Singapore start-up Mighty Bear makes mighty leap into mobile gaming

Mighty Bear, a local start-up founded by Candy Crush studio alumni, hopes its new mobile game will bear fruit

A Singapore start-up, founded by four former employees of the United States-based studio behind hit mobile game Candy Crush, is looking at carving out a space for itself in the lucrative mobile gaming market.

Fresh from receiving US$2.5 million (S$3.4 million) in seed funding from global investors last year, the two-year-old games studio Mighty Bear is working on a new game that blends role-playing elements with Candy Crush's tried-and-tested Match-3 format.

Called Mighty Pets And Puzzles, the game is in beta and available for download from the Google Play Store in Singapore and Poland.

It is Mighty Bear's second game, incorporating the lessons learnt from launching the massively multiplayer mobile title World of Legends (WoL) earlier this year.

Despite positive reviews and more than 200,000 downloads, WoL failed to live up to the expectations the studio had for it, says Mighty Bear co-founder and chief executive officer Simon Davis.

"We're tremendously proud of WoL, but there's no lying - if I could go back in time, it might not be what we would make as a first game," says Mr Davis, who has worked in the games industry for 16 years. "At the time (in 2017), we felt there was a gap for a more mainstream multiplayer role-playing game on mobile, but the market's changed since then."

On paper, Mighty Pets And Puzzles looks to be as much of a surefire thing as there can be in the alchemical business of making games.

Four of the top five grossing mobile games across iOS and Android last year - Monster Strike, Candy Crush Saga, Fate/Grand Order and Lineage M - were puzzle games, role-playing games or a mix of both, according to market research firm Sensor Tower.

King Digital's Candy Crush series, which comprises Candy Crush Saga and three sequels, alone accounted for US$1.5 billion of the estimated US$63 billion earned by mobile games last year.

To stand out in a crowded market, Mighty Bear is taking pains to ensure Mighty Pets And Puzzles appeals to as wide an audience as possible.

For example, the game uses a light, cartoony art style like its predecessor WoL.

Mighty Bear producer Abel Tan says: "For WoL, we wanted something that was universally appealing. So we consciously avoided some of the (fantasy role-playing) tropes like female characters who wear very little body armour.

 

"That's a design philosophy we're continuing to apply to the games we're working on."

Mighty Bear can be considered the resurrection of the now-defunct Nonstop Games, a Singapore firm, where the company's four co-founders - Davis, Benjamin Chevalier, Fadzuli Said and Saurabh Shukul - worked. Mr Shukul is no longer with Mighty Bear.

Nonstop made waves in 2014 when King bought it in a deal worth up to US$100 million, the first time a local studio had been acquired by a foreign giant.

After King was acquired by Activision in 2016 for US$5.9 billion, the decision was made to shut down the Singapore office, setting the stage for Mighty Bear's conception.

The company has 16 employees and a third game is in the pipeline, having weathered a rough start.

Mr Davis says: "I was flying all the time to North America and Europe to pitch to potential investors. Also, we have to worry about things like payroll and buying hardware for the first time. We didn't grasp how much is taken for granted at big companies."

But he is confident opportunities will increase for a studio based in Singapore.

"The picture has changed completely in the past one year. Investors and even governments realise South-east Asia is where the opportunity is. Now, people are coming to me asking if they can be a part of something in Singapore," he says.

"I feel like all it takes is for one company to take off and you're going to see a flood of them."