I’ve said it a million times, but I don’t mind saying it again: I love Whale Trail. I’ve been playing it almost every day since its launch last year. I have to admit, though, that it’s a bit low on replay value. I’ve practically committed to memory every included combination of life-giving Blubbles and life-threatening Thunderbros that approach Willow the Whale in his flight from the evil Baron von Barry. Why and how, then, do I keep playing it? Plain and simple: it’s just fun. And it’s a pretty good destressing game, what with its cheerful graphics, mechanics, and music. The not so cheerful truth, however, is that the game isn’t selling as well as its developer, the London-based ustwo, expected. Thousands and thousands of pounds were spent making the game, but not a lot of customers have spent their own pounds, dollars, or some other currency in getting the game to their devices. Not a lot of people, customers and developers alike, have even heard of the game. Mills, ustwo co-founder and self-proclaimed “Chief Wonka,” is hoping to change all that soon.
After subjecting Whale Trail to a couple of iterations that each added a challenge level pack, Mills and company are now set to take their flagship product to a drastically different direction. In a recent interview with Touch Arcade, Mills revealed that Whale Trail is going the way of Temple Run, at least in terms of switching to the freemium model. Whether it turns out to also go the way of the extremely popular endless runner in terms of sales is yet to be determined.
In its soon-to-be-realized free-to-play structure, Whale Trail introduces the use of in-game currency called Krill. Similar to coins in Temple Run, Krill can be used to buy new powers, characters, and costumes. Krill can be collected through continuous play, or they can be easily bought using real-world currency. “The game is so much better,” said Mills. “Players are now in full control of their destiny and each play rewards them. This was missing before.” Mills also mentioned that players who, like me, already have the current Krill-less, $0.99 version will receive a huge initial amount of Krill upon updating to the free-to-play version as a sort of “thank you.”
For Mills, the original Whale Trail is not an outright failure. Rather, it’s a “succailure,” a necessary failure on the game’s trail towards success. Whether success is on the horizon following the game’s transition to freemium is still open to question, though. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to playing Whale Trail, Krill or no Krill, every day of the foreseeable future.
Are you in agreement with Whale Trail’s going free-to-play? Or do you think it’s going to be, in a manner of speaking, one big fail whale?