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Playtika’s game studio Wooga launches Switchcraft, a story-based match-3 game that has been running for a few years.
The title is the first new game launched since Playtika was announced for a valuation of $ 11 billion in January. As such, it’s an important game for Playtika, and it speaks to the company’s strategy of letting game developers spend a lot of time on development to get their games in order.
The developers started their conceptual work with the game in 2017, which is much longer than it usually takes to make many mobile games. But Nai Chang, CEO of Wooga in Berlin, said in an interview with GamesBeat that most of the work was done during the last 18 months of the pandemic. It was hard to do, but the team has invested a lot in the game.
For example, the title has more than 1,000 levels in the beginning, and the narrative is woven into still cutscenes through the levels, Chang said. The game is available today on iOS and Android, and it is available in 13 languages. Match-3 games are a crowded category and therefore the stakes are high. But Wooga is going for an underserved segment with the weight of history, Chang said. He said the audience is more female-focused, but may also be younger than the usual audience targeting Wooga’s play.
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Switchcraft has fully realized characters from different backgrounds. It is an attempt to get people involved in the narrative and make the story appeal to a wider audience. The switch craft world is also immersive and marries the narrative with match-3 mechanics.
I asked if the company used machine learning to test all the levels, but Chang said the team mostly used people for that test. Shlomi Aizenberg, who heads Playtika’s casual games division, said in an interview that Playtika is investing heavily in technologies such as machine learning to help retain users, user acquisition and gameplay improvements.
The work was given the green light and started before the departure of Jens Begemann, founder of Wooga. But it also took a very different path of development after Begemann left, Chang said.
Investing in history
The casual game takes players on an interactive journey through the eyes of a female protagonist exploring her magical powers.
The game’s main character is a young woman – Bailey Ward – who lives in a small town in Massachusetts. Bailey takes players on a tortuous journey filled with puzzles and witchcraft-themed interactions, featuring a diverse set of stories designed to excite gamers.
Although match-3 is new to Wooga, the emphasis is not on history. Wooga’s top game is June’s Journey, a hidden object game that follows a protagonist’s adventure. That game debuted four years ago and it’s still going strong. It proved to Wooga that players will join the tour if the studio invests heavily in a mysterious tale that continues for a long time.
“Over the last four years, we’ve changed our company’s vision to really focus on story-driven casual games,” Chang said. “In my mind, that’s what sets us apart from all the other games in the genre. Our focus on the story is clear when you first start playing. The amount of narrative world-building and immersion is what Switchcraft brings to mobile gaming. ”
The contemporary magic theme throughout Switchcraft adds dynamic and unpredictable elements to the story and takes players on a journey of exploration and discovery as they choose their own path through the evolving mysteries. It has also adopted a unique, graphic novel art style and a diverse cast.
The game features a majority of BIPOC protagonists led by a strong female leadership, making it distinctive in the casual puzzle sector. Wider diversity, including nationality, sexuality, and disability, is embedded in history.
The game has been in soft launch for a while. In the beginning, the retention was not as good as it is now. And the company added more elements to ensure players were hooked on the narrative, Chang said.
Playtika can help Wooga gain more users as it has a monthly active user base of 36 million players across all of its games globally, Aizenberg said. Playtika has 20 offices around the world. Wooga has about 300 people now, with teams working on more games.
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