Just in time for Halloween comes the movie Hotel Transylvania, in which Dracula runs a hotel that gives creatures such as the mummy and Frankenstein a place to get away from it all. And releasing alongside the movie is the Hotel Transylvania Dash smartphone app, which puts players in the role of running this monsters-only resort. The game has been well received since it came out in September, and according to Becky Ann Hughes, VP of Product Management at PlayFirst, the developer of Hotel Transylvania Dash, it spent seven weeks as a row as the number one iPad game in Apple’s App Store.
This success isn’t a fluke. PlayFirst has been around since 2005, and has established itself as big player in the mobile space through a series of Dash games—Diner Dash, Cooking Dash, Wedding Dash—that showcase the service industry with a set of addictive game mechanics that make it fun to create order out of chaos. All told, the Dash games have been downloaded 650 million times. “The scale of mobile gaming is massive and there are a lot of industries that are looking for ways to reach this market, says Hughes. “The Hotel Transylvania partnership arose out of Sony seeing the mobile gaming as a mechanism for the movie to reach a broader audience.”
Hotel Transylvania Dash is based on Hotel Dash, a game PlayFirst launch in 2009. “To develop the original Hotel Dash,” says Hughes. “We visited a lot of hotels and drew upon personal experience to figure out the right ways to focus on the customer service aspect of running a hotel without introducing too many complicated mechanics that would force people to not want to play it.” Hughes actually worked in the hotel industry for six years, with Hilton as a front desk manager then at Country Inns & Suites. “I have a lot of friends that are in the hotel industry that have played the game and liked it, but most of them don’t have a lot of time to play.”
She says the game focuses in on serving customers by finding the appropriate room for each customer, delivering their luggage, and filling any special requests like room and laundry service during their stay. “We focused in on the key things that hotel guest would be frequently asking for and designed simple game mechanics around them.”
Recently PlayFirst made the transition to producing games solely for the mobile market as opposed to Web-based and PC games. “Mobile is a better model for us because it allows us to serve up the games as a service instead of as a standalone product,” says Hughes. Before when PlayFirst did PC games she says the company just created the game and sent it off to market. “Mobile gives us the opportunity to address customer feedback with new releases every few weeks and create new levels for them to download.” This keeps the game fresh for the audience we already have by keeping them satisfied with a steady stream of content to consume. “When done right the mobile product life cycle is incredibly long—three years as opposed to 18 months for PC games,” says Hughes.
When it comes to comparing the gaming industry to the hospitality industry, Hughes says, “One thing that they both have in common is making sure that the customer is having a great experience.”