In addition to our Ranch Town Interview, SGC was also lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Meteor Games President and COO Donna Powell a few questions about their hit tropical farming title Island Paradise.
Powell provided insight into how Island Paradise is different from other farming titles, how players themselves have changed the course of the game, how what exciting developments are on the horizon for Meteor…
Social Game Central: Island Paradise was one of the first tropical-themed social game hits. Now there are several. Is it flattering or frustrating to see so many island titles popping up?
Donna Powell: It was definitely surprising how many island themed titles sprung up following the success of Island Paradise. I don’t think you can allow yourself to be frustrated by it, we just need to step up to the challenge and make sure that Island Paradise is the most enjoyable tropical themed game.
SGC: Island Paradise certainly releases holiday expansions and other “expected” item packs, but the game also has more innovative expansions, like the recent archeology week. How does the team decide what items to release?
DP: Meteor Games is somewhat different to most social gaming companies in that we come from a very gamer-centric background as opposed to marketing/metrics. All our production team actively play our games, in fact the whole company are gamers. We have a lot of creative folks who put forward suggestions for things they would like to see added. We also listen to player feedback and run polls on our fan pages to get a feel for what people would most like to see.
SGC: Has fan feedback ever led to Island Paradise heading in a direction Meteor Games didn’t originally plan? If so, what did the fans clamor most for?
DP: Yes, all the time. We have a fantastic team of Community Managers who are very hands on with our player base. Most notably our fans wanted the ability to have more animals and to be able to interact with their pets. Early this year we released the totally revamped animal system that provided just that. This was a significant recode, but the positive response we received was definitely worth it!
SGC: Many members of the Meteor Games team have been making games for a long time – how is making a game like Island Paradise different than working on a traditional video game?
DP: The timescale is the biggest difference. As opposed to years, a game goes from concept to launch in a matter of months. This can take a lot of getting used to, but the plus side is you see results very quickly and are able to adapt to changing market trends very rapidly.
Getting the game to launch is only the beginning. In the console game industry once you ship your product, you are really sending your baby out into the world and there isn’t much you can do to help it adapt. With social media games, that is when the real work starts. You need to listen to your players, watch for new developments in the market and constantly add new features to keep your game fresh.
SGC: Anything on the horizon that the Meteor Games team is most excited about?
DP: Yes, our next game is something that we are all very thrilled about. It is a bit of a departure from what is currently available on Facebook and is going towards a more story driven approach. Like all our games, it is a very high quality product with an amazing art style, but we will have to wait and see if it will become a hit…
SGC: Thanks for the insights Donna!