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How to Adapt Traditional IPs to Mobile Games

By Amy Huang | September 19, 2022

A seasoned internet and games industry executive, experienced in strategy, M&A, and operations with 20+ years of experience, Amy Huang is CEO of Mattel163. Mattel163 is a joint venture Amy helped to build with the backing of industry giants Mattel and NetEase. Under Amy’s leadership, Mattel163 is the name behind some of the highest-grossing and most engaging mobile games developed based on iconic IPs from Mattel and its own original IPs for a global audience.

Learn more about Mobile Hero Amy.

Competition in the game industry grows more intense every year. Using a well-loved intellectual property (IP) can give your title a boost to your core user base. From film, TV shows to sports, games, and even food—video games have been embracing IPs for years. However, having a well-known IP doesn’t necessarily always guarantee success. 

Adapting traditional IPs to mobile games, in particular, does not simply mean dragging the traditional game onto the small screen as is. You need to expand and deepen the gameplay, adapt to a more mobile-friendly user interface, and continuously iterate on your game through live operations. Essentially, you need to give the IP a new life to grow and thrive in the digital space.  

Tap into Brand Culture and Core Gameplay

A deep understanding of an IP’s culture and history always comes first. 

When Mattel163 was established, we chose to start with three classic card IPs — UNO™, Phase 10 and Skip-Bo™. They have been game night favorites with friends and families for many decades. 

Take UNO as an example, as players race to get rid of their cards, players must shout out “UNO” before playing the next to last card. Its charm lies in simple gameplay with unpredictable yet strategic fun, bringing people together by transcending language, culture, and age. When developing the IP from offline to digital, our team maintained the brand roots of simplicity and inclusion, alongside its core gameplay, allowing players to experience the classic game at their fingertips. 

Evolve with New Experience and Culture 

While preserving the original appeal is crucial, you also need to evolve the gaming experience with new ways to play. Digital players have different behavior and play patterns, so the game needs to be adapted accordingly.

For our mobile games, the round lasts an average of three minutes. It is important to allow users to dive in and drop out whenever they want as they play with millions of users worldwide. In UNO! Mobile, our team also created various modes and special cards for more engaging and diversified UNO fun. In Phase 10 Mobile’s original Journey Mode (PvE) allows players to “travel the world” on a vertical screen, a completely new spin on the traditional multi-player card game. 

Fully leveraging your IP requires considering new ways the title can grow in the broader entertainment ecosystem. Recently, Mattel163 broke into the esports space by hosting the first ever UNO! Mobile Wildcard Series: All-Stars tournament. It topped the YouTube live streaming charts where sixteen top gaming influencers battled for a solid gold Wild Card over three intensive weeks. With totally unpredictable yet accessible gameplay, UNO! Mobile has begun a new era in mobile esports, where anyone can become an esports champion. 

Make Ad Monetization an Organic Part of the Experience

Hybrid ad monetization is not only a trend in mobile games, but also a proven business model. In my eyes, hybrid monetization should be a core part of the game economy and experience. 

When Mattel163’s team started to develop mobile games, we developed the blended monetization strategy with in-App Purchases (IAP) and In-App Advertising (IAA). Monetization is fully integrated with the gameplay, designed into the economy and live ops events. We continuously AB test and optimize, keeping the player experience in balance. 

It’s always important to focus on players’ interests and provide a smooth yet fresh in-game experience. Through monthly events, such as Skip-Bo Mobile’s Summerland, Phase 10 Mobile’s Phasepresso and UNO! Mobile’s Cat Card collection, players can find new ways to engage with the game. Our team integrates the incentives and bundles into fun new events, providing players with a fresh experience every month or so.  

At Mattel163, building evergreen games and connecting the world through play is what we are all about. We are committed to this journey with passion and excited to grow and evolve with our players from around the world.