Gaming On-The-Go is a weekly series that explores the mobile gaming industry, as well as uncovering the current trends, with hands-on guides for the latest smartphone and tablet games.
People of all ages have fallen in love with Talking Tom from YouTube's CGI animated series Talking Tom and Friends. With over 3 billion views, the success of the series has enabled its creators at the entertainment company Outfit7 Limited to expand their brand into different media vehicles with merchandise, music, webisodes and 14 apps.
The apps have seen great success in their own right. Indeed, the Talking Tom and Friends franchise has made mobile history: Since the 2010 launch of its first title, Talking Tom, it's had 2.8 billion downloads — and in even less time, Outfit7 Limited became the first company to reach 300 million downloads within 19 months.
While it may be obvious that the adorable CGI cat would be popular among young kids (who can watch the series on the YouTube Kids app), Outfit7 Limited CEO Samo Login revealed in an interview with Tech Times that the My Talking Tom app is actually most popular among older teens and adults.
"I think the success of the Talking Tom and Friends brand is that it's not targeting a very specific demographic. If you targeted only a specific demographic, it's really hard to get your apps high on the ranks," Login told Tech Times. "Creating a character that is universally lovable made our lives a lot easier [to expand into other media markets such as the app space], and it was not that hard for us afterwards to create different apps or videos that made [the brand] even stronger."
The company is expanding beyond the Talking Tom franchise by launching a new brand called NeoMars, with its first mobile game, Mars Pop, hitting app stores July 23.
"Expanding to a portfolio of brands was something we had planned for a long time, but it is quite an effort to make — it's not something you can do overnight," Login said.
Mars Pop is a classic bubble shooter game that is familiar and easy to play, but it incorporates new elements to keep things fresh and fun — such as its futuristic theme, 3D graphics, and the ability to compete against others globally in real-time.
The mobile game is set in a fictional city called NeoMars in the year 2124.
"We spent some time on developing the NeoMars brand, and we decided to put it somewhere in the future to make it appealing to all the teenagers and young adults, and at the same time not make it some sci-fi that would be really hard to relate to," Login explained.
Users can either play anonymously without having to sign in, or they can connect with their Facebook accounts. Each player is then matched with an opponent based on skill level. As the gamer plays, they can see their opponent play as well, via a small window located in the upper-left corner of the screen.
To play this bubble shooter game, the player must burst at least three like-colored bubbles. As bubbles explode on the player's screen, another line is then added to the opponent's. The first to have their bubbles reach below the red line at the bottom of the screen loses.
While this concept is nothing new, Login and his team put an interactive spin on the classic game by making it all about the multiplayer mode.
"We saw a huge opportunity to put a twist on a well-known mechanism that will enable us to bring people back in the game over and over again. We believe this bubble shooter is so much different since it's so easy for people to get hooked," Login said.
The game is not turn-based, but is rather played in real-time. That means the team faced some challenges during development. Since there was no platform to suit their needs, the developers had to build their own multiplayer platform with matching servers to make this game a reality. Mars Pop was developed using Unity, with the standard 60 frames per second graphics, so the mobile game can be distributed widely on iOS, Android and Windows phones.
Gamers can not only play with others around the world, but they can also can compete with their friends, and they have the ability to see where they rank on leader boards.
With more interactive elements than other bubble shooter games, Mars Pop players can chat with their opponents, send messages like "I had no chance!" as well as emojis during gameplay. After a match, the player can ask the opponent to play again, accept to play again or exit to play someone else.
The multiplayer bubble shooter game is appropriate for gamers of all ages. It seems easy at first, but the game does get more difficult as additional lines of bubbles are added. The trick is aiming to pair the bubble you're shooting higher up to release more bubbles that are dangling.
"If you are not the fastest player in the world, [be] more precise and careful with how you stack and shoot the balls to pop as many bubbles at the same time as possible — that is actually the best strategy in the game," Login said.
Players can choose to play as a male or female character from NeoMars, with more characters to come in later updates as the brand expands. And while the game introduces gamers to the Martians and their robots, their story will be further explored in videos that will be released in the near future.
The story will follow a group of friends who do "everything teenagers normally do" while exploring their environment and learning about the past on Mars.
"For instance, NASA's station is something that is part of the history of Mars at that time. The robots that are shooting bubbles in Mars Pop are actually robots that are actually connected to their DNA, and every person on Mars has their own personal robot that is responsible for their security and well-being."
While we wait to learn more about NeoMars, gamers can now download Mars Pop for free in the App Store and Google Play Store.