10 October 2017

Ustwo: The difficult follow-up

Monument Valley was a huge success. The pressure was on when it made a sequel.

Designers and producers at Ustwo Games have spent the past year wondering how and even if they can repeat the success of their first game.

‘No one knows what’s coming, but everyone will have an expectation,’ says Adrienne Law, producer at Ustwo.

The first Monument Valley, released in 2014,  was an instant hit. It amassed over one million downloads in three months and more than £6m in revenue.

Tag team

David Fernández Huerta, Ustwo’s lead artist, helped make the first game. For the sequel, he had 14 people in his team compared to five on the original.

A big challenge, he says, was articulating the original guiding principles of the game – some aspects of which were developed on the hoof – so new staff could understand ‘what makes Monument Valley what it is’. What was initially instinct was now being retrofitted into a method.

Internal conflict

The newbies were seemingly burdened by the success of the original, eager to build on the concept that inspired them to join the company. Old-timers meanwhile wanted to create something as novel as the first game. They compromised by keeping the labyrinthine landscapes of the first game, while the characters were scrapped in favour of a new storyline.

Impact of sequel

Appraising the impact of the follow-up, Monument Valley 2, is tough. It certainly didn’t break new technical ground like the original or create the same buzz when it launched in June. It did, however, achieve one million downloads in just one month; a runaway success in its own right.

Insight: It’s valuable to make the most of previous success. But it can also be an anvil weighing down creativity and risk-taking.

First appeared in issue 19 Oct/Nov