If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you may have seen the TV trailer for Season Two of The Walking Dead game. Just like the comic book and the television show before it, the game has been a huge success, with over 27 million copies downloaded to date.
The game’s designer, Dan Connors of Telltale Games, spoke to an audience of developers at IBM’s dev@Pulse conference. He shared the secrets to his development approach that have made The Walking Dead game so successful.
Look for the not-so-obvious opportunities with a built-in audience. For Connors, The Walking Dead was a logical content choice because it already had a large, loyal and engaged following. This worked to his benefit, because he did not have to build the audience for the game from scratch, allowing him to focus his energy on extending the experience of the television show into an interactive context.
Think cinematically. Connors understood that it was important for the game to feel reminiscent of the storytelling style that the audience was used to, in order to appeal to viewers who were not traditional gamers. By enticing even the more casual gamers, he was able to more fully capitalize on the installed base of loyal TV viewers.
Leverage analytics. If you’ve played The Walking Dead game before, you’ll know that it puts players in a situation of consequence, and they are forced to make a choice about how they will proceed. Connors analyzes the data on each decision scenario to reveal trends in decision-making, and then he shares the analysis with his players. This starts conversation online communities and builds further buzz for the app. In addition, if analysis reveals that people’s decisions aren’t playing along with where the storyline needs to go, he can adjust on the fly to make the game more hospitable to the narrative.
Provide bite size pieces of content. Connors chose an episodic experience for several reasons. First, it mimics the rhythm of the TV show, for which the season is also divided into two parts. But more importantly, because not all of the content is provided at once, it keeps a user engaged for a longer period of time. As an added bonus, it also creates a friendlier pricing model because the cost of playing is spread out over several seasons.
Before he wrapped up, Connors revealed to the audience that he is also working on a new app for Game of Thrones, which I am sure will be just as eagerly anticipated. But of course, when any product is as successful as The Walking Dead game has been, there is also bound to be some criticism. When asked about how he handles the criticism, Connors revealed that he has a positive take on such criticism, responding to it and learning from it.
“The more critical people are about the content, the better the content is in the end,” he shared. Well said, my friend…well said.