Furthering the growth of its hit Best Fiends mobile game IP into a major entertainment franchise, California-based app developer Seriously recently launched the brand’s first original 3D-animated short, Best Fiends Boot Camp, which for co-founder and ex-Rovio exec Andrew Stalbow, has quickly exceeded all expectations.
“We were targeting a million views for the first 10 days, but we hit that in three days with 1.25 million views,” Stalbow says of Boot Camp, which now has 2.2 million views to date. With feature film-quality animation produced by Golden Globe-nominated studio Reel FX (Ice Age, Looney Toons), the 3.5-minute short follows the comedic misadventures of a pair of slugs who enlist in an army bent on taking over the peaceful world of Minutia and its tiny insect inhabitants.
To date, the freemium apps—Best Fiends (2014) and sequel Best Fiends Forever (2016)—have generated 70 million downloads worldwide and engage a daily fan base of two million players, who collectively devote two million hours of game time per day. For Best Fiends Boot Camp, Seriously assembled an all-star voice cast including Star Wars icon Mark Hamill, TV’s Kate Walsh (13 Reasons Why, Grey’s Anatomy) and Alan Oppenheimer (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The NeverEnding Story). Despicable Me composer Heitor Pereira was also brought on board, along with Emmy-winning producer and writer J. Stewart Burns (The Simpsons) and Emmy-nominated producer Claudia De La Roca (Futurama).
The short, which launched May 25, is currently accessible through both Best Fiends apps and via the brand’s YouTube channel. And for extra mobile engagement, a live interactive Boot Camp event also launched simultaneously inside the games, featuring special appearances from the video’s slimy protagonists.
“We think we’re just getting started with Best Fiends. It’s a live service that we’re continually upgrading every two or three weeks with new content, characters and elements of the world. And now with the short, we’re building out the media platform side of the business,” Stalbow says, adding that his experience working on mega-franchise like Angry Birds has helped inform his current work at Seriously.
“Having worked at Rovio and also at 20th Century Fox on great brands like Angry Birds, The Simpsons, Avatar and Ice Age, you get to learn a lot about how brands evolve and the choices that management teams have to make,” he says. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned across everything, it’s that quality wins. This is no particular comment on any of the brands I’ve mentioned, but less is more—especially at the beginning. We’re definitely in the business of trying to do a few things super well as we build up.”
One of those things has been working with influencers on branded YouTube content. For Best Fiends, Seriously partnered with YouTubers Joey Graceffa and Rosanna Pansino on last year’s hit viral video Don’t Download Best Fiends, which was viewed more than 8.5 million times and won a YouTube Ad of the Year award.
“Influencer marketing is a core component in our marketing mix. YouTube influencers epitomize how the relationship between an audience and a brand has evolved over the last few years,” says Stalbow.
The company continues to leverage influencers for Best Fiends Boot Camp, primarily on YouTube and Instagram, and is also investing in outdoor media in major US cities to promote the short like a movie.
While Seriously has found success with its strategic marketing approach, Stalbow admits that marketing, along with maintaining quality and innovation, are the two biggest challenges the company faces on a daily basis. “Mobile is the most competitive media platform in the world. We’re not just up against Clash of Clans or Angry Birds or other games, we’re competing for audience time with Netflix, Amazon, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube plus all the games in their vertical,” he says.
Despite the challenges, Seriously continues to attract top investors including former Maker Studios CEO Ynon Kreiz and ex-Disney VP and treasurer Michael Montgomery, the two most recent backers of the company.
“We’re a series A company with a nice supporting group of investors including Upfront Ventures, Northzone, Korea Investment Partners, Sunstone Capital and Daher Capital,” says Stalbow.
Its investors were likely pleased to learn that Seriously reached profitably in Q1 2017 and has been steadily growing its revenue per day—from US$21,000 in 2014, to US$55,000 in 2015, US$90,000 last year and US$106,000 in 2017.
Looking at the future of the brand, the company would like to launch a small online store for a line of high-quality, limited-edition halo products, and on the video side, has been approached about a movie and SVOD growth. “These are potential opportunities for us down the line, but right now we’re focused on shorts where we can control the distribution and build the IP that way,” says Stalbow.
To that end, this summer will bring a soft launch of a third yet-to-be titled Best Fiends game, along with a second Best Fiends short called Visit Minutia. Additional shorts with free in-game content will launch later this year.