It might seem odd that Whaleapp, an Israel and Ukraine-based game development studio, has published the very British mobile game Doctor Who: An Unlikely Heist. But that’s the global game business for you.
Doctor Who is a storied sci-fi franchise that the BBC introduced way back in 1963. The Doctor has
had many incarnations, and it’s now on its 13th version. And for this occasion, Whaleapp teamed up with BBC Studios and Tilting Point to make a hidden object mystery game.
It came out on April 7 on Apple Arcade. Soon, the company plans to take the Doctor Who game to the PC. Whaleapp can’t say how well it’s doing on the Apple platform, but Ziv Kitaro, director of product management at Whaleapp, said in an interview with GamesBeat at the studio is hopeful that it will have a lot of Doctor Who work ahead of it. On Apple Arcade, the game has had 150,000 downloads and it gets about four play sessions per day per player.
The developers have also updated live events in the game, offering additional mini games and rewards. In addition, Whaleapp started to role out additional “short stories.” These appear after the main campaign and offer more gameplay with 10 new stories as well as new levels and changes to the gameplay.
“This one actually was cooking for a long time,” Kitaro said. “Tilting Point approached us around when the pandemic started. They wanted to make the game as a free-to-play game. And they really wanted us for the very beginning of the work.”
The company was already shifting from casual games to hardcore titles, and the Doctor Who franchise made sense in that kind of transition. So the team met with the BBC and Tilting Point. they pitched a game and the BBC loved it. But then Tilting Point came up with the idea of pitching Apple Arcade. Apple also liked it and so the team began redoing the idea, changing it from a free-to-play idea to a game that would work well as a subscription title on Apple’s platform.
“We always believed in diversifying our portfolio,” Kitaro said.
Making the game
The project started about a year and a half ago, and the production of the game took about a year. The BBC had experts who were archivists who were quite familiar with Doctor Who canon, and those people could work with the Doctor Who fans at Whaleapp.
“What was good for us and the team about Apple Arcade was that we could really focus on the art and the story,” Kitaro said. “Premium games have their own merits. And this was a change of focus for us.”
With the core story, there are five chapters with perhaps 30 hours of gameplay. About 70 people worked on the project.
The Doctor Who: An Unlikely Heist game comes from Whaleapp’s casual division, an established developer and publisher of free-to-play games. The division has made its first foray into the double-A premium games with the Doctor Who title.
Doctor Who: An Unlikely Heist requires players to fix time rifts, a dangerous weakness in space and time through which people and objects can pass from one location and time to another. With a unique original story, players will help the Thirteenth Doctor and companion Yasmin Khan fix the time rift by solving mini-games, collecting objects to complete critical missions, and uncovering hidden puzzles.
Whaleapp had plenty of Doctor Who fans who worked on the narrative closely with the BBC. It take the players across multiple locations where they help the Thirteenth Doctor fix time rifts. Players solve riddling puzzles to obtain objects needed to progress through the story.
Moving from casual to mid-core
Whaleapp has also had hits like the popular mid-core idle RPG Blitz: Rise of Heroes, the casual games Hidden Hotel: Miami Mystery, and others.
“In these interesting and challenging times in the game industry, it is important to think broadly and diversify, and sometimes go back to basics,” said Lev Metchnik, Whaleapp’s CEO.
In 2021, Whaleapp partnered with Tilting Point, a mobile publisher. This next step in the partnership reinforces the commitment to finding new ways for fans to engage with beloved characters.
“We are very happy with this cooperation and its results,” said Ilya Turpiashvili, the founder of Whaleapp.
“Someone once told me, please don’t wish me to live in interesting times,” Metchnik said. “With all the aspects of economy, politics, everything — there is definitely lots of geopolitics these days.”
To help with marketing, Whaleapp is working more with influencers as a source of traffic for its mobile games. The company is contemplating different ways of financing user acquisition, which has become very challenging in mobile.
Meanwhile, Blitz: Rise of Heroes continues to improve in a slowing economy. A little over a year since its launch and through one of the most challenging times in the recent year, Blitz: Rise of Heroes has been making waves in the gaming community with its continuous updates and high engagement rates.
The game has seen dozens of new heroes for players to collect, exciting new content and features to enjoy, and a surprising plot twist in this ever-evolving idle RPG. Despite facing the challenges of the war in Ukraine, an economic cataclysm in recent years, and the challenges of the game industry, the team behind Blitz: Rise of Heroes has continued to deliver quality updates and support for new players.
The company hopes to focus more on IP-based games over time.
Even with the different divisions, Whaleapp has had to thin its ranks. Overall, there are about 300 people now, compared to 500 before the war. During the Ukraine War, it lost a number of staff as disruptions took place across the company’s regions and offices.
“We helped a lot of them escape from Ukraine,” Kitaro said. “We have people in Turkey, Germany and Poland. And that has made us an international company now.”
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