Eforb was founded almost two years ago and started as a small team… Today there are around 50 people on board including freelancers.
Everyone recalls the time when Eforb just appeared in the world with smiles on their faces. What made them a self-sufficient startup with a clear vision of the roadmap and the products that they’re proud of? The team’s product manager Nika Paramonova shares the story of their new and cute game Let The Cat In, that turned into a social action project.
Everything started with the development of a business social network to help entrepreneurs and customers get in touch with each other easily, enjoying direct person-to-person communication and business opportunities. Later on we opened a games department and accumulated around 30 HTML5 and Unity games. We’ve tried to self-publish them, publish and distribute with the help of partners, we were gathering statistics, making mistakes and learning. This was the valuable experience that helped get us closer to the bigger and more ambitious projects that we’re currently focused on.
That library of games has grown into Gamebox – a web-games publishing and distribution platform connecting website owners and game developers and allowing everyone to benefit from mutual collaboration: website owners are provided with a fast way to integrate a games portal and select games from the library; game developers get an easy and fast way to self-publish their games and get traffic. Did we stop developing our own games? No.
What will melt the hearts of the players?
After creating Gamebox that now actually welcomes all developers and lets them grow thanks to their great ideas and games that they publish, we’ve reduced our own game development resources, however, we simply couldn’t give up on the idea of creating Let The Cat In that was in development at that time and had the potential to become a cross-platform hit.
The idea of Let The Cat In came from our game designer Anton Paramonov (yes, he loves cats and rescuing homeless pets, but of course it wasn’t the main reason to start the project). He’s also a 3D animator, and has a background in programming, which allows him to be on the same page with the whole team and help everyone with everything. At the moment Anton is also the mastermind of our biggest project called The Skies.
Everyone supported the idea: a logic puzzle and kittens – what can be better for a casual gamer? At that time it seemed like physics puzzles were very popular. However, instead of copying mechanics that already made the boom in the industry, like it often happens, we’ve tried to find our own.
The Goldberg machine mechanic that helps create fantastic chain reactions in order to open the door and let the kitten in seemed exciting. We mainly targeted women, but after several playtests we were happy to confirm that the game has melted the hearts of men as well.
Eternal question: is it enough just to create good gameplay?
Nowadays the market of mobile games is tough. Our soft-launched version of Let The Cat In didn’t really have viral or retention tricks. It was simply the gameplay. The question of whether the mechanic itself can make the game popular and successful if it’s really good is something that many developers rack their brain on. Will the game be successful if it doesn’t include those smart marketing tricks? From our experience – it will not.
Soft launch was good enough. The organic growth and good retention motivated to go ahead and make the game even more engaging. But how do we turn this into long-lasting effect? Every time we were asking ourselves: what players find the most fun about the game? At what stage they might find themselves demotivated to go on? What can we do to keep them? What to do to increase the viral chain? And how not to lose the key gameplay in all this. Finding fun and trying to save it further during the game remained the primary goal.
The second iteration requiring addressing all these things took quite a lot of time. We’ve learnt that in general the time spent on addressing all the marketing stuff is almost equal to the development time of core gameplay.
The current state of the game makes our next playtesters excited: interactive kittens that you can play with bring smiles to the faces of players; engaging challenging levels involve more and more thanks to various chain reactions you’ll need to create, and the new and new items that you’re introduced to. After each bonus level your kitten or all kittens that you’ve unlocked with the progress dance for you, and this looks really funny.
By implementing all of that our time spent in the game has increased from average 1-3 minutes to 3-10 minutes for 30% of users, 1-3 minutes for 25% and 10-40 minutes for 15%, resulting in general longer time spent than in the benchmark statistics:
And it helped reach the top 20 games by return rates announced by Verto Analytics.
We’ve soft launched now again and are gathering analytics and feedback, which so far makes us excited. This is no less stressful period, since the biggest steps are still ahead. Even having reached the first good numbers you cannot relax. Every day in game development is a challenge, but overcoming it makes you stronger and wiser.
How we let the cat in Steam?
What we’ve also learnt is that you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with platforms and try to distribute your game wherever it makes sense. Actually, the cross-platform approach proves to be successful again and again. Honestly, we’ve even pitched the game to Steam and received Greenlight, even though we didn’t really target this audience. You can imagine how specific this platform and audience is. But kittens and a good logic puzzle mechanic couldn’t leave many people indifferent even here. 83% of reviews on Steam are positive. Hardcore gamers sometimes joke and add funny hashtags, such as “psychological horror”, but still leave very positive reviews. Once again we’ve proved that Steam is a good platform that provides you great opportunities for connecting with your community.
Whatever you do, do it from the heart
Well, whenever you create a game, remember about Fun. This should lie in the background of the whole thing and accompany you throughout further development. Put all your love and care in what you do and players will feel it. We’ve really tried to put all our love and care into this game.
We even decided that we can do more to make this world a better place, and asked Petfinder Foundation to collaborate with us (some percent of the revenue is donated to them to help homeless animals). That’s not a big deal of course, but we hope that the main thing we’ll all learn is that everyone can do something to help those who need it, and this is not difficult at all. Players will also become more aware of the problem of homeless animals and together we will contribute to solving this problem globally.
“We’ve always wanted to create the products that could make this world a better place. So, even working on this casual game, we couldn’t let it be just another title. Whatever we do, we try to do something special and innovative and put all our care into it. This helped us grow as a team: from casual game developers to a games publishing and distribution platform with the white label games portal solution. From developing first casual games to working with the experienced and great publishers in this area. From the dream to create a lively, interesting and capturing game world to The Skies, the new captivating MMORPG coming soon that doesn’t have any analogues. From Let The Cat In logic game to a social action project. That’s who we are,” says our director Anton Ustimenko.
It’s too early to judge how well we succeeded with this approach. But great feedback from the initial community and fans inspires to go ahead.
We’re always happy to collaborate with new partners! If you want to join us in our exciting journey, please, feel free to contact us.
Let The Cat In is currently soft-launched on the AppStore and Google Play, and also launched on Steam. The Eforb team is currently working on a Facebook version, which should be ready in a few weeks. After that they’re planning to launch more officially and look for all possible alternative platforms to publish and distribute the game on.
Of course, Let The Cat In is not the only project all 50 people work on. This is just one of those projects that the team really loves. In fact, around 40 people of Eforb are currently busy with the big and ambitious MMORPG called The Skies. They’ve already reached the alpha stage and in a few more sprints will be able to invite their most active community members to playtest it. A part of the team is also working on supporting the Gamebox platform, and there’s also a separate team taking care of a on non-gaming project called ineed – a social marketplace of products and services with the focus on recommendations from friends.