4Q Interview: ngmoco:) - Touch Pets Dogs

Posted by Chris Hall on November 16th, 2009

Touch Pets Dogs is ngmoco:)'s newest causual app, has been causing quite a stir in the app world. Being one of the first "pay to play more" apps, the iTunes reviews have been quite mixes, with half being extremely positive siting the great gameplay and half hating it because of the game imposed limited playtime. Being the big app at the moment, we sent some questions to Andrew Stern of Stumptown Game Machine, who worked with ngmoco:) to create Touch Pets Dogs. Being the previous creator of Vitual Dogz, Catz, Babyz, and now Touch Pets Dogs, Andrew may be the top virtual animal mind in the world.
Chris (148apps)- I was going to save this for last, but I just can't. Why Canada? Touch Pets was launched in Canada first, causing us in the US to wonder what we did wrong. Did they get to you with their kindness?

Andrew- Since social networking is such a big part of Touch Pets, we wanted to make sure our game servers would perform well with a large number of active players. The Canadian market is similar to the rest of North America, and it seemed like a great first country to let the puppies loose in, to test the servers before going global.

Chris- I suppose that those little Tamagotchi's were destined to evolve into something amazing. I remember seeing people crowded together in grade school, all messing with each others creatures. Somewhere along the line, the social aspect in the genre left though, and we were doomed to play with our pets on our own. Touch Pets seems to try to end that though... explain some of the social features and where you see those taking the game.

Andrew- Definitely one of the coolest things about Touch Pets is how it combines virtual pets with social networking. When you adopt your first puppy, you also create an account for yourself on ngmoco's Plus+ network. This makes it really easy to start creating a Friends list with other players. They can be Touch Pets players you already know, or strangers you might begin following on the Global Feed. From your Dogs list -- the list of dogs owned by players on your Friends list -- you can invite any puppy over for a playdate to meet and become friends or romances with your dogs. The game creates a personalized Dog Feed for you, that shows you the latest posts of what you, your dogs and your friends' dogs are up to.

I find it really fun to play with my puppy Lulu for a while, and then see the latest thing I trained her to do show up on the Dog Feed. My friends can read about it, and see a photo, which is cool. Then I can see what my friends have been up to with Lulu -- for example, someone recently brought Lulu along on a Science career step with their dog Fido, to gather DNA samples for some sick wolves. I was able to see a screenshot of Lulu and Fido accomplishing that career step. I even got a Push notification on my phone while I wasn't even playing the game, that my friend earned some Puppy Bucks from that. And, it turned out Fido and Lulu fell in love that day... but they have since broken up. :-( I'm going to invite Fido over again soon to see if I can get them to reunite... I'll shop in the Pet Store for a cute outfit for Lulu first though.

Chris- Bonnie, who is reviewing the game as we speak, has a question. "In Touch Pets: Dogs, there seems to be a system that limits free play time.; your puppy falls asleep without food, and it's hard to play for an extended period of time without paying. Do you plan to adjust the rate of food consumption?"

Andrew- Actually we just replaced everybody's food with premium chow, that gives your puppies a lot more energy. Instant updates like that are a big benefit of the game being always connected to the internet!

We're closely listening to players and reading their comments on the Touch Pets Facebook page and other forums, to figure out the perfect balance between free play and paid play. Touch Pets Dogs actually gives away a lot of free gameplay as it is: you get a free bowl of dog food every 2.5 hours, which could give you up to 4 bowls per waking hours of your day. And you can make your free play time last longer by finding ways to play that don't use up your dog's energy as fast. And you can peruse the Dog Feed and Global Feed for as long as you like.

Chris- Last question, and I think this is an important one. How do you see future distributions of Touch Pets going? Will they be done through in app purchasing or will we see a new version for each dog, a la Nintendogs?

Andrew- We certainly plan to update Touch Pets with new breeds and more. We're still figuring out exactly when and how, but the next breeds will certainly be informed by players and what they want to adopt!
Thanks to Andrew Stern for the interview and Joanna Barber of Fortyseven Communications for setting it up.

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