The Case – Summary
We came in contact with the American and Swedish based toy manufacturer WABA Fun. They produce and distribute the popular toy Kinetic Sand (see video). WABA Fun asked us if we could develop a game based on their line of play-sand products. During the analysis phase it became clear that the game should function as a promotion tool for the physical products.
One of the main challenges in this project was capturing and translating the unique feeling and behaviour of Kinetic Sand and Bubber to a digital version. Another big challenge was the geographical distance between WABA Fun in Sweden and us in The Netherlands. The latter was solved with a solid communication plan, the first with a development phase where the artists and programmers were equally important.
Lastly, a good marketing plan resulted into many downloads and features in the App Store right from the beginning.
The Case – Full Story
We Love Sand
A couple of years ago, we worked together with the team of Monobanda Play to make an interactive sandbox. This resulted in an interactive installation where you control a game by actually playing and building in a real-life box of sand.
In the winter of 2013 we came in contact with WABA Fun, an American/Swedish company that creates and distribute Kinetic Sand. This amazing toy is sand that children (and adults) can play with indoors. It is manufactured in such a way that it feels and behaves more like play-doh than sand. To understand how this works, see the video about Kinetic Sand on this page.
Together with WABA Fun we created a big version of our interactive sandbox, filled with their Kinetic Sand. This installation was used at the Nuremberg Toy Fair 2014, and was a big success. It was at this fair that WABA Fun spoke with us about their new ambitions. Their line of physical toys was growing rapidly. They are expanding all over the world, with offices in the US, Sweden and Hong Kong. But they are also interested in setting up a line of digital toys, aka games. The toys of WABA Fun are praised for their innovating character and their high quality. They needed a game studio that operates on those same principals. After our collaboration at the Toy Fair, they were convinced that Monobanda Digital was the right game company to work with.
So there it started. Together with Ingela Sjöberg, CEO of the Swedish branch, we mapped out the ideas behind the game. The business goals that WABA Fun wanted to achieve and the underlying strategy of why they even wanted a game in the first place. We decided to develop a game that was completely free to download and play, available on most smartphones and tablets. The game would be used as a marketing tool for the real life products, to connect consumers more with the brand.
After all this was clear, we could start working on the first concepts. After some brainstorm session we decided to go for a puzzle game, where the player can play with the three main compounds of WABA Fun. These are Kinetic Sand, Bubber and Shape-it. In the game world all these compounds live happily together and they all play with each other. But one day a big storm comes and blows away all the Bubber. Now it’s up to the player to go after the Bubber and safely guide them back home. The game consists of 20 levels and the difficulty increases slightly with every level. This is the “easy to learn, hard to master” principle.
After these plans were approved we had to think about the art style. Since WABA Fun focuses on real life products and those products are the stars of the game, this should be reflected in the art style. When you play with sand you feel it, it goes through your hands and fingers. We really wanted to capture this physical sensation and translate it to a digital experience. Therefore we went for a style that’s a bit rough and rugged, with real life textures. The player should be able to almost feel the compounds when touching the screen. Also the programmers made sure to emulate the typical behaviour of Kinetic Sand and Bubber as good as possible.
Long Distance Relation
One of the main challenges in this project, was to bridge the geographical gap between WABA Fun in Sweden and us in The Netherlands. For us, frequent contact with our client is necessary to maintain a high level of quality. Therefore we had a Skype meeting every week where we would discuss the progress and where we could brainstorm on issues that needed to be solved. Next to that we also set up a development blog, a secured website where only WABA Fun and we could log on to. Here we could post updates about the project, accompanied by photos and videos if necessary. All this resulted in a very clear communication throughout the entire project, where every stakeholder knew what the other was doing and what was expected of him or her.
At the beginning of winter in 2014 the tablet version of the game was finished and released. The smartphone version was released in the first week of 2015. WABA Fun made a great commercial for the game and together with us designed a sticker on the boxes that also promotes the game. All this resulted in a lot of downloads and world wide features right from the beginning.
We worked together with the following professionals:
WABA Fun – Client
Monobanda Play – Game and visual design
Happy Coders – Programming
Javier Sancho – Project management
Kettel – Music and audio
In-Visuals – Prototyping
Kusten Media – Visual advice
Kirin PR – PR and communication
“A compound can support play in many ways, the work from Monobanda has given our materials a virtual dimension. Kids can experience the digital differences that our compounds offer in reality. I think this is amazing.”
Ingela Sjöberg – General Manager WABA Fun Europe