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Rovio continues his quest to branch out beyond Angry Birds with Small Town Murders, a mobile match-3 puzzle game. The free title launches Wednesday on iOS and Android.
The Espoo, Finland-based company hopes to stand out with its story-driven gameplay, Rovio’s games manager Alex Pelletier-Normand said in an interview with GamesBeat. Match-3 games make up the largest portion of the U.S. mobile game market, according to market research firm GameRefinery.
This game combines the serious subject of solving murder with a light sense of humor and cartoon characters. The resulting tone is something like the Clue board game.
“We want to diversify our portfolio,” said Pelletier-Normand. “We saw a chance to tap into the murder mystery genre and combine it with match-3. We don’t see anything else on the market like this.
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Murders in a small town
Small Town Murders is a new intellectual property located in the hamlet of Thornton Grove. Players discover that all is not as it seems, as a reclusive widow is found unconscious in her home. You take on the role of aspiring writer Nora Mistry to uncover the truth with the help of eccentric characters, such as enthusiastic assistant Shanahan and local occupier Mrs. Musgrove.
On the theme of ‘puzzle solve, solve case’, players complete puzzle match levels to collect crime scene evidence, follow leads and identify suspects. At the end of each scripted case, the killer is revealed.
Lots of content
To advance in the story, you solve match-3 puzzles. Pelletier-Normand said the game will launch with over 1,000 puzzles and eight different crime stories. The company will roll out updates every month, with around one new crime story per month.
It sounds like a lot of content, but Pelletier-Normand said that one of the things that makes this possible is automated testing. (It’s not that different from what we heard from Jennifer Bonine, CEO of PinkLion.ai, an AI-based testing company, at our GamesBeat Summit 2020 event.)
In this case, Pelletier-Normand stated that the company does not necessarily use this solution. But he said it’s possible AI could be used to test the levels to see if they’re well designed. He said the levels should be hard, but not too hard that no one can beat them. AI helps test it more rigorously than a human, but it doesn’t completely replace human testers.
“We have algorithms that try to solve the puzzle on their own and assess how easy or difficult they are,” said Pelletier-Normand. “It really helps balance the levels and improves the quality of each level. “
The game comes from Rovio’s Puzzle Studio, which previously made Sugar Blast (released in September) and Angry Birds: Dream Blast (released in January 2019).
“The whole idea is mastering the genre,” said Pelletier-Normand. “We’ve been doing puzzle games for a while and moving to a narrative match-3 game made sense. It’s a logical iteration of what we were already doing.
Match-3 games have become the biggest part of the mobile gaming market, where King’s Candy Crush Saga dominates, but challengers such as Playrix’s Gardenscapes have emerged in their own decorating game subgenre niches. “What we’re trying to do is make the narrative meet Game-3,” said Pelletier-Normand.
Pelletier-Normand said that this kind of game can hook players with its natural mystery, making it easier to attract players and engage them for longer periods of time. “It’s good for user acquisition because it lowers the cost per install,” a reference to the cost of advertising for a new user to install the game, said Pelletier-Normand. “We do very targeted user acquisition. “
Fortunately, games are more popular during the pandemic, and gamers who could be entertained with other things like movies or sports are now playing games. It also makes acquiring users a bit easier, as players are more willing to try things out now. “We have seen an increased engagement of people in our games,” said Pelletier-Normand.
But the competition is still fierce, so Rovio will still have to heavily publicize the game.
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