PlayMoolah is a platform designed to teach financial literacy to children aged between six and twelve years with gamification tools that encourage children take charge of their money, in a fun, engaging and safe manner as well as additional features that allow parents to also be involved in their child’s learning journey.
The joint initiative is called the “OCBC Mighty Savers and PlayMoolah Adventure” and is integrated with OCBC’s existing Mighty Savers program. With a minimum account deposit of $50 account holders can access a Lite version of a PlayMoolah game account, while depositing $1000 provides access to the full version of the game.
This is the first financial institution with which PlayMoolah has partnered and OCBC Bank believe this positive alignment between companies serves an important need for their young customers. “We decided to work with PlayMoolah, as there is a distinct meeting of minds between our Mighty Savers programme and their online platform” said Ms Ng Li Lian, Head of Mass Segment, OCBC Bank. ”Both use similar methodologies to encourage good financial behaviour. With Mighty Savers, children can redeem gifts when they make a deposit of $50 or more, and with PlayMoolah, their online platform encourages both online and real-world savings.”
For PlayMoolah, the partnership provides another way to reach out to a wider database of users and more importantly, help boost the financial literacy of more children, empowering them to better manage their money. Audrey Tan, Co-founder of PlayMoolah said, “We founded PlayMoolah to inspire a new generation of young people to develop a healthy perspective towards money. We want them to be empowered by seeing it as a way to serve their dreams, personal growth and happiness, as well as to create value for society, rather than viewing money as an end in itself. Because of this, we are delighted to partner OCBC Bank, to help their Mighty Savers customers develop a positive relationship with money.”
Read more about PlayMoolah and their success to date in a previous blog post PlayMoolah: Gamifying financial system.
This blog post first appeared on http://www.recognitionpattern.com
The casual and mobile gaming scene has exploded in recent years with the success of games such as Angry Birds and Draw Something being held up as shining examples for independent game developers to follow in a chance to make millions overnight. But few know the trade secrets behind such success.
In a rare opportunity, Singapore designers and developers were treated over the weekend to a visit from the team of Halfbrick, one of Australia’s largest game development studios. During the Developer Dojo, with networking and workshop sessions co-hosted by Microsoft and e27, the sold out event provided insight into the company’s background, integrated marketing strategy and framework for technical development.
Although best known for their global success with casual gaming hit Fruit Ninja, the studio has had anything but overnight success. Fruit Ninja may have had over 300 million downloads across multiple platforms but it was in fact the company’s 15th game. Founded in 2001 with just five guys, Halfbrick had very “small and humble beginnings”. However, CEO and Founder Shaniel Deo is confident that the company’s success can be attributed to three key factors.
Firstly, there was a strong vision for the company from the outset. “When we started we really nailed what we were trying to do,” Deo says. ” Our key was we wanted to be the best at game design. Our peers and other companies at that time were focusing on graphics and technology… But we thought if we focused on game design we could out compete those guys. People are always looking for something extraordinary… game design lets you to stand out from the crowd and our games certainly embody that”. Deo also notes that companies like PopCap and Nintendo have always been an inspiration.
This focus on design and innovation has been cemented with a non-hierarchal and collaborative management style as well as the introduction of “Halfbrick Fridays.” At this weekly event every employee has an opportunity to pitch and prototype game ideas. In fact Fruit Ninja was pitched during one of these very events.
A second factor of their success has been the ability of the team to learn from experience. Halfbrick got their start by developing games for larger studios such as Electronic Arts, Activision and THQ on various platforms including Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network before moving on to their own intellectual property.
But Deo stresses that developing games is not enough – studios must actively learn from that experience. His advice to developers is to “make sure that with each product you release, you learn something, build on it and try to improve… When we started making our own games, we started with smaller titles like Blast Off and Age of Zombies and you can see the progress that we made and how each title gets better and better. In the app space you can do that really quickly… With each iteration you want to be improving.”
With over a decade of experience behind them Halfbrick has had slow but steady progress an approach that also applies to recruitment. “Carefully handpick your team,” says Deo. “Make sure the people you work with complement your skills and bring something to the table. We started with five guys and we didn’t always make the best choices at that stage… You want to choose your partners wisely. As we grew… each person we’ve added to the team goes through a rigorous recruitment process.”
In addition to a strong vision and focus on design, a creative and integrated marketing approach has been crucial in promoting not only individual game titles but also the Halfbrick brand itself.
Marketing Ninja Style
From literally no budget (acting, filming and editing for their first Fruit Ninja video was done entirely in-house) to the slick production values of more recent promotions, Phil Larsen, Head of Marketing gave some important insights to Halfbrick’s approach to marketing casual games, some of which may surprise game developers and marketing gurus alike.
Just as the Deo emphasised learning from development, so too does marketing benefit from analysing what has been done before. Moreover, marketing is not something that happens once the game is completed: quite the opposite. As Larsen states, “It starts with the game. Marketing is not about writing a press release or buying a hundred thousand users. I work with development teams as soon as they come up with the idea.” It’s an integrated approach that allows staff to collaborate on potential design features and seize promotional opportunities.
A lot of hard work also goes towards ongoing communication and maintaing good relationships with external parties such as publishers, stores, retail, media outlets and the end consumer. Moreover all marketing activities are executed under the light of promoting both the current game title as well as the overarching brand. “We want to be known for our game play and our awesome, fun games,” Larsen confirms adamently. This includes successful cross-marketing opportunities with companies such as Dreamworks to develop a version of Fruit Ninja with animated character Puss in Boots.
