Mobile game publisher Scopely is expanding beyond the success it-s had with casual mobile games since 2011, and into the core mobile gaming business. The company has partnered with Skybound Entertainment to launch The Walking Dead: Road to Survival on Google Play and the App Store. The free-to-play game is based on Robert Kirkman’s 10-year-old comic book franchise and offers an original storyline that runs in parallel and intersects with the events from the comics.
It’s a brand new take on The Walking Dead from a gameplay perspective, designed by Scopely to encourage gamers to work together to build a home base and progress through the storyline while building up their own character. Scopely has developed over six months worth of new content for the live game, which will introduce new characters, storylines, and other content to gamers.
Scopely has seen explosive growth of 19,556 percent from 2011 to 2014. In April 2015, Scopely formed a partnership with Hasbro, resulting in the successful launch of Yahtzee with Buddies for iPhone, Android and Apple Watch securing 1 million downloads in four days. This new partnership with Skybound targets both core gamers and the more mainstream fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead, which is based on Kirkman’s comics.
Walter Driver, CEO and co-founder of Scopely, explains how the company is going big with The Walking Dead: Road to Survival marketing and what impact core gaming will play moving forward in this exclusive interview.
What does The Walking Dead and this core gaming audience mean for the casual gaming audience you’ve established?
We will continue to invest in the casual mobile games category. This success has allowed us to scale our team from four co-founders to over 125 employees in our headquarters based in Los Angeles and now six game studios worldwide. We’ve focused on bringing in top game design, product management as well as business and operations talent across each of the genres we are focused on, including dozens of people who have worked directly on top-grossing games. The specialized, high-caliber talent we’ve been able to bring aboard has enabled us to diversify our portfolio with much higher probability of success.
The launch of these new titles will continue to fuel our rapid growth (we were just named ninth fastest growing company by Inc.5000 and have already seen revenue run-rate 3x since the beginning of 2015). Our upcoming product lineup will also enable us to reach new audiences and create more rich, immersive experiences that our players will hopefully love.
Scopely’s mission is to bring the very best in mobile entertainment to touchscreens and that vision has always included a mix of genres. You could think of it as building the HBO of touchscreen entertainment; our goal is to foster great talent and be the best partner to deliver quality experiences on mobile across different genres and audiences.
How important are Hollywood IPs when it comes to standing out in the crowded mobile free-to-play gaming space?
First and foremost, you always have to create a great game experience for your players. Second, you have to find ways to make sure that great experience is discovered by your players.
We’re seeing more TV advertising for Clash of Clans and Candy Crush and other big mobile franchises. What role does TV play for your company’s marketing?
The mobile games market is maturing and we are seeing new ways in which games are being supported by marketing. More to the point, mobile game marketing is becoming more sophisticated and challenging to do just right. And we are doing our part to raise the standard for world class launches with The Walking Dead: Road to Survival.
The maturation of the space requires new levels of sophistication which include moving beyond what the mobile industry has traditionally called “user acquisition.” Television advertising for mobile games is one manifestation of that maturation, but TV is just one tool in the toolbox to build an audience around a mobile game. It can be a force multiplier that drives tremendous word-of-mouth and brand awareness, but obviously it has to be done right. For a game like The Walking Dead: Road to Survival we invested in a dedicated TV campaign at launch because we like how TV allows us to reach millions of fans with an intense story and a unique creative approach that will really excite them and make them want to pick up their phone and search for Road to Survival on the App Store or Google Play. But you can’t just stop with TV media itself. Our creative was purposefully designed to drive viewing and social sharing on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and more, to amplify the ROI and brand impact. TV is just one of over 200 distribution channels we’ll be marketing this game through.
Outside of television advertising, what differentiates the approach you’re taking with The Walking Dead game?
At Scopely, we believe in a bespoke approach. With each game we are very focused on first asking ourselves what makes this product special and how are those unique aspects of this game represented in our marketing and then fulfilled in the game itself. TV is part of the mix these days, but we are just as aggressive in designing plans that embrace digital, social platforms, viral content, influencers, CRM, and cross-promotion with partners.
We’ve really elevated our go-to-market strategy over the past 18 months, from our pre-launch campaign, to launch, to maintaining and supporting traditional as well and social and community channels throughout the game’s lifecycle. In a live game, the game itself and its live operations are also part of the marketing. Everything we do that touches the community has to be thoughtful — it has to delight and motivate our players. On any given day we run between four-six special events offering players unique stories, challenges, gameplay modes, and rewards to ensure players are just as excited coming back to the game after one day as they are after one year.
How are you incentivizing gamers to buy micro-transactions or invest in this free-to-play game?
Our main focus is to make a great game that people want to play. You can have a great experience playing our games for free and when our players spend in our games, it’s because they love the game and they care enough about the world we’ve created to want to spend money on their experience in it.
We’ve invested in every detail to make sure our players feel their time and/or money spent with us has real value. To get into the mindset of our core franchise fans, we immersed ourselves in the world of The Walking Dead, reading every issue of the graphic novel cover to cover, all of The Walking Dead Series novels (co-authored by Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, who provided scripts for our game), even camping out at Comic-Con to interact with diehard fans firsthand and participate in the interactive Walking Dead Escape event. In the process of becoming super-fans we realized that while The Walking Dead may take place in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, what makes it special are the characters and the stories that unfold in their quest for survival. So we set out to make a mature, character-driven RPG unlike anything the market had seen before. We worked very hard to create content and features we as players would want. Players are able to buy new weapons and characters and participate in special events in order to augment their experience and deepen their gameplay.
How does The Walking Dead fit into your bigger picture for core gaming and succeeding in this crowded market?
Our approach is to build a portfolio of highly differentiated touchscreen entertainment experiences that become deeper and richer the more time players invest in them. We are doing everything possible to support The Walking Dead’s authenticity by delivering compelling content, listening to players, and making sure all of the decisions made around the game are to bring the best entertainment experience to them. There’s more coming from us in the core gaming category, and you can expect those properties to be equally compelling with world-class IP, immersive experiences and engaging gameplay.