reality? What kept you awake all night long?

Easy – the team. Everything that was produced, drawn, coded and implemented, between the first glimpse of the design doc, through to the very final build. When you’re surrounded by and collaborating with such great talent, you go with it, and strive to keep up with their quality. I still vividly remember our artist showing us a still image of Anthony, Splat Attack’s protagonist, for the first time – the pose was perfect, he appeared determined, inventive and intelligent. I was able to create his musical theme (which is now the title / menu song) based purely on that one powerful image. Those are the moments that kept me awake all night. Also, Redbull.

7. Your thoughts on paid marketing? Paid ads, reviews, sponsorship and more. What made your App’s marketing plan successful?

Mixed feelings, as mentioned before in my eyes it still comes down to the game – it really needs to sell itself. First impressions matter. You can certainly get through a few barriers with traditional ads, and it is something we decided to try. Unfortunately this is one area where the more money you have at your disposal, the more barriers you can break – again not very viable for most indie devs. Reviews are excellent, each one is essentially a human voice speaking about us, word-of-mouth, but we would never consider paying for it. Regarding Splat Attack’s marketing plan and its success, it is still too early to tell as we have only just launched. But the word is getting out there, and we’ve been super excited about the positive responses so far!

You can get the game from the App Store for just $0.99.