Simon Bland in Tech & Digital

03/10/2014

Interview: Yippee Entertainment Co-Founder Lorraine Starr

Manchester's Yippee Entertainment have risen quickly. Emerging during a difficult time for the North West gaming industry, the team found sudden success with their colourful mobile app game Chimpact

We caught up with company co-founder Lorraine Starr to discuss working with our Business Loans Fund, their new game Chimpact Run and the crucial importance of holding onto your IP...


How did Yippee Entertainment start?

In February 2011 the team found themselves coming to the end of their current projects at a very fragile time for the North West Games Industry. Development studios were being taken over or closed down throughout the country, and Manchester was being hit quite hard. Being the entrepreneurial spirits that we are, we decided that there would never be a better time to get together with such a hugely talented bunch of guys and do it for ourselves. We have all worked together at various companies over the years and have a huge amount of respect for each other’s talent, work ethic and most importantly, sense of humour. It's the latter that has carried us through these early days.

How difficult was it starting from scratch?

One of the trickiest things to do is to come up with a name for the company. Various suggestions were put forward but we wanted something that would say something about who we are as a team and what we wanted to be known for. We had to avoid traditional games company names such as Dark Star Megadeth Gaming etc. It had to be fresh and fun. Whilst thumbing through a magazine as we were talking, we came across an advert showing children with their hands in the air, with excitement and the headline was YIPPEE. That was exactly the feeling that we wanted to generate – fun, excitement, happiness. I’ve just beaten the bad guy on that level, a name that our future customers could identify with. Yippee! Entertainment was created!

Tell us a bit about Chimpact...

As a new company it was important for us to create a first title that was going to be a showcase for our talents, and a demonstration of the quality that we can achieve. We also felt that it was important to create our own IP. Chimpact – Pinball with monkeys! The game is set in luscious environments and features a variety of captivating characters. You catapult Chuck the Chimp from jungle vines, collecting bunches of bananas and exploring the environment to find hidden gems. The game received critical acclaim with reviews such as 'Chimpact makes me hungry, mostly for bananas, but also for one more round of play…'. During the development we spent a considerable amount of time building our own cross-platform tools and tech so every single part of the game is owned by Yippee Entertainment.

Is it important for today’s game developers to retain their IP?

It’s absolutely crucial to build a portfolio of IP as this is what creates value in the company. Owning our own IP also gives us the freedom to create many different titles under the same umbrella brand, which helps us to build and retain our audience.

Is it difficult to hold onto that IP when starting out?

In the old days publishers nearly always took the IP rights when doing deals. These days, because developers are able to self-publish, this is more of a rarity and it is easier to retain ownership.

What advice would you give start-ups who may be struggling to hold onto their IP?

It's a difficult one. Creating IP is relatively easy but creating an IP that's going to have appeal is very hard, as there's no guarantee that it will be popular. We invested a considerable amount of time and our own money developing Chimpact. We’ve had approximately 6 million downloads to date, on the first title and have now got a ready-made audience to whom we can market our second game – Chimpact 2 Family Tree. Without that it can be difficult to justify hanging on to an IP. If you can survive the initial financial storm it puts you in a much stronger position and because we hold the IP it does mean that we can expand on it and do anything we want with it.

What made you want to apply for our Business Investment Fund and what has it helped you to achieve?

It was the fact that it wasn't just going to be a development loan, there are other opportunities in terms of networking and presenting us to a wider audience as a business. It’s the third title that we’re developing under the Chimpact brand which we couldn’t have funded ourselves at this point.

You’re about to get 3D figures printed too. Did the funds help?

That’s something that we’re looking at to expand on the brand. Chimpact Run is going to be our first foray into the mechandising space. It’s really neat technology, the figures have a chip in the bottom that you scan with your device and it’ll unlock content within the game. It’s such a wonderful opportunity for us to build upon and further monetise the brand. The guys at Things3D, who create the figurines are really inspiring and wonderful to work with.

What do companies need to consider when designing a game for mobile?

Obviously the big thing now is free to play, which is something that we are doing with Chimpact Run. At the moment the consumer doesn't want to pay for anything, although if they like the game they will quite happily pay for in-app purchases. The game really has to be designed with that in mind from the outset, it’s not something you can bolt on after the event.

What are the common pitfalls are when people develop a game for mobile?

It’s a case of developing a property and then building on that when you are building up your following. Basically you've got to create quality if you want any longevity. The most common pitfall is assuming that you are going to make a lot of money from your first release. You can’t predict what is going to be hit and it is very difficult to get noticed amongst the plethora of Apps that are released every week. It’s important to invest a lot of time and effort on marketing your app and engaging with social media.

How do you keep on top of a market that’s constantly changing?

You do have to research and try to be aware of what’s up-and-coming but it isn't always that easy to tell what’s around the corner. Who could have predicted that there would come a point where you create content and no one actually wants to pay for it? When we released Chimpact two and announced it on the Facebook page the very first comment we got was ‘when is it going to be free?’ It is important to built-in analytics and to be able to react to what the consumer wants.

What have you found makes a compelling in-app purchase?

In app purchases that allows the player to do something quicker or easier seem to be the most successful. The most common ones are used in games such as Candy Crush, where you run out of lives and you can either wait ten hours for them to refresh or you can just buy a new set.

What’s next for Yippee Entertainment?

We have got other titles coming out under the Chimpact umbrella as you know; we’re currently in the processes of designing a brand new IP as well which is very exciting.

For more information on Chimpact head here or for more information on Yippee Entertainmet head here.

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