My Boo — Product Case
Making 40+ million people smile
My Boo is a virtual pet mobile game with mini games for casual players released by Tapps Games in 2013. The game is still played by thousands daily and have reached the top free downloaded games and top grossing apps on App Store and Google Play. It was one of the most profitable game at Tapps for many years.
How we made it? I’ll share more about my game design process and the most important product management initiatives when I worked in My Boo.
Tapps published some profitable virtual pet games for children in early 2013. Our next step was creating a better and broader game to entertain teenagers and young-adults instead of children only. This project became My Boo.
Our CEO’s strategy was straightforward: let’s make a new virtual pet, free-to-play, with a compelling art style that were cute and unique.
In My Boo you take care of your own Boo, customize it with clothes, decorate your home, compete in weekly events, and play with toys and minigames. The video above is the game in the current state, 5 years after the first release.
Designing My Boo
In 2013 our production process was waterfall with a very tight schedule and small team (me, 1 artist and 2 programmers). Therefore, we had many constrains to deal with. Firstly, I started with a benchmark analysis and created design docs for the rules, systems and screens. During this process we defined design goals that would drive a great experience:
- Boo’s current status (hungry, happy, sick, dirt, energy) should be communicated through Boo’s body language and sounds to feel intuitive.
- Boo’s interaction reactions should be clear and rewarding enough to keep players engaged since the first minute of gameplay in every session.
- Boo’s customization and outfits possibilities should be (almost) endless to keep players engaged by making a very unique styled Boos and share pictures.
- Establish a popular minigame library for different audiences with different balance between luck and skill, puzzle and action and great replayability.
- Limit session length with Boo’s intrinsic systems and reengage players later with local notifications related to Boo’s caring needs.
Secondly, I balanced all content and systems, and set guidelines in order to keep economy and progression controlled. I also created design tools using Excel, C# and Unity engine in order to make easier and faster to do repetitive tasks (e.g: register decoration assets and prices).
My Boo was released in September 2013 and we achieved ROI very fast. Organic traffic was huge and players feedback were very positive. Due to good results, Tapps decided to update the game with more content.
Growing My Boo
Tapps didn’t have a fixed team to work in updates. Therefore, I was allocated between other projects with different artists/programmers to update My Boo. My job was to pitch and design features or content plus balance progression and economy. The major changes we published the next years were:
- (2013) 4 updates: new items, minigames and toys plus daily gift system.
- (2014) 5 updates: new items, minigames, room and food. We also added new features such as multiple Boos, rewardable ads and design challenges.
- (2015) 6 updates: new items and minigames, many UX improvements, IAP offers, promotions, localization and minigames meta progression.
We didn’t have a data-driven mindset in 2013–2014, therefore we only made changes trying to address community feedback and reengage players. But in 2015 everything changed: Tapps allocated a team to only make updates.
Being a game designer focused only in updates was an incredible experience. I learned a lot about analytics, A/B testing and seasonal content. In addition, Tapps hired two interns which I managed and trained them in game design during 5 months. That was a game-changing experience for me because teaching game design makes you rethink your process from different perspectives, therefore making you a better designer.
Things worked out very good: one of the interns became a Junior Game Designer and I was promoted to a Product Manager role. That year we improved Avg. Session Length by 32% and achieved our profit goal. 🤟
Managing My Boo
Leaving a Game Design position was hard but I knew I could learn a lot about business, communication and leadership as a Product Manager. Take a look on what our amazing team released:
- (2016) 14 updates: new items and minigames, all-new FTUE and UI/UX, new rewardable ads, social features and liveops (seasonal bundles/events). We also had a Kung Fu Panda 2 special event during the movie release.
- (Q1 2017) 4 updates: minigame challenges and new food store. We also had a The Nut Job 2 special event during the movie release.
In 2016 we improved D1 retention from 44% to 53% and doubled ARPU, plus reached our financial goals. That was impressive product results.
On the other hand, My Boo downloads were constantly decreasing since 2015. Virtual pet games became a very competitive genre and it was much harder to keep in Top 200 US Games without paid marketing. In addition, Tapps strategically moved to other genres with higher LTVs and older audience for Q2 2017. Ultimately, we decided to stop updating My Boo in May 2017.
My Boo was my first successful game and I’m very passionate about the time I’ve worked on it. I’ll never forget the day I was on the train and I’ve spotted someone playing My Boo! ❤ Being able to make people lives a bit better everyday with something I’ve collaborated to create it’s one of the main reasons I love making games.
We published 33 releases with significant changes from September 2013 to April 2017. We improved KPIs, processes, technologies and learned a lot through all those years. My Boo was also crucial to Tapps and my career grow, as to enable some Tappers get their first job into the game industry.
After working in My Boo I was involved with Logic Pic, which you can read it more about it here, and Decor Dream, more information soon.