mech_miceHyper-Hippo’s long-awaited Mech Mice browser-based, free-to-play episodic tactical strategy game officially launched today. KidsWire went behind the scenes with Hyper Hippo’s co-founder, Lance Priebe, to learn more about the game’s development.

Back in 2000, Priebe built a little game called Club Penguin in his basement. Most of us are aware of Club Penguin and its massive success. What you may not know is that Priebe initially intended for Club Penguin to be a tactical strategy game.

After seeing Club Penguin through its acquisition by Disney, Priebe gravitated back to his original game design idea. He co-founded his latest studio, Hyper Hippo, and has spent the past two years, developing Mech Mice, which is, no surprise, a tactical strategy game.

“I want people to fall in love with the property without even playing the game,” he said. “Before we even started with the actual game design, we wrote a book about it. From that story, we considered gaming strategies-what would and wouldn’t work in a game. Mech Mice is an episodic game, which will be released as chapters. The overarching, deep, rich story concept, I believe, is what engages kids, getting them talking about it on the playground.”hyperhippo team

While Hyper Hippo uses the common free-to-play model, its focus on engagement is what makes its business strategy unique.

“Once kids go from the passive gamer, to the avid player, to being a fan, then you begin to truly monetize as a company,” Priebe said. “We need a way to further engage kids, so Hyper Hippo is trying something slightly different.”

He continued, “We are releasing the Hyper Hippo game in comic-book-like, web-based chapter series. Kids can access Chapter One for free, and the following chapters can be purchased. Each chapter introduces more characters, units and pieces to the game, getting kids excited about what’s next and encouraging them to collect characters. The goal is to move them into golden tribes of fans.”

With the proliferation of mobile and tablet devices in the kids entertainment market, I was curious as to why Hyper Hippo chose to launch on the web.

“Web browsers are still the number one spot kids go to find games,” Priebe answered. “ When you ask them, ‘How did you find that game,’ many will say online, on a web browser! That doesn’t mean that’s where they enjoy playing it, but websites are shareable and apps are not,” he continued. “While it’s really hard to earn a dollar through web, as an initial platform, it allows us to update hourly and learn where the bugs are so that we can develop strong mobile and tablet versions.”

Mech Mice will not be exclusively web-based for long.  Hyper Hippo will be launching on both iOS and Android mobile and tablet devices in November and  they also plan to develop a console version in the future.

For Priebe, starting at the very basics when designing games has been a successful strategy. He’s a huge fan of traditional board games, boasting an entire room full of them. “I probably buy a new board game every week,” he said. “Board games demonstrate the mechanics of play. Not only are they fun, but they allow me to walk through the basic mechanics, exposing me to the nuances and patterns of play. I can contemplate the thin layer of what makes something like Pokemon so great—is it the game or the mastery on the playground?”

Perhaps this reversion back to building blocks of play is what prompted Priebe and the Hyper Hippo team to envision Mech Mice through the lense of a comic book before bringing it into the digital world.

Check out the first chapter of Mech Mice today! http://www.mechmice.com/

Oh, and a fun fact about Priebe: He is obsessed with Kingdom Rush on the iOS tablet. “I just love power of defense style games. I play it all the time. I just have to have every achievement unlocked.”

 

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