By Yonatan Erez, CEO of Ilyon
Rock‘n’roll is here to stay, as the old song says – but in the mobile era, getting people into brick-and-mortar businesses can be a challenge. Like brands of all kinds, Hard Rock is seeking to connect with mobile users. The only question is how – and Hard Rock found its answer in the game developed in collaboration with our team here at Ilyon Dynamics: Hard Rock Puzzle Match.
Branding in the Millennial Age
Everyone, of course, has heard of the Hard Rock Cafe, a recognizable brand that has served up music-inspired experiences to three generations, and shows no sign of stopping; the Hard Rock organization opened several hotels this year and is set to add to its collection of casinos with a new one in Atlantic City next year – and there is even a Hard Rock gas station in the works.
But even an iconic brand like Hard Rock faces competition, and to compete, the brand, like many others, had to diversify its mobile offerings. Thanks to millennials, devices are now the No. 1 way entertainment is consumed, beating out TV, computers, and even radio. Any brand that wants to remain relevant – whether a department store or even music-themed entertainment center – needs to make building an online, and specifically mobile, presence a priority.
It’s not just millennials; mobile is now a multi-generational phenomenon. The challenge for all brick-and-mortar brands today is how to connect with mobile users while also furthering brand allegiance. The goal of the mobile experience we developed is, of course, to bring the unique Hard Rock experience to the fingertips of its users, but the main question for Hard Rock – and for us – was how to connect the online and offline experience, based on Hard Rock’s demographics, customer interests, and objectives.
A Game For All Ages
The answer, we decided together with Hard Rock, was collaborating to develop a casual game – and thus was born Hard Rock Puzzle Match, a casual game in the classic sense of the term. A match-3 game, a format Ilyon is very familiar with, was the natural choice for this project. After all, when it comes to gaming, casual games are a great type of game to introduce to all different types of users, from younger kids to grandparents.
The game features music (what else would one expect in a Hard Rock-themed game?) in all aspects of the game, and the theme – the colors, the screens, the visuals – are Hard Rock all the way. That is exactly what both Hard Rock and our team were looking for. After brainstorming, we decided to focus on the music memorabilia that graces the walls in Hard Rock cafes, hotels, casinos and live venues – one of the biggest attractions at their properties, items that people come to Hard Rock specifically to see. The game is laser-focused on the memorabilia; players collect memorabilia cards and finish sets in order to get special rewards. The “souvenirs” of the rock era are one of the main features of the Hard Rock experience, and they are one of the main features of the Hard Rock Match-3 Game.
To get there, our teams met intensively over the winter and spring months, as the game was under development. We would constantly compare notes about where we were and where we wanted to be. It was important for both of us not to lose our vision of what we wanted the final result to look like, in terms of concept and content. In the end, I think we created a new paradigm of gaming for an offline company – and for the creation process.
By taking a step-by-step approach, we were able to avoid pitfalls that would have led to an eventual difference in vision – with the result that one of us would had to have compromised on something. Of course in any game development there are compromises – how heavy the graphics can be, what the extent, length, and depth of gameplay should be – but when you work in a strong team setting as we did, you avoid a lot of the conflict that could develop in such a situation.
The results have been nothing less than fantastic. Although out just two weeks, the game has gotten positive buzz among players/commenters in the App Store and Google Play, as well as garnering some nice reviews in the gaming press. We at Ilyon have developed dozens of popular casual titles; it’s fair to say we’re the industry experts on the subject. Hard Rock chose to work with us in part based on our experience and the successes of our other casual games, in particular match-3 games, each of which has that “special something” that players especially like. For us, the challenge was incorporating the legendary Hard Rock memorabilia into a game with the music and themes the company wanted; for Hard Rock, the trick was getting the branding right while ensuring a breezy, fun, but interesting and engaging experience, for players. I think our partnership has pulled that off.
For Ilyon, working with an iconic brand like Hard Rock is a unique experience, and I feel our collaboration brought a unique product to the table. The combination of offline and online – making the items in the restaurants transform from their physical form to a digital one – is a new paradigm in branding and I think this could be a new direction and idea for many brands in the future.
Yonatan Erez is the CEO of Ilyon Dynamics, one of the world’s fastest growing mobile gaming companies, with over 50 free-to-play casual titles and hundreds of millions of downloads.