Over the past eight years, InnoGames has been developing browser-based Real Time Strategy (RTS) games, and to say that they’ve been met with acclaim would be a bit of an understatement. Since its formation, InnoGames – which launched in 2007 – has managed to rack up an impressive 150 million subscribers across all of their award winning games; including Forge of Empires, Grepolis, and Tribal Wars 1 & 2.
Since they began creating games in 2003, the founders of InnoGames realized that there wasn’t much of a platform for the just then emerging mobile market. Thus, the idea for InnoGames was born, and after less than a decade, the gaming company has managed to corner the mobile gaming market, not just in their native Germany, but worldwide.
Fabio Lo-Zito, who manages PR for the company, was able to take a break from his hectic schedule in order to sit down with us here at Pop Geeks and talk about the company; essentially how InnoGames first began, as well as what matters to the company when developing a game. Below, you can find that interview.
Pop Geeks: InnoGames seems to have carved out a very specific niche in creating browser based games, something which all of your games are. Was creating mainly browser based games InnoGames’ plan right from the beginning?
Fabio Lo-Zito: When our founders started developing games in 2003, that was basically the way to go, as the mobile market didn’t exist in that form. And we will always have a strong focus on browser-based gaming and the communities we grew there. But now that more and more people, including large parts of our existing and potential playerbase are moving to mobile devices for surfing and playing, we want to be present there as well, with cross-platform enabled expansions of our existing games as well as new mobile-only projects.
Pop Geeks: InnoGames is also well known for creating strategy games, something which you’ve also created a foothold in. What was it that interested the team in sticking close to the strategy, town building MMO format?
Fabio: When InnoGames started doing games, the first people working on Tribal Wars, including the founders, were big fans of RTS games like Age of Empires and Command & Conquer. And after we had initial success with Tribal Wars, we established strategy games as natural part of InnoGames’ DNA – we will always have several strategy games in our lineup, with stronger focus on certain aspects, like PvP or peaceful town building, like you have in Forge of Empires. But actually, our second game, The West, already was an RPG, and some of our future games will be as well.
You will probably never see a puzzle game from us, but we’re definitely not tied down to just strategy games, although we love doing them. I think one of the great aspects of strategy games, regardless if they’re on browser or mobile, is that players can very freely choose when and for how long they spend time with them. And especially in our MMO-type strategy games this means that more engaged players literally carry their game around with them all day, all the time. It becomes part of their lives.
Pop Geeks: Your games have been extremely well received by both fans and critics – Forge of Empires, for example, has won several awards. Did this success have any kind of impact on how you create your games?
Fabio: Yes; We are way more focused on having streamlined production cycles as well as offering top-notch quality right from launch. Basically every game we did after Forge of Empires was measured by its level of polish and its success, which sometimes is not easy to reach for games still being in development.
Pop Geeks: To date, InnoGames has acquired over 150 million users across all of your games. Obviously, that’s a huge accomplishment. Is it anyway difficult to ensure that you keep all of your players happy and ensure that they all have the great playing experience that you’ve become renowned for?
Fabio: That’s a huge task and one of the reasons we grew so much in terms of employees over the last couple of years. A successful game like Forge of Empires has over 50 people working on it now, more than double the amount of people that originally developed it. And they’re all focusing on creating content and polishing the game. As an online-only developer, we really know how important it is to see our games as an ongoing service instead of a one-time release.
Pop Geeks: You’re audience reaches people from all over the world. Does this have any sort of effect on how you approach scripting your games, as well as what languages you release your games on?
Fabio: For the development process there is not much we have to keep in mind, except from flexible textboxes. But of course we try to have our games out in as many languages as soon as possible. Our more established games support 30-35 languages.
Pop Geeks: The vast majority – if not all – of your games are free to play. Will there be a time when InnoGames introduces in app purchases for your games in order to generate more income, or will you be sticking just with premium accounts?
Fabio: This is already the case for most of our games – with the heavy PvP-component of games like Tribal Wars 2 and Grepolis, we’re limiting the things you can buy ingame in order to not create an imbalanced experience for players. But especially in Forge of Empires there are many decorations for your city, which you can purchase with premium.
Pop Geeks: Forge of Empires has recently gotten its Tomorrow Era content. Did you envision having this level of content for the game back when you first started working on the game, or did you decide to create more content for it once it became as successful as it was?
Fabio: We always knew that we wanted to add new ages to the game – but we never expected the game to be that successful, so we’re actually close to running out of future scenarios to put into the game.
Pop Geeks: Will we be seeing some more new content for Forge of Empires? What about the other games that you’ve already released?
Fabio: All of our games will receive regular updates, software- as well as content-wise, as long as they’re playable. And of course, as long as people are playing Forge of Empires, there will be new content for them to experience.
Pop Geeks: Forge of Empires and Tribal Wars 2, which has also become successful, received new TV spots at the start of the month. Was it difficult to create the TV spot and get it on the dozens of channels that they’re currently airing on?
Fabio: We did not have that many problems getting the spot on air – we actually started doing TV ads for Grepolis a couple of years ago already, and by now it’s pretty common for successful browser and mobile games to also advertise on television. The shoots themselves, however, were a very new experience for us, as we used real actors for the first time. But we really love the results and are already working on new spots.
Pop Geeks: Lastly, are there any other games that have yet to be announced that you’re currently working on, or is InnoGames focused on delivering more content for the games that everyone seems to be clamouring to?
Fabio: Both; We have teams working on several new games which have not been announced yet. At least one of them will be developed with the Unreal Engine, which is a first for us. But of course the dedicated teams for our existing games will continue to improve them in many ways and of course dish out lots of content.