ZeptoLab CEO Misha Lyalin doesn’t play cards, except for bridge. His Moscow-based games company, though, is playing a more random card game.
“We’re fortunate enough that we got dealt an amazing card, and it’s called Cut the Rope,” Lyalin said of ZeptoLab’s hit series. “But we still have to build up everything else. With one card, you go into the game, and everybody has a hand, and you have nothing.”
That “everything else” includes two other games, Parachute Ninja and Pudding Monsters, which combined with Cut the Rope’s three titles have generated more than 300 million downloads across all platforms since 2010. The company also licenses enough merchandise to choke even Cut the Rope’s voracious star, Om Nom: Toys, apparel, food, board games, a digital comic book and an ongoing animated Web series.
And that list is growing. In an interview with AllThingsD, Lyalin said ZeptoLab is planning four new games for this year: Two new Cut the Rope games and two completely original titles. The company is also working with Sony Pictures Television to develop a TV show, to start airing in 2014.
(Also coming soon to a TV near you: A half-hour animated TV series based on Zynga’s social game FarmVille, not to mention Rovio’s Angry Birds TV shorts, a few of which have already aired on Nickelodeon. Whether the new generation of videogame-related shows can live up to the artistic excellence of the “Super Mario Bros. Super Show” remains to be seen.)
The CEO declined to go into detail about the TV show, other than to say that it would be Cut the Rope-themed.
Lyalin said these sorts of licensed products are now a part of the expected path for game companies that have a hit on their hands.
And that’s telling. Once, the iconic games that were able to command extensive lines of merchandise were only available on a few devices approved by their publishers (think Mario on Nintendo’s consoles or Sonic on Sega’s). Now, stuffed Om Noms are both an extra revenue stream and a form of advertising for the Cut the Rope brand, which freely follows users across different devices and different operating systems.
However, Lyalin stressed the need to keep releasing new games above all else.
“We’re a gaming company, first and foremost,” he said. “That is where our strength is from.”
So, where are those games headed? With its fans primarily on mobile devices, ZeptoLab hasn’t yet tried to break into the troubled home-console market, but Lyalin said he hasn’t ruled it out. In particular, he said, Android-based game consoles (such as the forthcoming Ouya) are “a given,” since the company’s games are already on the Android OS.
His bigger philosophy, though, is refreshingly frank, if not terribly complex: A lot of platforms where ZeptoLab might go won’t survive. But, Lyalin said, if they can attract an audience in the short term and potentially expand Om Nom’s reach, then that’s enough.