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Bounce: Quality Games for Retro Feature Phones

What proportion of the world do you think is online? It’s a strange question, because for those of us fortunate enough to live in a developed country, you might not realise that there are large parts of the world where access to the internet is a rarity. In Australia, we have an Internet Penetration rate of about 90%, but in places like South Sudan (9%), Niger (12%) and Papua New Guinea (12%), it’s a completely different story. Feature phones are the technology that will change that.

The reason for this is simple – it’s just too expensive. While the infrastructure is there for major cities, actually purchasing devices capable of connecting to the internet is prohibitively expensive.

Nokia 8110 - a classic feature phone
The banana-phone
(or Nokia 8110, if you’re
not feeling fun)

We were approached by a company who is aiming to fix this. KaiOS is an organisation that is investing in hardware that allows for the development of cheap feature phones, as well as the operating system and ecosystem of applications to run on them. These phones resemble old-school Nokia devices, and in fact Nokia has started producing them, such as the affectionately nicknamed “Banana Phone” pictured to the left.

In the 6 years or so since KaiOS was founded, they’ve shipped tens of millions of devices around the world, but when they approached us, there was a giant, glaring hole in their app store. Games.

When we were approached by KaiOS we jumped at the opportunity to bring our games to new players – after all, serving under-represented platforms and audiences is core to our mission. While KaiOS was a completely new ecosystem to learn, the fact that we are constantly experimenting with new constraints and platforms meant that we had just the project for it.

A screenshot of Bounce's Leaderboard.
The leaderboard, currently. I’m only 4th 🙁

We developed Bounce in 2018 as an experiment in creating the smallest, most optimised and shareable game that we could. It’s pure javascript, with a very low amount of art assets, and everything that we could possibly trim out trimmed out, while still providing a fun and polished game experience. In part built with knowledge from our experimentation with instant games and playable ads, and in part built to explore web implementations of gyroscope control-schemes. It was perfect for this collaboration.

We spent about 2 weeks porting Bounce to KaiOS, spent on:

  • Learning the new platform
  • Integrating the KaiAds library
  • Tweaking the game to allow for the new control scheme (touch screens are too expensive for feature phones)

In the end, we released Bounce to this new market. We were thrilled with its initial performance, seeing over 100,000 plays in just its first few weeks. We’ve since experimented with other titles on KaiOS too, and have found it to be a very fun platform, and well worth exploring. It’s an honour to be able to bring our games to so many players, the world over.

We hope you enjoyed reading this! Have a question or want to chat more about game development? Reach out to us!

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