Firemonkeys EA: Mobile Gets ‘Non-Gamers’ Playing!

Firemonkeys Studio in Melbourne, Australia, has been in the mobile game development for over 14 years bringing quality and engaging mobile entertainment to players around the world.

The studio, owned by gaming giant EA, has been behind mobile games such as Dead Space, Mass Effect: Infiltrator, Mirror’s Edge, Need for Speed and The Sims FreePlay.

We caught up with Amanda Schofield (Producer, Firemonkeys EA) who gave us a little insight on the studio’s approach to gaming.

In an industry where trends keep changing, how have you (Firemonkeys) been able to not just keep up with the times with new demands, but to do so with titles and franchises that have been around for years?

Well it is challenging, but the key is to never stop improving. We have titles that, as a franchise, have been around for years. Games such as Mass Effect and The Sims have their following but we can’t stagnate.
We build and develop huge features for the games where it becomes an entirely new experience for gamers, which keeps them involved and keeps the game growing.

I understand that you’ve done something like that with The Sims FreePlay recently?

Yes! We listen to the feedback that we get from our customers and we do our best to meet their needs. For example, one of the most requested features for The Sims FreePlay has been the ability to dress up the Sims. With that in mind we launched the Sunset Mall.

The Sunset Mall was developed with the idea for Sims to go on a date, grab a burger, go bowling or simply shop. The update brings over 500 new clothes and accessories, with stylish new outfits for Toddlers to Seniors and everything in-between. We’ve even introduced a Catwalk where Sims can model the latest fashions in Sim Town in front of a crowd of awe-struck onlookers.

Another new feature this year is the Lunar New Year celebration. Could you tell us a little more about that?

Well, we’ve celebrated holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving before. The Lunar New Year gives us the opportunity to work with another very vibrant holiday that’s steeped in tradition. From gifting Red Packets, throwing a reunion dinner for your family to spring cleaning before the day itself allow us to explore and celebrate a different culture… and don’t forget the lion dancers!

That’s very interesting. Asia is a very diverse continent with a host of different cultures and traditional holidays. Will this be the beginning of a trend? Can we expect to see more Asian holidays celebrated in, and by, The Sims?

Of course. While I can’t put a definite timeline on any new celebrations, we’re always looking at how we can appeal and related to our audience. Be it through the cultural holidays or other requested features.

Moving away from The Sims now, how do you think the mobile platform has helped the gaming industry? Is mobile a “second life” for older games to be ported over?

We don’t particularly see mobile as a way to port over games. At Firemonkeys, we look at the whole user experience and develop a game that’s meant to leverage on the mobile platform and interface that adds to the total experience… a more complete experience, of the franchise.

In fact mobile’s a great way to get new gamers on board. Many of or mobile gamers have never played the console or PC versions of the game. They don’t even consider themselves as “gamers”. They would never have sat in front of a PC for hours on a game. But now they have a mobile in their hands and the accessibility allows them to come on board without much resistance.

While PC and Consoles are always going to be a big part of the gaming industry, mobile will be just as important to not only support the industry, but have its own unique audience as well.

Finally, before we wrap up, is there any titbit you can share? Upcoming plans?

Well I can give one particular bit of information. Let’s just say that we received great feedback and response from our Sims ‘long hair’ event, so expect to see something along those lines.