Nifty games centres on mobile gaming

Chris Rausch
Tom Shoenhair

Developer and publisher, Nifty Games, focused on quick-session, head-to-head sports games recently named industry Veterans Tom Shoenhair as Chief Product Officer and Chris Rausch as Design Director. Michelle Winny, editor of PCR was hot on the heels of these two new industry veterans to find out more.

The expansion of Nifty Games senior team comes as the studio readies its game plan for launching new, authentic game experiences for sports fans. Michelle Winny, editor of PCR caught up with Tom and Chris to find what lays ahead for this new mobile gaming publisher.

Please could you tell us more about Nifty Games and the company’s background?
Nifty Games is a new mobile gaming publisher, led by industry veterans with unrivalled experience in gaming and publishing. Our focus is on short-session, high-quality sporting titles and working with the world’s leading sport licenses, including the National Football League and National Basketball Association. We’ve spent years building up our studio and creative teams, as well as launching two incredibly successful rounds of funding and we’re thrilled to have just launched our first title: NFL Clash on iOS and Android.

Please could you tell us more about Sports Games for Mobile and how this is currently proving to be a lucrative market for the company?
Sports is an evergreen genre which will always play a strong role in gaming as the appeal is universal and attracts a particularly wide audience. Mobile sports titles have traditionally mirrored a console experience which very few mobile gamers have the time or patience for. We believe there’s a much better way to translate sports games to a mobile audience and Nifty Games is dedicated to doing just that. In terms of potential, sports games remain incredibly popular, and we believe that if we build superior games, which the community love, our potential for meaningful growth is high.

Please can you tell us more about Nifty Games’ game plan for launching new, authentic game experiences for sports fans?
We like to think that we’re blessed with an abundance of talent at Nifty Games with some of the industry’s best and brightest committed to raising the experience for sports fans on mobile. It may sound contrived, but our initial focus is on creating high quality games. It must start with the game as, if you’re not building on a quality foundation, everything will topple over eventually. We live in an age where the gaming community has a huge say in how a title evolves and develops. We think this is as it should be, and by playing close attention to those already playing and engaged with NFL Clash, we’re better able to improve the gameplay for our audience. Securing the key sporting licenses also helps us immeasurably with launching a title like NFL Clash. Enthusiasts expect to see the players and teams they support, and these AAA licenses provide us with a strong point of differentiation in mobile gaming. We have marketing plans in place for each of our titles of course and look forward to sharing some ambitious news down the line.

Please can you tell us more about the worldwide launch of Nifty Games’ premier title NFL Clash?
Sure. We soft launched NFL Clash across a few territories early last year. This got our game out in the wild and was invaluable in learning how players interacted with our title, affording us opportunities to tweak the experience before launching into larger territories. We launched NFL Clash across North America in October last year and we’ve been humbled by the feedback from the sporting and gaming communities. Since we went live, we’ve been featured in Apple’s prestigious ‘Game of the Day’ section on their App store and our game seems to be loved by a wide demographic of gamers. It certainly helped to align ourselves with two of the NFL’s brightest stars in Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals and Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. These two NFL quarterbacks were featured in our key art and helped raise awareness for the launch of our game through a variety of social and press contributions.

Going forward, we plan to build on our early success, supporting the game via a series of updates, which will add further gameplay tweaks as well as other surprises, for our fans and then we’ll be looking at further launches throughout 2022 and beyond, starting with NBA Clash.

How has the company evolved and what core markets is it focused on?
From conversations in living rooms and on planes, to now having established offices in Los Angeles and Lafayette, CA, as well as Chicago, IL, we have taken a meticulous approach to how we have evolved the company. In addition to normal startup challenges we were faced with the conditions the global pandemic brought forward as we transitioned our team of 35+ into new roles with the company. Thankfully everyone was up for the challenge and the dynamic personalities we brought onboard have met every challenge head on, keeping our focus on our games and the community that supports them.

With our focus on quick-session, head-to-head mobile sports games we are in a unique position to connect with a global audience on a regular basis. While certain sports, like the NFL, may resonate more in a specific territory like North America, the fact is fandom is global in nature and whether someone is rooting for their favorite team, or their favorite player, we can reach them with our games. That goes to say that our key territories are wherever mobile gaming is ubiquitous and sport is popular, and our short-session gameplay provides a low barrier of entry for anyone to give them a try.

What are the current trends in the gaming sector?

We’re seeing a lot of consolidation, which ironically has a lot to do with expanding leading franchises across a wider set of platforms and experiences. We’re no longer in a world where core gamers dominate the TV screen on consoles, everyone is a gamer now and emerging platforms such as AR and VR only present more opportunities to grow the market. We’re seeing some big acquisitions, which will allow big AAA publishers to expand their offering, with mobile being a big part of that equation.

Tom, please could you advise what is currently taking shape across the sports and mobile market and how you will lead the charge for delivering Nifty Games’ experiences to gamers across the world?
I think we’re seeing a level of stagnation with traditional console-based sporting titles. To be clear, the quality amongst many of these long-standing franchises is high, but the core gameplay has remained the same for many years now. Some of the AAA publishers continue to try and port the home experience to mobile but I think we’re seeing the mobile gaming market mature with most gamers not looking to replicate a home experience, but to feel connected to their favorite sport in a manner much more befitting to short bursts of gaming and requiring far less of a commitment. We’re going to continue to evolve to suit the gamer and Nifty Games plan on being a top-tier publisher for mobile sporting games through our unique gameplay and much-loved licenses.

Chris, what direction do you plan to take the company’s product portfolio in regard to game design, production, and other developmental factors?
That’s an interesting question. I think quality is a core tenant of what we do at Nifty Games. No one wants to play a sub-par sporting game, especially when a world-class license is involved. This would leave our valued partners disappointed and the gaming community cheated. While we will strive to release our games in a timely fashion, we have no intention of launching a game until we feel it’s ready, and the bar we set for ourselves internally is really high. As also touched upon earlier, Nifty Games has concentrated on building an impressive pool of talent, all of whom work tirelessly to build a better game and work towards building an efficient development pipeline so that development can continue through the current pandemic, as well as deliver on the ambitious update plans we have for our titles post-launch.

How does the company plan to continue to expand?
I think the answer to that is organically. We have an exciting roadmap of game launches and updates to focus on, but growth for growth’s sake is rarely a winning strategy, we want to make sure we’re not stretched too thin, and double down on the quality of each title before we release it to our audience. We have some surprises in terms of the titles we are working on, and I think there is plenty of runway ahead for us to grow at a sensible and considered pace.

What plans for future investment and development do you have and in what sectors will this be?
We already have gone through two highly successful rounds of investment funding, and we’re pleased to say that our last round raised some $38 million, allowing us to accelerate our plans. We’re investing that money where it matters most, namely in securing the best talent working in gaming today to deliver best-in-class games. We’ll always invest most heavily in talent and securing the world’s best loved franchises and have no plans to change that model just yet. We feel that by concentrating on the sporting genre, we’re able to keep our focus and right now, mobile is our area of focus. In the future, we’ll look for opportunities to grow and expand of course but we have plenty of work to do in mobile and it’s a space we believe we can enjoy considerable success.

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