How Yu-Gi-Oh! was edited down into a fine Facebook game [Interview]

Yu-Gi-Oh BAM
Yu-Gi-Oh BAM

Back in the day--OK, like five years ago--Yu-Gi-Oh! was kind of a big deal in the U.S. and Japan. But since then, the trading card game's popularity has seemingly fell to similar games on the web and tablets. But Konami wants to change that, and the Japanese publisher enlisted Pocket God on Facebook creator Frima Studio to make it happen.

The result is a brilliant rendition of the popular card game on Facebook, one that's been fine-tuned for the platform and, in our opinion, has a clear shot at reviving the franchise in a new way. (Hey, if a card game as old as Magic: The Gathering can do it, then almost any game can.) So, we recently chatted with Frima Studio producer Helene Fortin to learn more about how Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM came to be and gain some insight into some of the team's creative decisions in making the game.

How did the partnership between Frima Studio and Konami come about?

The way most solid partnerships do: through personal quality business relationships. One of our business development managers has an existing good contact at Konami who invited Frima to meet with their senior production people to discuss Frima's expertise in the social space. It also helped that they had noticed the quality of our other Facebook games and had been recommended our services as a top-tier Facebook developer. Frima made sure to involve at an early stage people with thorough knowledge of Yu-Gi-Oh! and a passion for creating great social games around brands. These meetings and Konami's Takeshi Minagawa's willingness to invest time in getting to know Frima and trust us to hit the mark with such a strong brand have allowed us to forge a strong relationship!


Why were you interested in creating a Yu-Gi-Oh! game?

For Frima, it was a unique opportunity to work with one of the most renowned game publishers in the world. Even better, we had the opportunity to work with a great trading card game and TV show franchise, and to create a unique storyline with equally unique gameplay. We wanted to give Yu-Gi-Oh! players a fresh gaming experience while allowing new fans to discover the brand's rich universe. Facebook is a great way to connect with old and new fans alike, making it the perfect platform for the game. Many of our programmers regularly get together to play trading card games at lunchtime, some of them even playing professionally. It was a perfect match!

While we're at it, why did you opt to pare down the play experience to a smaller play field?

Our goal was to create a game that plays faster and that is easier to learn than the original trading card game, all the while keeping the deep strategic elements associated with the franchise. This way, newcomers can jump in the fun very quickly and without being overwhelmed with information, while experienced players can enjoy a refreshingly novel experience that feels the same but plays differently.

Yu-Gi-Oh BAM screens
Yu-Gi-Oh BAM screens

Generally speaking, how much liberty were you granted with the Yu-Gi-Oh! license by Konami?

Konami was very open on this. They gave us a lot of leeway and actually kept challenging us to go beyond the confine of the original card game. The main constraints related to the use of the characters from the manga and TV series, as well as the cards themselves. But at the same time, we had tremendous freedom to change the cards to fit this new gameplay, as long as they stayed true to the spirit of the original. All in all, this has been a great experience for us.

Yu-Gi-Oh! kind of had its "Pokémon" moment before the turn of the decade. So, are there any special ways you plan for BAM to reignite that fan base?

We take great care to listen to player feedback and constantly improve or add content to the game accordingly. We think that keeping a communication channel open with the fans is the key to success.

Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM interview
Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM interview

With the success that card battle games have shown on iOS and Android recently, how do you think game makers can emulate that on Facebook?

A lot of interesting game features can be built around Facebook's built-in social capabilities. Facebook is bringing friends closer than ever on the Internet, and that's exactly what game makers should aim for: bringing players closer together.

What plans do you have for Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM in the future?

There are a lot of exciting things on the table, but nothing we can reveal just yet. Stay tuned on the game's Facebook Fan Page for news about upcoming updates.

Are you digging Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM on Facebook so far? What do you think of Frima's "edits" to the core game? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.

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