Interview: Akshay Bharadwaj discusses Zynga's newest game, Top Troops

Interview: Akshay Bharadwaj discusses Zynga's newest game, Top Troops

Top Troops is the latest release from profile mobile publisher Zynga. It looks to mix strategy, RPG elements and merge mechanics together to create something fresh and interesting. We recently had the opportunity to ask Akshay Bharadwaj, head of Zynga’s Socialpoint studio a few questions about the game, where we learned what the team believes separates it from the competition. 

Can you introduce yourself and your role on Top Troops to our readers, please?

I’m Akshay Bharadwaj, head of Zynga’s Socialpoint studio. I assumed this role earlier this year in April. In this role, I lead our incredibly talented team into our next phase of growth, which includes expanding strategies to grow live operations and develop new games, such as launching Top Troops.

Previously, I served as Vice President and General Manager of Zynga India, where I oversaw the live operations of many titles in the Zynga portfolio, including the FarmVille franchise, while building teams to create new mass market games.

Could you give us the elevator pitch for Top Troops?

Zynga partnered with our studio, Socialpoint, to launch Top Troops, a new medieval fantasy-themed mobile game that blends mobile strategy, RPG, and merge mechanics. Going live on October 3, 2023, it’s the studio’s first worldwide launch under the Zynga label.

What separates Top Troops from other games in the genre?

We’re constantly seeking new ways to evolve the gaming experience for our players. In 2017, we transformed the Match 3-RPG genre with a unique match element, which combined hero character collection and base building in the mobile title, Empires & Puzzles. Now, we’ve remixed the Match 3-RPG genre to create a new category that blends mobile strategy, RPG, and merge mechanics.

In Top Troops, battles feature two armies of 12 units, each with their own skill set, defined role, special moves, and custom animations. The scope is more like a PC strategy game, but it’s very easy to pick up and play. Players choose which units to deploy and place them carefully if they want to succeed. Then they’ll watch their army do its magic and see how their plan works on the battlefield. After a bunch of battles, players will go back to the colorful kingdom of King’s Bay to train and upgrade their Squads of units.

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Merging adds novelty to the classic RPG experience, widening the game’s appeal. And city building is also a nice addition to the game, creating a new layer of strategy. The merge experience and city building allow us to attract a broader audience, but the game is an RPG with massive battles, so slowly, different progression vectors are being introduced. Nevertheless, we maintain some game modes, such as the ‘Magic Island,’ where that merge component is kept for those players who really enjoy it as ongoing gameplay.

Are there any games or other types of media you drew influence from when coming up with the game?

When coming up with Top Troops, we drew influence from a lot of prototypes, bold experiments, market tests, and art references to retro games. The process involved a bunch of people drawing a map with hundreds of levels on it. We wanted to understand the experience and the possible ways the battle would work before building the game.

Top Troops is now available worldwide but it spent some time in soft launch in select countries. How did this testing phase go and what did you learn?

We have been testing in limited markets to gather feedback and optimize the gameplay experience for this worldwide launch. This marks the official release of the game in the major geos where it will be available.

What are your plans for Top Troops in the coming weeks, months and beyond?

Our current focus is on the launch of Top Troops and to ensure that we’re providing the best gaming experience to fans. We have an ambitious roadmap ahead that emphasizes new events, more units, and many more surprises, so please stay tuned as there’s more to come!

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Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.