Who'd have thought that as we entered 2007, Noel Edmonds would be bestriding the mobile gaming world like a beardy colossus?
Presumably at some point last year, Noel used his powers of cosmic ordering to wish that by Christmas, he'd be outselling Tetris. And he is!
We're talking about the Deal Or No Deal mobile game, of course, which was released by Gameloft late last year, and promptly spent 13 consecutive weeks at the top of the ELSPA / Charttrack mobile games chart.
It's sold half a million downloads in the UK alone. We hold up our hands: we were lukewarm about it in our review, but the British Public has spoken.
Why is it so massive? We asked Gameloft's UK MD Alexandre Tan.
Congratulations on Deal Or No Deal's success. What's it all about?
There's not one simple factor: it's a combination of different things. Gameloft wasn't so active in terms of signing local licences until Deal Or No Deal, so I first had to internally convince our management that we should go for a UK-based licence like this.
But once I convinced them, the great thing is they put as much support behind the game – even though it was only coming out in the UK – as they would for our biggest titles like Splinter Cell or Asphalt. So we had massive handset coverage, including for some older phones.
Plus, it's a very popular licence that appeals to a broad audience. It's very addictive too, there's a lot of suspense in the show itself, which translates to the mobile version.
Does this mean you'll be looking for more British brands to make games based on, like TV game shows?
It's more about the needs and expectations of the people that download our games. So for UK customers, that doesn't just have to mean local licences. Something like Rayman Kart can be just as relevant, because it's filling a void in the market – there's no decent kart games for mobile.
When you look at TV shows that have come to mobile, some have been very successful like Deal Or No Deal and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and some haven't. There's no set rule. It would be foolish to just go out there and grab any local licence we can get our hands on. We have to think a bit more carefully.
How important was it to have Noel Edmonds in the game, even if he did have mad arms?
[Laughs] Having Noel was key: we always wanted to get him on board, as we were trying to address the people who were fans off the show, and give them as close an experience as possible to what they get on TV. He's such a big part of the TV show.
What now? Deal Or No Deal's format doesn't seem to make for an obvious sequel, unlike Millionaire...
Well, I'm pretty sure our production team are creative enough to find some ways of improving or adding additional features to it, but I've not yet touched base with them.
But Deal Or No Deal is a first step, especially in the UK, as it's the first title we've launched on a truly UK-basis only. So now we can look at ways in the future to increasingly address as closely as possible the expectations of the UK public. We're not going to rest on our laurels: watch this space!