Eight years and 250 million downloads later, Words With Friends is getting a sequel. The phrase sport, a touchscreen tackle Scrabble that after received Alec Baldwin kicked off a airplane, first launched in 2009 and has been one in all cell’s most enduring hits. Since then, the sport and its studio had been acquired by Zynga, and Words With Friends has acquired a number of updates and been ported to a variety of platforms. Most lately, a stripped-down model got here to Facebook Messenger. As with many long-running video games, this success creates an fascinating dilemma for its builders: how do you construct one thing new with out disrupting the present viewers?
For Zynga, the answer was to make a sequel that’s totally optionally available, guaranteeing it was totally appropriate with the unique Words With Friends. Although the sequel is a brand-new app, accessible right now on each iOS and Android, it feels extra like a really mbadive replace of the sport followers know and love. “We wanted to provide [players] an option of upgrading their experience with the sequel,” says Gurpreet Singh, product director on the sport. “We’re not forcing players to update.”
You’re nonetheless taking turns inserting phrases on a board, with push notifications alerting you when your opponent has made a transfer. But there are new modes, together with a lightning spherical the place groups attempt to spell phrases as shortly as potential in actual time, and a much-requested solo mode, the place you may play towards AI-controlled bots whilst you wait to your buddies to make a transfer in multiplayer matches. The sequel additionally introduces power-ups to offer some hints on the very best phrase to play, and the app seems completely different with brighter colours and easier-to-navigate menus. “We wanted to make it feel less cluttered, a little more breathable, a little more spacious,” says lead expertise designer Michelle David.
While these new tweaks are enjoyable, an important factor concerning the sequel is what stays the identical. Notably, when you improve to Words With Friends 2 from the unique, all your buddies and ongoing matches stay intact. If you’re in the course of a match, that match will nonetheless be ready for you within the new model, and all variations of the sport might be appropriate. The sequel is a lot like an replace that it raises the query as as to if the sport really wanted a sequel in any respect.
Many video games really feel more and more like providers, releasing ongoing updates and expansions designed to maintain gamers engaged for months or years. It’s a secure and profitable mannequin, the place corporations can produce an everyday stream of earnings for confirmed hits, whereas avoiding the danger inherent in a brand-new title. But on this situation, builders are sometimes confronted with the query of the right way to make one thing new with out dividing their gamers. When, if ever, is the suitable time for a sequel? World of Warcraft was first launched in 2004, but continues to be receiving main updates with no direct follow-up on the horizon. Meanwhile, Bungie went the wrong way by forcing gamers to maneuver on to a completely new expertise with the sequel to Destiny.
For Zynga, the choice got here all the way down to a handful of causes. “We spend a lot time with our players, trying to understand how we can continue to evolve the experience,” says Singh. “We’ve been testing several ideas for the last few years, in terms of how we can improve it. That led us to a handful of ideas, and we felt like if we could combine them together, it would necessitate a sequel for us because it’s a meaningful enough impact.” In this strategy, making a sequel is definitely much less disruptive for gamers than merely releasing the brand new options by means of an replace. Those who need to replace can, whereas those that need old-school Words With Friends can persist with what they know and love.
Obviously Words With Friends isn’t fairly as complicated as a mbadively multiplayer on-line role-playing sport, and sustaining a buddies checklist throughout video games is loads less complicated than guaranteeing a Destiny character you’ve spent years customizing can work throughout a number of video games and platforms. But, as conventional single-player video games give method to service-based ongoing experiences, Words With Friends 2 presents an fascinating path ahead. It’s a sport that works as each sequel and replace — and doesn’t drive gamers to make the robust determination of leaving the previous sport behind.