Back in June, Yoozoo games turned 11 years old. The company best known for games like League of Angels and its Saint Seiya tie ins might not grab as many headlines as Neease or NCSoft coming out of eastern markets, but this Shanghai-based gaming company has built a brand that looks set to jump headlong into adolescence.
Despite the odd number, the 11th year of operation for Yoozoo has been noteworthy, they’ve launched Saint Seiya Awakening: Knights of the Zodiac on iOS and Android, making it the number #1 RPG in France and placed top 10 in 20 countries worldwide, and bagged a big-budget adaptation of the Game of Thrones franchise, in the form of a new game, as well as developing an automatic contactless temperature measurement system to help in the fight against COVID-19. It’s a mixed and yet very diversification away from their core GTArcade product that looks set to serve them, and us gamers, well. So, we took some time to talk to Yoozoo games about the last 11 years and, and whether we can expect after a pretty bright start to their second decade.
YOOZOO recently turned 11 years old. By comparison that is about the same age as the iPhone 3GS. How Has YOOZOO and indeed gaming evolved over that time?
We’ve evolved from a Chinese games company publishing domestically into a global firm publishing in more than 200 countries worldwide. Some other Chinese game companies will initially select Southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea when going overseas, but YOOZOO’s globalization process took a different path – starting with titles such as League of Angels, focused on the European and American markets.
YOOZOO has successfully released a range of products such as Legacy of Discord: Furious Wings, Saint Seiya Awakening: Knights of the Zodiac, and Game of Thrones Winter is Coming, and has accumulated more than 1,000 overseas partners, with nearly 1 billion users worldwide. We publish on both PC and mobile, with a globalization strategy deeply rooted in localized operations, so we have established branches in Germany, the United States, India, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and other countries. We’re one of the few Chinese game companies to feature on the App Annie global rankings, Google’s Top Developers list and Facebook’s Top China Brands list.
For the games industry, we’ve seen huge developments in mobile gaming capability which have allowed games company’s like us to offer much more premium products to the players. When the 3GS came out, I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined playing MMORPGs on the scale of Rangers of Oblivion on mobile, or enjoying the stunning graphics of Saint Seiya Awakening: Knights of the Zodiac on mobile.
League of Angels is probably the franchise that many of us associate with the YOOZOO brand. What does that association mean and how important is the Angels franchise to YOOZOO still?
That level of fan loyalty means a tremendous amount to us. In fact, it was exactly seven years ago we began open testing on League of Angels. Of course, whenever we release a new product we do believe that there is a market for it, but little did we know then that the game would resonate so well with fans and that we would be able to create such a strong franchise. The challenge with a series like League of Angels is to ensure that we continue to innovate and bring new gameplay to the players. By knowing the fans and involving them in important decisions about the game they love, we have been able to create a big and dedicated community. With our latest instalment League of Angels: Heaven’s Fury we achieved this through a whole new storyline, new characters and new features. The series continues to rank first in the best-selling RPG browser games on Facebook, which is a huge achievement.
Making the jump from browser gaming and expanding into mobile space seems like a natural progression but YOOZOO aimed very high with the release of Knights of the Zodiac recently. How did that end up in YOOZOO’s library of games?
Saint Seiya Awakening: Knights of the Zodiac is far from our first foray into mobile gaming, but to date, it is one of our most successful. Working on the title in collaboration with developer Tencent and renowned Japanese manga artist and writer Masami Kurumada and his studio Kurumada Productions, we felt a great sense of responsibility. We see it as testament to our publishing capabilities that we were entrusted with such a famous IP. No corner was cut in creating a striking art style that perfectly reflects Kurumada’s original work, with all the characters and their respective skills based on the original animation. Japan’s finest character voice-artists were enlisted to complete a package dedicated to doing justice to the original series.
Our previous release of Legacy of Discord: Furious Wings has been very successful in the European and American markets, and gave us the experience, resources and in-depth insights into European and American users. We utilised these resources as much as possible for Saint Seiya Awakening: Knights of the Zodiac, to ensure we were as prepared as we could be in terms of product positioning and language/operations localization.
Equally, globalization has been a huge part of YOOZOO’s success. Knights of The Zodiac is, for example, a very Japanese title that has done well in the West. How does YOOZOO approach each of these different markets and the different attitudes of the gamers that make them up?
Globalization is the foundation, but the true key to our success has been glocalization. We have always adhered by the approach of “globalized products, regional operations”. We have regional offices all around the world, which gives us a competitive advantage in identifying changing market trends and consumer preferences. Through this, we are able to localize our games to regional preferences and identify which games will perform better in which regions.
For example, we have seen great success in India with casual family-oriented games. YOOZOO India’s Ludo All Star picked up “Best Casual Game of 2019” by Google Play. In South East Asia, we made some localization adaptations to Saint Seiya, including changing the name to Saint Seiya: Awakening as we found this to resonate better with local players. Glocalization is an important part of our long-term development strategy, and we will continue to uphold this strategy in the future.
We will conduct in-depth research into each region before publishing. We found huge preference for the Saint Seiya IP in France, so we prioritized resources to France during the European release stage. As a result, Saint Seiya Awakening: Knights of the Zodiac successfully topped the French bestseller list in the first month of its launch.
Picking a project. What draws you, or indeed YOOZOO, to a project. The big budget franchises speak for themselves but YOOZOO has a massive grange of projects and even indie titles of its roster?
As games makers, we are naturally drawn to fun, and there’s no fun in doing what has already been done. Only by trying new things, and taking risks, can we ensure we are continuing to innovate and push the boundaries of producing games. Despite all of the success we’ve seen over the years, we remain committed to our founding motto of Inspire Your Dreams. When we look at a project, we’re looking to see if there’s a market of players that are willing to invest their time in it, to bring them pleasure and escapism from the daily world. From there, we continue to refine and test until we are sure the game is ready to go to market. Of course, not every project we work on will ultimately get released, and whilst this can be hard to accept after so much effort has gone into it, it’s important to ensure players can be sure they will have the same high-quality experience each time they try one of our new games. In addition, the continuous release of works in different categories also allows us to keep up with the market and better grasp players tastes and preferences.
With mobile and free to play game tropes so well entrenched in the minds of gamers how do you stand out and innovate in that marketplace?
YOOZOO is one of the early adopters of the free to play model, under the premise of offering our games to as many people as possible without having to spend money. Our game designers have the challenge of building transparent and balanced monetization systems which are fair for all of our players. We don’t segregate paying and non-paying users, and we strive to maintain a healthy balance in our communities. Fortunately, we have found that when you build great games, players are willing to invest their money for a more enjoyable and in-depth experience.
We’ve talked a lot about success and the last 11 years have been an overwhelming success for YOOZOO but that comes with challenges too. How do you continue to weather those challenges and adapt to them?
Working in the games industry, challenges come naturally. By keeping our focus on our long-term strategy, over short-term wins, we make sure that we have the resources to come through challenging periods. At the centre of weathering and adapting to these challenges is our people. Despite our rapid growth and expansion, there is still a great sense of pride and ambition in each and every YOOZOO-er. We are a group of passionate players who believe that gaming is a craft that pushes the boundaries of entertainment and interactive storytelling. With this attitude, we keep the player experience at the centre of everything we do, and in turn we are very grateful that our players support us in order to continue working on what we are passionate about.
Normally we would be having this conversation behind the scenes at a Gaming convention. The social landscape has changed hugely this year. How has that impacted building games and consumer gaming habits in general?
Yes, I truly miss the buzz and excitement that comes with huge conventions such as Gamescom. There’s something very magical about having so many passionate gamers gathered together. But indeed, these are unusual times and we must adapt accordingly. In terms of building games, it’s business as usual. Of course it was initially a shock adapting to working from home, but we actually already had all of the technology and systems in place to support this new mode of work, it was just a case of putting them into practice. This is testimony to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our people that we were able to adapt so quickly to the changing landscape.
In terms of consumer gaming habits, there are two clear trends. Existing gamers are spending more time playing. We were very pleased to see the support for #PlayApartWithSeiya – it was inspiring to see so many players display a real sense of social responsibility to self-quarantine and slow the spread of the virus. Secondly, we’re seeing a lot of new players coming online and playing games. The virus has forced people to find new ways to socialize, and entertain themselves, and games are the perfect platform for this.
With that said what can we expect from YOOZOO in the future. 2019-2020 has been a massive year for the YOOZOO. How do you plan to top it?
With the support of our players, we will continue to produce the best in free to play games. Infinity Kingdom received great feedback from the first beta testers for its deep world design, casual cartoony art-style and soft-core strategy gameplay – which will be open for pre-registration soon. Other exciting titles include League of Valhalla – a new style of MMORPG Norse mythology which combines battles of the biggest scale we are currently seeing on mobile, with a top line-up of social features. last Month’s release of strategy RPG Doomcar which takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where armoured vehicles called war chariots battle across the lawless lands, is resonating well with players for its rich variety of single player, cooperative, PvP, and clan vs clan modes. The game’s advanced matchmaking system provides a fair, competitive PvP environment for players of all skill levels and progression.
With that said, I’ve got plenty go go checkout on the Yoozoo GTArcade and over on mobile app stores. With a ton of free to play titles, and even more coming, I guess I’m pretty sure there’s another decade in store for me to get acquainted with anything I’ve missed. You can find out more about Yoozoo and its array of games over at the official Yoozoo website or over on social media now.