Pretty Simple’s formula for success: Take a talented team and have them produce quality content

Paris-based social game developer Pretty Simple’s been catapulted into the public spotlight after launching its macabre hidden object game Criminal Case in November 2012. Over the past five months the game’s seen a meteoric rise in traffic, jumping into the top 10 Facebook games by daily active users. We got a chance to sit down with co-founder Corentin Raux to talk about the studio’s small beginnings and massive success.

The company was founded by Raux and Bastien Cazenave in January 2010. For its first title, the studio created My Shops with only five people; within six months of launch the game hit 300,000 DAU and Facebook still reports it has more than one million monthly active users. However, Raux tells us, “we decided to move onto something bigger.”

Raux says that creating a game like Criminal Case was actually a planned project even before the studio was formed. After receiving a $2.5 million investment from ID Invest Partners in 2011, Pretty Simple began to seriously work on the new game; approximately a year and a half later, the game was ready to launch. When asked what took the studio so long to develop the game, Raux explains, “the game is quite complicated to do. There is a lot of high-quality content and we had to recruit a team of very talented people and create a new type of game with a rich storyline and minigames.

“We really like to think the game is a game of investigation instead of just a standard hidden object game. The content isn’t something trivial to come up with. It’s coherent and elegant. It took us a year and a half to come up with the recipe.”

The end result of said recipe appears to be a truly winning dish. Pretty Simple tells us Criminal Case passed the four million DAU mark yesterday morning. Raux also tells us the game is monetizing within the average amount we’ve been quoted in the social games industry. Interestingly, he says the game targets the usual audience for social casual games: middle-aged women. However, he believes Criminal Case is an example of how people are willing to pay for quality, especially when you consider what they watch on television.

“We wanted the game to be mature,” he notes. “We knew from the beginning that women like their hidden object games. When we saw shows on TV like CSI, they’re pretty gory; there’s also a lot of women watching the procedural same shows we enjoy at Pretty Simple. It was quite risky, but it’s worked.”

As a result, Pretty simple is continuing to expand the game’s universe. “We’re trying to write better and better stories,” he says. “We’re strongly focused on creating variable content on a regular basis.”

Pretty Simple’s goal, he says, is to roll out a new case every week. That’s an intimidating schedule to keep for most developers, doubly so when the high quality of the content is considered. Raux tells us it wouldn’t be possible without having a top-tier development team working on the game. Currently, the studio has 40 people, and they’re hoping to bring on 20 more in the near future. “We are very proud of our team,” he says, “their participation is crucial to our success.

Additionally, the developer is working to localize the game. Raux explains that games’ retention and virality is closely linked to language. Though Criminal Case was originally launched in English, Pretty Simple recently came out with French, Spanish and German-language versions. Based on the popularity of the English-language version, it stands to reason that that these localized variants will help provide dramatic increases to the game’s audience.

The company is also in the early stages of bringing the game to tablet and mobile. The studio is currently recruiting to begin work on an iOS version of Criminal Case. That said, there’s no definite release date (or even an estimate) for this version.  Raux says the biggest challenge is “to create a good user experience for tablet users. It’s a lot of work to develop a game like Criminal Case on the tablet, so there’s nothing sure for the moment.

“We just want to take the time to make Criminal Case as popular as possible … our main goal at Pretty Simple is to do the best thing possible and grow our team on Criminal Case at the moment.”