While Angry Birds flies high, BATTLE BEARS pack continues to grow
The Omaha BATTLE BEARS team sporting the game's latest T-shirt, which will be sold on HotTopic.com in 2011. BATTLE BEARS creator, Ben Vu, located on bottom right. Photo courtesy of SkyVu Pictures.
This past September, SkyVu Pictures, the creators of the iPhone, iPod Touch and Android app BATTLE BEARS, announced that their download total for paid and unpaid apps reached 4 million. This month, that number surpassed 6 million. One iteration of the game, BATTLE BEARS -1, is currently the #3 Free Adventure Game in the iTunes App Store, in the Top 25 on the iPad, and in the Top 10 in ten other countries.
The wildly successful Angry Birds, on the other hand, surpassed 50 million paid and unpaid downloads earlier this month and it currently holds the most coveted spot in the iTunes App Store, #1 Paid App.
So why is this relevant for BATTLE BEARS, a mobile game created by an Omaha-based animation studio? Especially considering that Angry Birds is a casual puzzle game while BATTLE BEARS is an intense action game, which Vu says is close to a game console experience.
"We're not as successful as them but it pushes us to work harder," said SkyVu founder Ben Vu in a phone interview last Friday. "It's good to know another mobile brand can reach that point, and it opens up other opportunities for other mobile brands like ours."
One opportunity, for example, will be Hot Topic selling the BATTLE BEARS T-shirt in the photo above on hottopic.com beginning in the first quarter of next year. Another opportunity is apparel sales of their own (see: battlebears.com/store), posters signed by the team, and future plush toys of game characters. Regarding the first, Vu says they've already shipped T-shirts overseas, and some fans have paid as much as $40 for shipping. "We know that's there's something catchy about our brand if people are paying that much for a shirt to be delivered to them," said Vu.
Also growing is the Omaha team behind BATTLE BEARS, which is now at 11. (SkyVu also has a three-employee office in Singpore – run by Benjamin's older brother Hoa Vu – and a four-person office in Vietnam.) "Everyone in that photo is a Nebraska native, and our talent level continues to rise with each update, each game," said Vu. Working with designers and developers from Nebraska wasn't always the case. When SkyVu first dove into the mobile game market, they relied on outsourced development to finish projects. "Now we're starting to bring a lot of work back into the state and overwhelmingly a majority of revenue comes from out of state as well."
Screenshot from BATTLE BEARS -1 iPad App. Courtesy of SkyVu.
Looking forward, Vu believes that revenue, momentum and brand recognition is on the rise. Couple that with the fast-paced evolution and growth of the mobile space, and Vu is optimistic about the future of BATTLE BEARS.
Earlier this year, SkyVu received an undisclosed amount of angel funding from individuals of the Nebraska Angels organization. When asked about funding going forward, Vu said that they're exploring opportunities for a second round of funding.
"Even though we're doing well now, I feel like if we had a little more capital, we could do a some big things in the mobile space," said Vu. "Game changing," he added.
With regards to the space that Angry Birds plays in – casual gaming – Vu said that his team is working on a game outside of the BATTLE BEARS brand to to be released in 2011. (Left: Screenshot of to-be-named casual game, courtesy of SkyVu.)
"This industry is moving really fast, it's booming," said Vu. "We are just focusing on producing really quality products and getting them out there."
Although their attention is currently on their mobile games, Vu and his team's original starting point still remains true. Their vision is to one day release an animated, full-length feature film. "We're just kind of going through the back door into that traditional medium route," said Vu, referring to his company's approach of game, then apparel, then plush toys and then, if all goes according to plan, a feature film.
Here are a few more updates to note:
- SkyVu has found children ages 10 to 16 are most into BATTLE BEARS. On that note, Vu said, "With kids getting out of school, this is a great time to be in the top 10."
- SkyVu successfully released BATTLE BEARS: Zombies! in the Android Market, and BATTLE BEARS -1 will be following
- SkyVu is working with Verizon VCAST Apps on bringing BATTLE BEARS -1 HD to Verizon's high-end Android Phones and Tablets (e.g. the Galaxy Tab)
- SkyVu hasn't implemented Apple's Game Center but they have plans to do so
- SkyVu is getting ready to release an entertainment app for kids
- To promote BATTLE BEARS, SkyVu has made three videos: "BATTLE BEARS -1 New Campaign! Wil's Finest Hour!," "Overclocked Oliver or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 'オコ'," and "Caught in a Bear Romance"