It was just over a year back when we all got our first whiff of a better world, one full of bright promise, cloven hooves, and boa constrictor-esque tongues. As far as I’m concerned, Coffee Stain Studios‘ Goat Simulator was 2014’s breakaway smash hit, the cross-platform game changer that romanced the latent ungulate in all of us.
What began as a spoof idea in an internal game jam went rogue and then viral. The eternal march of Queen Goat was and remains utterly unstoppable, making its way across Android, iPhone, Steam, Xbox, and PlayStation. A dual pair of expansions, Goat Simulator GoatZ and Goat Simulator MMO Simulator, help you make goats a part of this complete breakfast.
I scored an interview with Armin Ibrisagic of Coffee Stain Studios to talk insightful community management, biz models, toast, and goats with jetpacks.
Last week’s interview: Megan Fox, Dev Of Jones On Fire (Glass Bottom Games)
Appszoom: What kind of highly scientific, in-depth market research did you do to recognize the innate trend-ability of goats?
Armin Ibrisagic: Goats definitely have an innate trend-ability. In fact, I think goats are the new cats on the internet. Cats are pretty 2006, and everyone who isn’t living 10 years ago gets this. That’s why people who play our game “get it” and people who don’t play it.. well, they don’t really get it.
AZ: I’ve done a little reading on how Coffee Stain Studios went from being a totally Upstanding and Respectable bunch to being totally consumed by goats. How’d that transition work? What was it like to live the turning point of “Welp, I guess we’re doing this goat thing now?”
AI: Haha, it was definitely a big shift in focus for us. We used to make pretty serious games, but only in later years have I realized that dumb, humor based games are in fact really rare and really sought after in the games industry. Comedy movies play a big role in the film industry, but comedy games are very unusual. I think the gaming industry often takes things super serious, so we’ve tried to be a polar opposite of that in Goat Simulator.
But yeah, it was definitely a huge change for us – in many ways for the better, but I’m sure we’ll make some serious games in the future as well. We don’t want to close any doors!
AZ: The copy for Goat Simulator and its brethren is outstanding: fresh, witty, and engaging. That’s super unusual in the world of mobile apps (this coming from someone who reads far too many app descriptions – please send help). Talk to me about words.
AI: Aw, thank you! Words are actually a really big interest of mine too, and I also read a lot of app descriptions.
I think what we essentially have on the App Store (but also on Steam, consoles, and all other places where people are selling games) is a ton of developers trying to hype their customers on their games. Which is completely natural – of course. But the main problem is that they’re all using the exact same techniques
I think a lot of new developers look at the store descriptions from the top apps and they write their own in a similar fashion, so basically what we have is millions of developers, all using the same buzzwords and the same marketing structures in their app descriptions. And all of them are trying to convince you that *their* game is unique and addictive and whatever adjective their latest metric studies have proven to be most effective in getting new players in.
Our efforts in making Goat Simulator visible have been to just to the opposite of what everyone else it doing, which has made us completely stand out from the crowd of all the other top 100 apps out there.
Words are my big obsession: Why Developer Description Copy Matters To Your App
AZ: What’s Coffee Stain Studio’s strategy in terms of creating, maintaining, and listening to an active community?
AZ: Goat Simulator is available on basically every platform ever. How’d you decide to go mobile? How’s maintaining the title across so many platforms?
AI: Haha actually, our decision to go to mobile was inspired mainly by the fact that there were so many ABSOLUTE SHIT Goat Simulator rip-off apps that were using the same assets as us (some of them even stole our name right off, or called themselves stuff like “Goat 3D Simulator“, or “Best Goat Simulator Free” or “Goat Simulator 3D Free“, and some of them had up to 1 million downloads. So we were like “well damn, here are these people cloning our PC game on iOS and making a killing out of it, why don’t we compete them out with a real port?”
And now, mobile is a really huge platform for us, so I guess everything worked out well in the end. But yeah, of course we want our game to be out on as many platforms as possible. The more people that can be goats, the better, if you ask us.
AZ: Players were (are?) able to modify the game through Steam Workshop. What were some of the more spectacular mods you saw?
AI: I think the Shrek mod was a personal favorite of mine. Someone just used a 3D model of Shrek and had him walk around on all fours. Pewdiepie ended up making a video of it, which got millions of views, and then we got a cease-and-desist buzzkill letter from Dreamworks because they didn’t understand that it was a mod – they thought we were making and selling a Shrek Simulator. Bunch of nerds, right?
AZ: How did you decide on a business model for Goat Simulator?
AI: We never really gave that much of a thought. I think there are enough companies out there that design their monetization model before they design the actual game, and that’s fucked up if you ask me. We made a game we thought was hilarious, and we figured taking a couple of bucks for it up front was fair enough.
We decided to go $10 on PC and $5 on mobile. This is because we had to cut some features (like Steam Workshop or local co-op play) from the mobile versions, and the graphics are always going to look better on a PC anyway, so we figured $5 was fair enough.
AI: Okay, so last summer we’re having a meeting and discussing what we should do with the game. This was just a couple of months after release, so we were kind of at a crossroads. Do we continue developing Goat Simulator? Or do we say the game is finished and move on to something else? Our main question was “If we decide to work on Goat Simulator, what would we do?”
The problem with having an absolutely ridiculous game is that it’s very hard to top it. Like, we have goat flying into a crowd of people with a jetpack. How do you possibly top that? The answer, in my mind, was very simple – You make a goddamn MMO.
We had a lot of people asking us to make an MMO version as a joke, and we figured we’d take them up on that joke.Our designers and I had a ton of fun scripting the fake-chat in the game, and we actually had people who thought it was real for a much longer time than we expected.
After MMO, we got a lot of feedback from our community, and it seemed like the majority of them wanted us to keep making premium content for Goat Simulator, and they were okay with paying a couple of bucks for it, which made us continue along the same road with GoatZ.
AZ: GoatBread: What’s it like to play nice with other devs?
AI: We’re actually really glad Bossa Studios got in touch with us, I’ve always admired their work, and I’ve gotta say that Surgeon Simulator was a big inspiration for my first design document for Goat Simulator. There’s just a handful of studios out there that make games that are similar to ours, so of course we were open to making some cool cross-content. We’ll be releasing it soon, and it’ll all be free, so everyone wins!
AZ: What’s up next for Coffee Stain Studios?
AI: We have two more expansions for Goat Simulator upcoming, with both of them being simultaneously dumber than the other. I can’t tell you any more about them yet, but what I can tell you is that it’ll be cool as hell.
AZ: What other apps have you been digging on lately?
AI: The last app I really got into was Fallout Shelter, it’s an absolutely amazing work of art, but sadly it hasn’t diminished my hype for Fallout 4, it’s only made me even more hyped for it. ARRGHGH
I also thought Mola Mola was really strange and different and wonderful.