In a move that may surprise a lot of indie developers, Halfbrick has never had a user acquisition budget. Larsen says that “If [paid user acquisition] fits into your overall marketing strategy then great but be aware that marketing is not just about plugging money into an ad network.” Instead the team looks for innovative and complementary opportunities that deliver high-impact at low-cost. A prime example was the successful leveraging of Microsoft’s global multi-million dollar launch of Xbox Kinect by naming the resulting title: Fruit Ninja Kinect. To coincide with Fruit Ninja’s two year anniversary, the company ran a national competition with a travelling road show to find Australia’s Fruit Ninja Master.
Technical and Cross-platform Development
Just as Fruit Ninja was launched successfully in 2010 into the iOS environment, Deo notes that with the imminent release of Windows 8, “Its an amazing time in apps and mobile… It’s a blank slate and a real opportunity to come in and create a real hit… Sooner or later players crave new experiences and you can do that with Microsoft’s platforms”.
Richard McKinney, Halfbrick’s CTO, explains that Windows 8 provides game developers with a new frontier for gaming with a touch-centric environment, cross-form factors, and Xbox Live integration as well as access to multiple architectures through Metro APIs. “We’re really excited that pretty much everything is based around touch,” says McKinney. “And for the first time we have a store built into the operating system… so there’s greater visibility [for apps] than the desktop environment.”
And there haven’t been any “quick and dirty” ports from the other platforms to Windows. McKinney stresses, “Every platform has its own characteristics and user expectations. We’ve done a lot of work to make sure that each game is a great game for Windows 8.” The development team also highlighted opportunities in the enhanced ability to share across social networks through integrated applications.
The team has had obvious fun in experimenting with Windows 8 features such as live tiles and snapped views, pushing their creative boundaries to create some very innovative and fun game play that has increased the stickiness and re-engagement opportunities of games like Fruit Ninja and their latest release Jetpack Joyride.
Halfbrick’s success is probably best summarised by the team themselves.
Deo: “User experience and respecting the user is really important to us. I guess we’d rather make less money and still make sure the user is happy then crank all the levers and extract as much money as we can.”
McKinney: “When users are happy they tell their friends and we probably make even more money that way.”
Larsen: “We’re building long term solutions and long term relationships as much as we can.”
This blog post first appeared on http://www.recognitionpattern.com
- Publisher: Huayu Games
- Origin: China
- Players: MMO
- Rating: 12+
- Price: Free download through iTunes plus virtual currency
- Format: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod Touch (3rd and 4th generation), and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later. (Reviewed on iPad 2.)
Chaos of Three Kingdoms is a turn-based strategy game (TBS) developed by Huayu Games. Based on the historical battles of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient China, it has been available in Chinese for some time but recently released in English for iOS mobile devices.
It’s been a while since I’ve played a TBS but I soon adopted the familiar position of trusty spreadsheet by my side helping me plan future battles and conquests. Information is provided in a need-to-know fashion, as the player levels up or via the quest prompts. This has the advantage of not overwhelming the player but a more detailed overarching introduction would be welcome and helpful for those not familiar with the Three Kingdoms narrative.
Following a brief encounter with the Yellow Turban Rebellion, you are introduced to your home base from which you must build your army and resources. Through the acquisition of resources such as silver and food (obtained by occupying silver mines and farms respectively) you can upgrade your base and improve specific areas including the Academy (technology and science), Market (purchase and enhance equipment), Training Ground, Vault and Barracks for your ever-ready to battle troops. Thus core gameplay focuses on the development of your strategy (diplomatic, technology, military and economic resources) and military tactics required to win each battle (troops, training, equipment, formation).
Then it’s on to the grand battle! Initially, battles are against NPC (non-playing characters) enemy and ally opponents. This serves as an introduction to different Heroes (generals), their skills and strengths, equipment and how to employ military tactics to defeat your opponent. Success in battle is largely a function of strategy and your ability to make effective choices. After attacking an enemy NPC you have the option of recruiting them to your own army, bolstering your strength and skill sets. Different Heroes possess various strengths in blocking and attacking that are later developed through training. Purchasing and enhancing equipment (weapons, armor, horses, and stratagems) will also ensure your Heroes abilities are maximised.
After choosing a country (Wei, Shu or Wu) and joining a Legion you can challenge other online players through PVP (player versus player) and Legion battles. It was difficult to ascertain which Legion to join as only minimal information was provided in-game (perhaps developers intend for players to seek out additional information on the forums) but becoming a Legion member is essential to acquire more resources such as gold as well as participating in Legion level battles and tournaments.
As with most freemium MMOs, one of your greatest opponents will be time. Silver is required to build your base and army but there are opportunities to speed build times or buy outright the resources or equipment needed by using Gold, which is purchased using real world currency or through Legion members bombing your gold mines. Gold becomes more important as you ascend through the levels of the game, allowing you to expand your equipment slots, train faster, purchase items to synthesize and create stronger battle skills.
The graphics and music are good for this type of genre, which usually focus on game play rather than aesthetics. However, a minor complaint is that given the amount of instruction and dialogue provided in-game and the obvious desire to appeal to an English speaking market, the developers may want to polish up the English content which at times detracts from otherwise strong game play.
If you love the mythology of Ancient China and turn-based strategy games but want the ease of going mobile, this is a game you can conquer with relish… and of course with the added bonus of being free.
Note: This review was undertaken with the assistance of a gift pack from RenRen Games.
This blog post first appeared on http://www.recognitionpattern.com