Supercell and Rovio might be getting a lot of attention, but there are a number of other really big gaming success stories out of Finland. The recently launched game: Benji Bananas by Tribeflame, published by Fingersoft, reached over 15 000 000 combined downloads on Google Play and the Apple store. Together with Hill Climb Racing, the two games put Fingersoft to the number #4 spot in the world by monthly downloads, according to the March edition of App Annie index. The top three were Rovio, Imangi Studios and Electronic Arts.
Benji Bananas is a game, where you navigate a monkey through a series of vine swings, collecting bananas and other consumables as you go. As Torulf Jernström, the CEO of Tribeflame, tells us “[They] wanted to make a ‘one-button’ game. Any idea that was more complicated – was out”. So this is exactly what they did, your whole screen is one huge button. All you need to do is touch the screen if you want to hold onto a vine and release when you want to jump to the next one.
Jernstöm notes that although they have done games in the past, they wanted to make sure this one was a success: “We worked on it for a long time, doing a lot of iterations, a lot of A/B testing. It was in silent mode for a year with testing in Canada and Australia, testing out different ideas there. It got better and better and in the end we decided to not take any chances on the launch side. So we teamed up with Fingersoft of Oulu for launch. They advertised us for some days and from the on the game grew and reached the number one spot in many countries.”
This once again shows how Finnish companies excel at gathering data, statistics and testing them out before the final release. Through testing, they reached over 50% one-day retention rates before deciding to publish the game.
ArcticStartup downloaded the game and I spent the whole weekend giving it a try. To be honest, my intention was only to play for a few hours but being ill, bored and addicted to the game made sure that I played for a lot more. The game-play is really simple and I can see it as a good way to kill a few minutes when commuting to work. The graphics are very well designed and you can see that a lot of work was put into it.
Monetization wise, there are ads on the android version of the game and you can also buy in-game purchases. However the game is completely playable without them.
If you want to be picky, then the graphics of the menu’s can be improved, which seems to be an issue for a large number of gaming companies as they mostly focus on the game itself. In addition to that, it does end-up getting a bit repetitive, but then it never claimed to be the next iteration of Starcraft. If you are going to give it a try, stick to the top vines and do try to grab the end of them in order to get more speed. If you end-up grabbing the vines near the top end, release quickly.
Overall, the game is quite good and this is supported by the download numbers. Think of it as Tiny Wings but with multiple levels.
Coming back to Tribeflame, they did not come into the gaming scene out of nowhere. In fact they wanted to make iPad games before iPad even existed, so much so that they built an “iPad” one year before it was announced. Well, not the actual iPad, but they did make a prototype (pictured to the right) of a device for converting board games to a touchscreen device.
As Jernstöm tells us: “[They] built a device similar to the ipad a year before the ipad came out. [They] dragged that device around to the board game companies and told them that the future of gaming is this. Large touchscreen devices.”
They were also one of the first publishers to launch games on the iPad, coming out with a game the day that the iPad came to life. Keeping this in mind, they can claim to be the very first tablet gaming company in the world. Right now, however they are focusing on their first big success and are planning a lot of updates for Benji Bananas and are already working on a sequel. Stay tuned and check out the gameplay video below: