How Majesco plans to go under par with Mini Putt Park [Interview]

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Mini Putt Park
As you probably already know, Zynga has been rather bullish on its publishing program as of late. But what's become clearer almost every time one of these Zynga-published games is put under the microscope is how selective the FarmVille house has been in choosing partners and games. Majesco, the company behind hits like the Cooking Mama series, is one of those partners.

Majesco recently release Mini Putt Park under the Zynga umbrella, a property simulator-meets-isometric mini golf game that we just had to learn more about. Recently, Majesco VP of Marketing and Digital Strategy Stephen Saiz gave us the skinny on Mini Putt Park along with his thoughts on social gaming trends and insight into why a well-known name like Majesco would go to Zynga for help.
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How Majesco plans to go under par with Mini Putt Park [Interview]
Give us the elevator pitch for Mini Putt Park. What makes this different from other simulator games on Facebook?

Mini Putt Park, for us, is really the blend of a few different play patterns. It's really for the builders out there that want to build their own park, manage their own park [and] run their own park. [It's] also just for the players that really love playing mini golf, whether in real life or in video games. We really wanted to offer them a pretty compelling story mode as well. So, if you play through the story mode on Putter Island--I mean there's still a good four to six hours of gameplay in there. [That's] if you really play from beginning to end through the 18 courses that we offer that are highly curated, highly designed, and what not. So, I think for us they're the best of both worlds that differentiate.

It is really the [user-generated content] element and users almost maintaining the new content that's developed on a regular basis versus our own internal teams. We'll continue to add new items and what not. If we can build out a robust audience, really hone in on a smaller amount of people that are actually going to build a lot and make sure there are incentives for them to do so, users are going to be able to have a pretty unlimited amount of content to play for as long as this game is still around.
Mini Putt Park screens
Now say, my friend wants to visit my course, will they be able to play the holes that I have built?

Definitely. Yeah, you can invite them to play. They can come in. Every time you build a course, I think you are able to set up whatever par you want to have the course playable on. If they come in and you have a 3-par hole and if they do it in two, you'll get a notification that they basically were able to best your score, and you guys can continue to go back and forth as long as you want.

Again, that's a little bit different, and really, the unique aspect of our game versus a traditional just sim game or something out there where you're just visiting people's places, you might do a job here or there. But for our game, to play somebody else's courses is pretty compelling, I think.

How did Majesco come to the idea for Mini Putt Park?

Just through those ideation processes of kicking around ideas, and for this game I think just the notion of mini golf and there not really being a game like this. There were a couple of golf games like this on Facebook before--social and what not--and there's always been a rich history of online flash games with golf. So, I think that's what truly spurred the interest with the team and tried to challenge them to differentiate.

That's one of the things we do through our development and ideation processes is just don't go out there and replicate what someone has already done. It's taking a concept, taking something we really like and making it our own. So, it was just taking a lot of those and building them into what you see today.
Mini Putt Park screen shots
What's your take on this upward trend of social games that demand a little more skill, or a little more finesse, out of their players?

I think you're going to see a lot more traditional games, co-op games, console games, whatever you want to call them start to show up, and you're already starting to see them show up on Facebook and whatnot. So, as people try to get more sophisticated both on the development side as well as on the player side, I think people will want deeper experiences--more storyline, more skill.

And I think it speaks to the demographics really changing on who's playing this game. It's not really all that singular, more casual player demographic anymore. I think it's all gamers, and obviously when you have that broad of a demographic, you're going to really want to appeal much more specifically to what they want to see. With that, you're going to see more genres, more variation, and really, that's where I think this space is headed, which is a good thing for everybody.

Do you have other reasons than the constant, universal need for more new intellectual property that led you to go with Mini Putt Park to sign with Zynga rather than, say, the Cooking Mama social game that is on Facebook right now?

So, I think this is the game we're heavily invested in right now, and I think for the demographic perspective it was really something we felt fit with Zynga's audience nicely. That's just where we were at [during] that moment in time, so that's why you saw that. Whatever else we come up with next could easily fall into that same category. What I mean is that we're going to approach this and each game differently.

So, it's really going to depend on what's going to be best for our users, what's going to be best for a demographic fit when we select our distribution partners. With Cooking Mama in particular, that game has been out for a while. We're really trying to figure out the next steps with that title, so I think once we decide on that, you'll start to see where we end up, positioning up next. Mini Putt Park was in the now, and this selection seemed to fit at the time. It still does.
Mini Putt Park images
Is Majesco interested in pushing out more games through and Zynga's promotion engine, or you guys are testing the waters at this point?

Well these are all single titles, but so far, we've been tremendously happy with the support that we've got from Zynga. This is still an ongoing process. While we've been out for a week, we anticipate a continued relationship with Mini Putt Park, at least for a long period of time. And I think it's just going to continue to progress, get better and develop over time.

Why did Majesco decide to sign on with Zynga, and how did that deal come about?

I mean, Zynga has a massive audience, and the fact that they're opening up the doors for the third parties as well is a tremendous opportunity for people that are just starting, you know? We may be a bigger publisher compared to some other people--we still are, as you can see from the digital strategy perspective--so to be able to partner with someone that's top of the game for that long, leverage that audience and the expertise.

At the end of the day, this is accelerating our knowledge, and that's what the partnership is all about versus us just going out on our own. The fact that we've been able to work with Zynga so closely on this title, and do all the things and learn all the tips from [them to make] the game so successful has been a rewarding experience not only for the development team, but for us on the marketing side as well.
Mini Putt Park screens
Do you foresee a larger trend in the Facebook game scene of developers that don't have the resources or know-how signing on with big time publishers like Zynga, EA, Wooga, what have you in order to focus on what they know best which is making the games?

I mean, it's just because the acquisitions phase and that whole side of the market been so challenging [that]you are going to see a little bit more of that. [And] you see those cycles all the time within games. Historically, if you look at all different platforms, you're going to see a morph into bigger publishers and some consolidation in all that stuff.

You're seeing some of that on mobile as well just because it's getting so competitive out there with marketing costs rising and all the things you need to do to just to increase game awareness. Sometimes partnering with a bigger publisher, somebody that has that distribution power, makes more sense.

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