New Star Soccer Interview With Simon Read
The future of the smash-hit soccer series, and finding success with the free-to-play model.
New Star Soccer is one of mobile gaming's greatest success stories, thanks to its wry and detailed take on the career of the rich, famous and just plain spoiled soccer star.
It's also a shockingly addictive game, and a new content update is due to hit the App Store next month. We recently got together with the game's creator, Simon Read, to talk about finding success with New Star Soccer, what the future holds for the series, and what developers can do to make their games stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Can you talk us through the new update, what's coming, and why you've focused on the features that you have?
A lot of players have told me that they have "completed" the game, meaning that they have won all the major tournaments, bought every item in the shop, and have all the achievements. So something I wanted to do with the update was to give the player more things to aim for, but also to re-balance it slightly so that your skills decline as you get older. 40 year-old players can no longer play as if they are in peak physical condition, and you will now have to decide when is the right time to retire and tally up your "final score".
There are also new gameplay features such as headers, new boots, and a "focus" option that allows you to play in a more defensive or attacking manner. In addition to all that there are now three available save slots, support for different screen resolutions such as that of the iPhone 5, new languages, new dilemmas, new stadium backgrounds and night-time matches. You can also play as a woman now.
The App Store is littered with great games that never achieve the success they deserve. What do you see as the secret to not just making a great game, but getting it in players' hands?
New Star Soccer launched as a Flash app alongside the mobile versions, and that proved key in getting a good number of App Store downloads right from day one. Players enjoying the free web version naturally wanted to have the game in their pocket, so up-selling to the mobile versions proved very worthwhile for me, and should certainly be employed if at all possible.
Which other games do you think handle free-to-play well, and do you have a philosophy about how that model should be implemented?
Actually the games I have enjoyed most lately tend to have been paid apps! As far as free-to-play is concerned though, it's quite a tricky thing to balance. A lot of free-to-play games almost give you too much content for free, or allow you to progress steadily without ever requiring a purchase. I played it safe and put in a pay-wall after 10 matches, which may have been a bit harsh in retrospect, but I wanted to be generous with what you got after paying your 69p [$0.99], which I think is appreciated by the players.
A lot of noise is made about the importance of analytics in free-to-play games, but I don't think it's rocket science. Developers should know when the game feels right, and players can tell when they are being 'nickel and dimed'.
Can we expect to see the likes of New Star GP or Tennis make their way to mobiles and tablets? What was your reason for selecting Soccer as an App Store title?
Football games have always been my main passion, whilst the other sports were really side-projects to keep things fresh. I have been thinking about doing a mobile version of New Star GP, and that may be something that happens at some point, but right now the focus remains on football.
What's left to be done with the current New Star Soccer , and do you have future plans to re-build it as a completely new game?
I do have plans for a completely new version of New Star Soccer, and I am currently exploring the idea that it could be truly cross-platform and launch on consoles and PC as well as mobile, but that is some way off yet.
I certainly have a bottomless pit of ideas for the game, but how many make it into the current version - or get held back for the follow-up - remains to be seen. The great thing about being an indie developer is that I can change my plans at a moments notice, or add new gameplay features the moment I think of them.