Expanding the World of Popular Children’s Character With an Educational Game
There are distinguished differences when creating a game and its visual style from scratch and when you begin working with a well-established brand and a full ecosystem to support it. It was a case of a latter when we embarked on a quest to proceed with the development of an educational app “Kakės Makės nuotykiai” (Adventures of Kakė Makė), which was previously built by another Lithuanian game studio Tag of Joy.
This year fictional Kakė Makė persona celebrates its tenth anniversary and during those years it manifested into a well-liked widely recognizable brand that includes books, plays, merchandise and, of course, interactive educational content we worked on in the form of a mobile application.
The application we worked on was considered a brand extension. Our task was to seamlessly integrate the product into an already functioning ecosystem and add more depth to it. It is a particularly tough challenge as the brand already has its dedicated audience with certain expectations of how the product should look and feel like. Any creative decisions we made as a studio had the chance to alienate fans or create dissatisfaction as Kakė Makė in the application might not meet the conceived idea of Kakė Makė character in the rest of the franchise.
The second challenge we faced while developing the project was the fact that the application was already launched earlier. Our task was to take over the project and update it according to our and the owner‘s Alma Littera joint vision on how the application should look like after 4 years since the launch date.
The third challenge was a real headscratcher as we had to come up with a solution to increase cohesion between the game and the rest of the brand’s infrastructure.
By the time we are writing this blog post, Kakė Makė is still one of the biggest brands we have ever worked with, solely dedicated to the children audience. As we mentioned before, there are specific challenges and pitfalls when working with a developed brand such as this one, so we had to make sure to avoid them. We had to thoroughly understand our audience before we got knee-deep into development.
To do that, we worked very closely with the brand creator and owner Alma Littera. Kakė Makė brand itself strongly emphasizes the importance of tidying up and personal hygiene so our game must not fall out of this context. Although we had a lot of creative freedom (within the framework of our audience, the groundwork laid by Tag of Joy and the brand itself) we made sure that we and Alma Littera were always on the same page when we were considering new ideas to implement, upcoming plans for the game and its place within the brand.
Such was the case when we initially considered creating a sandbox room type game for Kakė Makė, where the player could interact with almost every object in the room. When we pitched this idea to Alma Littera, they agreed with the concept and suggested that this functionality could be used to present the educational idea of tidying the room. As we went further, we developed numerous tasks for the player to do by attaching specific tags to each object that indicated whether the toy was placed in its dedicated destination or not and our studio implemented them into the app.
We did not get to start working on the app from scratch, however. The initial build was launched by Tag of Joy in 2015, and the product has changed a lot during those years. Although taking over an already launched project might seem a daunting task, our relationship with Tag of Joy and thorough support from Alma Littera has helped us to complete the change of hands seamlessly and ensure the benefit for all sides involved. Right now, we can firmly assess that SneakyBox is more than capable of taking on such projects from start to finish and developing them inhouse.
Finally, we had to find and implement a solution to minimise the gap between the app and the brand’s main product — books. Together with Alma Littera, the decision was made to generate unique codes that would be published in new books printed by the franchise. By using the code, the user would unlock various bonuses and activities in-game that couldn’t be reached playing a free version of the game. Each time a new book is launched, the app generates another bunch of codes specifically for said book. This way, the book and the app synergises well to bring benefit to the customer that uses both products simultaneously. This principle could also be used in many other brand activation methods as well as expanding educational content in the future.
As the app just dinged 200,000 downloads on Google Play and the App Store, we intend to continue our partnership with Kakė Makė and Alma Littera developing the product further. Our goal is to ensure even greater relationships with other brand products such as books, theatre plays, organised events as our application is just a part of this ecosystem.
Additionally, we intend to employ our knowledge gained in the field and implement gamified solutions while continuing to work on other educational projects partnering with museums, schools or history projects. More information on these projects will soon be available publicly on our social media.