Why do some mobile games get sequels? That's the question raised by the news Trivia Crack 2 is due out on October 25th.
Still relatively unknown (as some very successful mobile games seem to be), the original social mobile quiz game was released in 2013 by Argentine developer Etermax and has gone on to rack up an incredible 500 million unique users, with a particularly strong take-up in Latin America.
Given that scale you might ask, what's the point of releasing a new version, especially in the era of games-as-a-service, when regular updates can add almost limitness additional functionality?
That's one of the reasons we haven't seen the likes of Clash of Clans 2 or Hay Day 2 released.
Conversely, an unsuccessful sequel could impact the reputation of the original game or just confuse players, which is what happened before King realised it made more sense to focus on Candy Crush Saga rather than splitting its attention between it and newer versions such as Candy Crush Soda Saga.
At first glance then, it appears the rewards of launching a sequel are outweighed by the risks. Certainly there are examples of sequels that didn't work out as planned, especially those games which also tried to change their business model.
Disney's Where's My Water? 2 is a prime example of the extreme backlash that happens when audience expectations are dashed.
Give the players what they want
And yet a number of successful mobile games do manage to make a sequel work.
For example, late in 2017, Zynga released Words With Friends 2, updating an eight year-old game with new modes and, most importantly, adding in-app purchases for the first time.
And this gives us a clue to why developers risk their games' success by releasing a sequel. While most changes can be accomplished by updates, sometimes they're more than just being functional but are an attempt to change the entire gameplay experience.
In the case of Words With Friends, it launched as an ad-funded game. Yet despite being the most popular mobile game in the US, it couldn't monetise its audience in the way a Candy Crush Saga does because it wasn't designed around IAPs.
This demonstrates one of the big issues for the developers of successful mobile games; the way players consume and pay for games is always changing, so maintaining success means eventually your game has to change, or become irrevelent.
Hence Zynga's decision to launch Words With Friends 2, which has enabled more competitive play modes - including IAPs - for those who want them.
Neatly though, because this is a social game where players matter more than gameplay, no-one had to stop playing the original game and start playing the sequel. Players of Words With Friends or Words With Friends 2 continue to play shared modes seamlessly no matter which version they're playing.
Players who don't want to (or don't know how to) upgrade to the sequel can play as they always have, while those who want something new or more competitive can also do so, in a fully backwards compatible manner.
It seems as if Etermax is trying to pull off something similar.
Although Trivia Crack already has IAPs, they're not core to the game; something reflected in the game's current top grossing chart position. Back in 2015, it peaked within the US iPhone top 10 but now it's outside the top 450.
The sequel, however, will add what the press release calls "enhanced competitive flavor", which will appeal to some players but not others. The challenge will be to give each group - those hungry for a sequel and those happy with what they have - exactly what they want.
In the era of games-as-a-service then, the best sequels aren't really anything of the sort; they're more like brand extensions for your most committed players.You can find out how Etermax gets on by pre-registering for the sequel via www.triviacrack2.com If this column has given you food for thought, share your comments below and bookmark Jon Jordan's page for more of the same next Monday. Remember to also check out words of wisdom and mirth from experienced games journalists Susan Arendt and Harry Slater each week.
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