Soft-launching a game in New Zealand is a strategic move for game developers Hidden Variable Studios.
Kiwis are pretty savvy when it comes to technology and certainly aren't shy about being vocal, reckons one expat game developer.
That's why Hidden Variable Studios, a North
Hollywood game studio founded by three industry veterans of Kiwi and
American descent, is launching its first app in New Zealand today before
its worldwide release in November.
"Whether it’s offering new ideas, suggesting improvements, or simply offering a pat on the back – Kiwis will tell it like it is – which is exactly the kind of audience we are looking for as part of our initial launch," said creative director and co-founder Charley Price, a New Zealander himself.
He says the company is dedicated to revealing the fun and fantastic in the everyday world.
"We kicked around a wide variety of game concepts before we at last honed in on Bag It! which, in our eyes, had all of the key ingredients we were looking for in our first game," he said.
Bag It! is a puzzle game where players are tasked with fitting grocery characters into a bag as quickly as possible, trying not to crush them.
"It's a bit like Tetris meets Toy Story," Price said.
"A grocery store is a internationally familiar - yet relatively untapped - space for games, which fit right into our philosophy of finding fun in unexpected places. Furthermore, it involved a somewhat complex activity that the majority of us do on a pretty regular basis."
He said the studio opted for a low price point and an uninterrupted play experience as opposed to going freemium and "having players feel like we are constantly asking for their money throughout the whole experience".
Feedback is a key part of that loop, with each of the 50 levels displaying its own feedback button.
According to Price, by soft launching in a smaller region like New Zealand first, the team has a chance to engage with a select group of players earlier in the development process who can help shape the experience as a whole.
Bag It! was developed independently, although the studio is in talks with international brands about potential brand or character integration.
All three of the founders left previous jobs working on multi-million dollar console games to launch Hidden Variable Studios earlier this year.
"We staffed up slowly, making sure to not only grab people that were the most talented, but also those that were the best fit for the culture of the studio," Price said.
The studio now boasts six employees, but he says staying small ensures they remain flexible.
"At the end of the day, it helps ensure that we're always making the best possible decisions for the game itself, rather than being beholden to the many other forces at work in a standard publishing model."
The Hidden Variable team clearly has a sense of humour, as evidenced in its press release:
A number of groceries are speaking out today in response to a recent series of crushed items in regional supermarkets. "You'd think people would learn!" said Sunshine, a local OJ. "It's simple - don't put me on top of the crisps! It's just a disaster waiting to happen."
“Enough is enough,” wrote Sir Eggward, one of the recent victims, in a formal letter. “We’re simply not made to support the weight of all these Milks. Something needs to be done.”
“And don’t get me started on the Watermelons”, he added, “those chaps are just crazy.”