Casual Connect Europe: Digital Chocolate on the art of innovation in social games

You don't need to be radical

Casual Connect Europe: Digital Chocolate on the art of innovation in social games
| Digital Chocolate news

What developer wants to be known as being nothing more than conventional?

That was the question asked by Digital Chocolate executive producer Aki Jarvinen during his talk at this year's Casual Connect Europe in Hamburg. Unsurprisingly, not one member of the sizeable audience put their hand up.

"Ahh good," continued Jarvinen, "so there is no-one from Zynga in the room, then."

Innovation doesn't mean throwing the baby out with the bath water, however. According to Jarvinen, it's entirely possible for a studio to become a master at what he defined as "incremental innovation."

Step by step

"We've had failures [at Digital Chocolate]," continued Jarvinen. "We all have – anyone who hasn't is living in denial."

Failure, however, is a necessary process, he added, and can force a developer to abandon convention and head down the path of innovation.

In the long term, a studios need to take a wrong turn or two to grow.

Then, he suggested, it can adopt the aformentioned incremental innovation, taking "managable small steps" that build on the existing knowledge and talent the studio already has. It's a process that's much easier to manage than radical innovation, he added.

"Draw Something is not innovative in itself, but the way the game is delivered – the way you can see what the other player is drawing – is an example of incremental innovation," said Jarvinen, who also cited Triple Town as a prime example of step-by-step innovation within the match-three genre.

Bad habits

Some studios may be better off adopting a more radical approach, however.

Jarvinen pointed out that there are notable examples of this within the mobile field – a prime one being Apple.

"When Apple developed the iPhone, it didn't have to 'un learn' anything. It could just so straight ahead and innovate."

As such, radical innovation is best mastered by newcomers.

Companies like Nokia, he said, that have a vast history within the business can struggle to change their thinking to cast aside "bad habits" and keep up as a result.

Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.