Happy Latte Producer Oliver Bulloss wears a western cowboy hat as he presents on the fourth floor of the Great Mobile Internet Conference.
“You phone is your weapon,” he says. Behind him, he watches a fight unfold on-screen.
The screen shows a live battle from the iOS mobile game High Noon, Happylatte’s most successful game to date.
An audience volunteer holsters her iPod, then whips it out to duel with a pistol on-screen. From an iPad offstage, Happylatte’s community manager wields a lasso to ensnare the on-stage volunteer. The fast-paced game is over within two minutes; you can see how easily it could become addictive.
You don’t get to be one of the App Store’s highest downloaded mobile games for nothing. For Happylatte, a Beijing-based gaming company, the user is king.
“11,000,000 players worldwide? That means there’s someone playing all the time,” said Bulloss.
High Noon has reached over 11,000,000 downloads, is consistently a top 10 game in over 50 countries, and was a number one game on Apple’s App Store for May 2011.
Happylatte says it’s a combination of building a strong community, synchronous game play, and specifically developing for mobile that has driven High Noon’s success.
Why mobile? “Mobile is 24/7,” said Bulloss. “When you go to school, work, wait for the bus, in line at the bank, your phone is always in your pocket.”
Bulloss says that Happylatte sees a spike from their US and European users during common lunch hours.
“People use their lunchtime to play. On Mobile, you only have two to three minutes,” he compares it to traditional gaming consoles. “You can’t ask them for two to three hours.”
Push notifications also help to notify users when their “friends or enemies” are available. High Noon uses synchronous game play. When you play High Noon, you play against another live player. And not just any player, a player with the same playing level as you.
“This took us a long time to figure out,” said Bulloss. “If you’re a good player, it’s no fun to play against a user that has no experience,” and vice versa, he adds.
One huge High Noon advantage is their huge user community.
“We were number one for 13 months non-stop in Kuwait,” explains Bulloss. “When you have a small country, and a small community, when their friends start playing it spreads quickly.”
Their huge online community connects through user forums, and has been a big part of their success, posting on social media networks and creating a unique community of users.
“Give them a reason to share, and they’ll share,” said Bulloss. “Off load your marketing to your users.”
Happylatte also employs one fulltime person as community manager to respond to user feedback. This person becomes the “players’ voice in the development cycle,” which they consider key for the game’s success.
Expect more from Happylatte soon. Bulloss said the group has recently received VC funding from a big European partner. But VC cooperation offers more than just money he says.
“This allows us to expand very quickly,” said Bulloss. “They also bring experience, and put us in touch with people worldwide. They don’t just bring money, and this is a big misconception about VC’s.
Look for more wild west High Noon action; High Noon 2, the sequel, will launch soon in 3D.
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