We talked to Alberto de la Cruz of Token Interactive about the mobile gaming studio, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alberto de la Cruz: Very well, thank you! We’ve been very fortunate during this tumultuous year, and we’re looking forward to better things in 2021. My fiancée and I have been lucky enough to have survived contracting COVID as well as spending lots of time together. Luckily, everyone else in our family has stayed safe and are hoping for a brighter 2021 as well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Token Interactive.
Alberto de la Cruz: I founded Token Interactive in January 2018 with the intention of creating mobile game properties for diverse clients. Prior to getting into mobile game design, I cut my teeth in the NYC tech scene, working as an early design hire at several startups. My background had primarily been in web and app design—but my long-term passion has always been in gaming—so when I saw an opportunity to jump into game development, I took it. Early on, I was working with a film company based out of Miami in creating licensed apps for their film properties, which included a live-action version of The Little Mermaid. I also had an amazing opportunity to create a branded game experience for Capriccio Sangria, which at the time had gone viral.
How does Token Interactive innovate?
Alberto de la Cruz: From the very beginning, I built Token to be a distributed game development studio—with no central HQ or overhead. It’s been a privilege working with a diverse group of artists and programmers from around the world, taking all their thoughts and opinions and crafting unique gaming experiences. We’re an agile and tight-knit team, so we’re able to switch gears and approach new concepts very effectively.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Alberto de la Cruz: Our product timeline was significantly disrupted due to the COVID pandemic. Film studios are a huge partner for us, and we were working on a massive project for one such studio that had to be delayed to 2021. Our team is distributed, and we primarily work from home, but we had to switch gears and find new opportunities quickly. As a result, we dived headfirst into the hypercasual game space, producing smaller game projects with lower install costs and higher retention rates. We’ve had the opportunity to work with major publishers such as Tap Nation, Lion Studios, Voodoo, and Ketchapp to test and validate our game concepts.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Alberto de la Cruz: Hypercasual is a new sector for us, and there’s no straight path to success. A game concept with a high cost per install simply isn’t viable in the App Store. Likewise, if the retention metrics are lacking, it’ll be hard to drive monetization. There are strategies for improving a game’s retention—such as daily rewards or cosmetic upgrades—but there’s no way to predict a cost per install, so spending as little time and money as possible per concept is essential. Moving into this genre was daunting but also deeply rewarding. One can’t get too attached to certain game concepts, and all results need to be tested and validated with users to determine their viability for success. In order to thrive in this genre, resilience and flexibility are key factors of success.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Alberto de la Cruz: One of the perils of working from home is always being on, with downtime often feeling like time wasted. The global pandemic has only heightened these feelings. For me, I find therapy and working out to be excellent outlets. I also find confiding in my lovely fiancée my fears and anxieties and talking through them to be cathartic. It’s also important to set aside time for one’s hobbies—for me, that’s cooking, reading manga, and playing retro games.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Alberto de la Cruz: The nice thing about the mobile gaming space is competitors are also allies. In my opinion, a rising tide carries all boats. There’s obviously quite a bit of pressure to be the first to come up with certain ideas and concepts ahead of other studios, but it’s also great to see what games take off in the App Store and determine what we can learn from them. The hypercasual space is quite welcoming, with most studios being open to communication and networking. Going into 2021, we have a number of prototypes and partnerships we’re very excited to flesh out and release in the coming months. We also have a few large projects with client partners that we’re very excited to unveil in the next few months. We also have a few Keeping up to date with popular online trends and news has been a great way to come up with fresh new game ideas.
Your final thoughts?
Alberto de la Cruz: Our goal with Token Interactive is to develop ideas and concepts our players will love. With the global pandemic, we realized how important it is to innovate rapidly and think through as many concepts as possible. There’s no certainty with any industry, but there are always opportunities to be found. We’ve had to scrap plenty of game prototypes, but we’ve also found plenty of success, and moving forward, we’re excited to apply the new skills we’ve honed for our games catalog in 2021.
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