We’ve noticed that particular successful indy titles like Braid, Meatboy, Limbo, Fez, Binding of Isaac, all have very unique characters. We also had to realize that our game character looks like everybody else’s: a redesign was inevitable. Apparently many casual game artists/designers fail to make their characters distinguishable. We hope this case studies makes you realize this mistake earlier than we did.
You see the icons on the left? This is what you get when you type “frog” into google play. Click here to see for yourself. The characters of all those icons seem either cute or happy and mostly both. This is not only for frogs, most games that feature cartoon critters look like toys for 5-year olds. Why is that? Are most smart phones owned by 5-year olds? No. Is it genre specific? Hardly, the games on the left include puzzle, action, educational, and collection/evolution games. Is it based on typical frog attributes? Granted most of the games are about “jumping”; obviously a mirror of societies perception that frogs do “jump” a lot. But does a frog need to be happy to jump?
Anyways. When we first designed Rope the Frog we ended up with … a happy frog, of course. The icon on the right is the very icon we used to separate ourselves from all the other frog games. Do you see the difference? Well, we didn’t see it either. This is probably one of the stupidest marketing mistakes conceivable and probably also the one mistake made most. You just cannot invent a coke, put it into cans with a red and white label, and say you have the best coke in the world. Marketing is about inventing your own market and not invade a marked full of already successful players. You will not be recognized, because either you or the Coca Cola Company is lying. Guess who they will believe. This is actually the one rulle that all the 22 Immutable Rules of Marketing are about. The word “marketing” is an combination of the words “market” and “making” or “market making”. Ok, I made that up, did I?. But I am still convinces it holds truth.
“Inventing your own marked” does not only mean that you have to have a unique selling point in your game play, but also in your design and illustration. With Rope the Frog, we wanted to make a swinging game about precise and fast controls. You are rewarded for eating efficiently. This separates us from Rope’n Fly or Mega Jump were it is all about getting the farest. But we failed to provide a distinguishable character.
We realized this mistake during our amateurish attempts to SEO our play store entry (another story). This included searching for our keywords a lot, with the already discussed results shown on the left. The good thing about big mistakes is that they become very apparent once you see them. So it wasn’t hard to go back to the drawing board and find a solution: what is the opposite of being happy? We went with grimm. Our game is about eating as much bugs as possible and spilling a ton of blood in the process. What is more appropriate than a tough, grimm looking, military type.
The real bummer about having your main character wrong is that you have to redraw almost everything: