Pixel People, an iOS game, has raked in $700,000 over 2 million downloads in the span of three months, said the game’s maker, Lambdamu. The key to their success, according to a company spokesperson, was a distribution deal with Chillingo.
The small Singaporean company has ten employees and has been around since 2009. This is its first hit.
The game falls under the “casual strategy” genre that requires users to lay out a town with buildings and inhabit it with pixel residents. One of the objects is to find new occupations for residents by “DNA-splicing” two jobs together to make a new one. Most of it is somewhat logical—an architect and a dreamer makes an artist, and a doctor and photographer makes a radiologist.
It seems the secret to Pixel People’s success was Lambdamu’s decision to go with a big-name publisher, Chillingo. Chillingo was responsible for launching mega titles, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. It was acquired for $20 million by EA in October 2010.
Lambdamu CEO, Ivan Loo, said the PR blitz driven by Chillingo that accompanied Pixel People’s debut was unlike what the firm had seen before. “We’ve been trying to get an IGN contact for the longest time,” he said. Clearly this was the perfect storm—a proper distributor meets a great game—but it’s interesting to note how much difference the deal actually made.
After Pixel People launched, it hit its first millionth download within the first two weeks.
This the second game that the developer has launched with a publisher. Six Waves, a smaller firm, published an earlier title, called Dice Soccer. Loo didn’t comment on the support it got from Six Waves, but said its relationship with the firm was merely for “distribution.” A quick look at the Six Waves site doesn’t show any blockbuster title, so it’s probably safe to assume that the company wasn’t able to give it the kind of boost that Chillingo could.
Interestingly, Lambdamu was keen to go with Chillingo in spite of hearing they weren’t going to provide much support after the game was released. Loo said Chillingo helped with some packaging of the product before it was released, but “we needed a huge PR splash.”
Now that Lambdamu’s riding high on Pixel People, it may not go with another publisher. Lambdamu’s chief creative officer, Abhishek Radhakrishnan, said the company can probably push its next title on its own. “Even if people don’t know Lambdamu, we can say ‘from the makers of Pixel People’ on the next game’s splash screen,” he said. It’s a common situation publishers find themselves in with developers who have made it big. Angry Birds developer, Rovio, declared that it would not use Chillingo again after its initial success with Angry Birds. Rovio has since self-published subsequent spin-offs of the popular title.
Chillingo COO Ed Rumley said in a 2012 interview that a publisher’s value remains in its ability to help indie developers put a bit more polish into their games before release, as well as offer its marketing clout.
For now, Lambdamu is still updating Pixel People with new content, but Loo is not expecting the game’s 200,000 active monthly users to last into perpetuity. “We’d be very happy to hit six months profitability and a year for its shelf life,” he said.
It remains to be seen whether the Pixel People name is sufficient to float Lambdamu’s next project. It’s developing a game called Are You A Dodo? together with a book coming out from Singaporean author Adeline Foo, where the characters in the latter’s upcoming book will play the game. Expect it later this year.