My friends Tom Talking Launches Thursday as the most recent addition to a franchise that has seen more than 13 billion downloads in the past decade.
Yes, you heard that figure. The 23 different Talking Tom apps and games have been downloaded 1.71 times for every person on Earth. It may be hard to believe, but that’s what Outfit7 CEO Xinyu Qian told me in an interview today.
My Talking Tom Friends is a virtual companion game with six wacky and cute characters in a sandbox world. In pre-registration, the game attracted 12.5 million people who said they wanted to download it. It will first be available in India and will be released worldwide on Thursday. Google Cloud will help manage downloads.
“Talking Tom is already a very big franchise,” said Qian. “Two years ago we started to wonder how we could make it bigger, we thought the genre of virtual pets could be something revolutionary.”
Qian said the goal of the new game is to reinvent the virtual pet genre with multiple playable characters at the same time. This is the latest turning point for a franchise that achieved big results in 2009 as the first mobile game on iPhone where you can make pretty animal voices and fart sounds.
I’m not sure if apps are more popular than Talking Tom (voiced by Colin Hanks), but I have to believe that fart sounds are the thing that has driven Tom so far, while smaller franchises like Angry Birds have may have peaked much earlier (somewhere above $ 4 billion).
In addition to Tom, the new game features characters like Talking Becca, Talking Angela, Talking Hank, Talking Ben and Talking Ginger. You have to meet the needs and wishes of the six characters at once, and help them live their fascinating lives – much like caring for a Tamagotchi. When a character desperately needs to go to the bathroom, he expresses it through a thought bubble and simple, fun animations.
“We wanted to reinvent this genre and change the perceptions of virtual pets,” said Qian.
Friends are dynamic, moving around in the open, drop-down house, looking for ways to have fun. Players can engage with them and participate in fun activities such as cooking, painting, gardening and socializing. You can also discover a series of mini-games. Tom has different moods, and your job is to make sure you can connect emotionally with Tom and his friends, said Qian.
Qian said that 425 million fans play Talking Tom and Friends games and apps every month. The 23 apps include endless runners and a variety of other titles.
When a Chinese consortium, United Luck, acquired Outfit7 in 2017 for $ 1 billion, the company employed only 150 people. At that time, the Logins left and Qian became CEO.
In the United States, Talking Tom has more than 800 million downloads and 24 million active users per month. China is bigger than that. The Talking Tom YouTube channel has more than 51 million subscribers and 65 billion video views.
To manage this Tom empire, Outfit7 operates its headquarters in Cyprus and has a team of around 300 developers in Slovenia, where Talking Tom was originally created by Samo and Iza Login. It’s a very small number of people, but it gets the job done.
Qian said the teams are working on both new Talking Tom games and new intellectual property. The last title is in preparation since the summer of 2018, with a core team of around 50 people and 50 others helping during peak hours.
Outfit7 works with a new license agency in North America and is working on a film Talking Tom. He also has new non-Tom games in the works, said Qian, including one that could be announced later this year.
“Our team is small, but we are very excited and busy,” said Qian. “I am really proud of the team.”