Over the years, Electronic Arts’ mobile division has based a great deal of its success on franchises. The Simpsons Tapped Out continues to be a big draw for the company, alongside its sports games and other titles. And this fall, it’ll continue that push with more releases, including Madden Mobile, FIFA and a game based on Universal’s Minions brand.
However, there’s more to a successful mobile game than just slapping a brand in place, according to the company’s senior vice president and general manager, Bill Mooney. Quality and good gameplay must also play their part to keep consumers coming back, such as is the case with Tapped Out.
GamesBeat recently spoke with Mooney about the company’s mobile approach during the Mobile Gaming USA conference in San Francisco, first discussing the positives and negatives regarding IP licenses for mobile games. “On balance, what I would say is that the value of branded IP – we’re at a point in the market where it’s relatively choked,” he explained. “Acquisition is a huge challenge. I do think table stakes is making a strong game. I think that’s an even higher bar when using other people’s IP or co-developing. With Simpsons, we literally co-developed with them. We have the real writers. The head writer of the show is essentially our game showrunner on their side.
“Why it’s worth doing that is because you capture an audience that loves something. In a place with a million and a half apps, tapping into that – especially a long-running, beloved, powerful IP – gives you access to an audience that would be very difficult to get to otherwise. We can capture casual as well as core, too.”
Mooney also touched on the longevity of Simpsons, now three years old. “The numbers on it demonstrate, for the genre – it has unusually good long-term retention,” he said. “I was the general manager of FarmVille at its biggest. I worked on lots of builders at Zynga. The numbers are very different for Tapped Out. There’s a function of people engaging in content. One thing with branded IP, people talk about the content treadmill. A huge strength of branded IP is, people want new content. You get to tap into somebody’s rich universe and work to expand that.”
He continued, ” First of all, if you’re going to get IP you need to get good IP. It’s not worth paying for Paris Hilton, not to pick on her too much. She had those match-threes, what, seven years ago The IP is worth it when you’re getting that core audience. A limited amount of IP is worthwhile. It will be interesting to see how many of the music games, for example, do well.
“One thing that’s been part of EA’s strategy, with stuff like Madden, we want to go for the premier IPs. That’s where a lot of the benefit comes. What’s powerful about Simpsons is we’ve been able to take it to mobile into live services. I’m not aware of any branded MMO, other than something like Star Trek, where they obviously extended it. Taking a mass-market entertainment brand and essentially almost MMO-ing it on the platform is hard. But we routinely talk to the licensor several times a day. Numerous people work on both sides making sure everything is flowing through. They touch every asset to make sure it’s at quality.”