Pocket City 2 ($4.99) is a game we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Last week, Codebrew Games launched it as a follow-up to one of the most if not the most beloved city builders ever on mobile, and it is brilliant. I’ve been playing it for review, which you can expect to read in the near future, but have wanted to discuss the game and more with Bobby Li of Codebrew Games for a while now. Following last week’s launch, I figured it was the best time to discuss all things Pocket City. I chatted with Bobby about the game, price points, plans for the future, inspirations, and more.
TouchArcade: Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started Codebrew Games.
Bobby Li: I used to be a full-time software developer and started making the original Pocket City as a side hustle. I had a lot of fun with Sim City as a kid and there weren’t many city builders on mobile yet, so I wanted to make my own. I did graphic design work as a hobby and even used to make Flash animations on Newgrounds as a kid (remember those days?), so game development felt like a natural fit for my skill set. Once Pocket City came out, I was surprised by the popularity and was able to build a business around it. The development team is still only me, but at least the company address isn’t my own house anymore!
TA: Pocket City originally had a lot of buzz for being premium, and it seems to have done really well. How has it done on mobile compared to PC?
BL: Pocket City makes most of its revenue from mobile. There was a small portion of the player base who wanted a PC version, so I wanted to give them a port. Most players are still on the mobile platforms though and that’s virtually where all the revenue comes from.
TA: I’ve seen sequels to beloved games disappoint fans like myself. Hotline Miami 2 and Plants vs Zombies 2 weren’t as good as the originals, but we’ve also had instances of the sequels overdelivering like Risk of Rain 2. Pocket City 2 definitely falls into the latter category. What was your thought process starting development on the sequel?
BL: I actually played a lot of Risk of Rain 2, so perhaps it subconsciously influenced me! To be honest, initially I simply wanted to make a more polished version of Pocket City with improved graphics and new buildings, but as I was getting comfortable using the Unity engine, I decided why not try and add some wild features like actually driving around the city? I became excited at the prospect of having a mayor you can control directly. This made development time longer, but it was something I thought would be really fun and unique. That’s the beauty of being an indie developer – you can just try things out!
TA: Was it always planned to be a premium game like the original?
BL: The premium model worked well for the first game, so I planned to use the same model. A lot of players seem to appreciate the pay-once approach. I know that business advice is geared towards the microtransaction model, but I’ve been happy with the premium sales of the original Pocket City and didn’t feel a need for that. As a gamer myself, I mostly play premium games so I’m more comfortable with delivering that type of experience.
TA: What were your inspirations for Pocket City 2’s features and upgrades?
BL: A lot of features are from the original Pocket City’s player requests which weren’t possible due to technical constraints. A day/night cycle, rotating buildings, and different perspectives were the first features to be added. Additional systems like sewage and deeper metrics were added to make the simulation more interesting. To keep the game intuitive and easy to pick up, I kept the core gameplay similar but with a lot of new features that the player can dive into if they so choose. When it comes to the free roaming aspect, I was of course inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so I had to add a paraglider.
TA: How hard was it working on optimization for a variety of mobile devices?
BL: In my opinion, that’s the hardest part of mobile development, at least for games with many entities and moving parts. There is such a wide range of devices all around the world, and you want to pack your game with features and shiny graphics while still considering the lower end devices. I am continuing to work on optimizations even after launch, so it is always an on-going process.
TA: Are there any plans to bring Pocket City 2 to Switch or PC? I know it can be played on macOS right now on M1 devices.
BL: I do plan to create a PC version and an updated Mac version that isn’t just the iOS mobile build. The controls for desktops have different best practices which need to be accounted for. Since desktop is more powerful than mobile, I want to create higher tier graphics options as well. As far as consoles, I would love to make that happen one day too, but it would probably be further into the future.
TA: What led to the decision to price it at just $5?
BL: I think it’s a fair price. Some people will play the game over and over, but for others it just might not scratch the itch. Personally, I’ve bought $80 console games that I played for an hour and stopped because I just couldn’t get into them. I want everyone playing Pocket City 2 to feel like it was worth at least the price of a coffee! The original Pocket City was priced at $5 too and I was happy with its performance revenue-wise, so I kept it the same.
TA: Were there any features you couldn’t implement in Pocket City 2 that you’d like to bring in future updates?
BL: I would like to add another difficulty mode with additional mechanics since there are players who excel at making tons of money even on expert mode. I want to introduce a mayor approval system at the highest difficulty level to really make things challenging. Beyond that, I have new minigame ideas that I want to add, more NPC interactions, new research, more competition cities… basically a bit more of everything!
TA: How has the launch been so far? Is it doing better than the original?
BL: Pocket City 2 has been a slower climb than the original Pocket City’s launch, but I am optimistic that it will pick up over time. The original Pocket City had more hype because it was so new. This time, there is less hype, but a more jam-packed game! The original Pocket City continues to be a good source of revenue and I expect Pocket City 2 will get there eventually.
TA: What are your plans for the game going forward?
BL: Firstly, ironing out some bugs that players have pointed out (such as citizens catching on fire for no reason!), and then adding additional translations for the game. I am also working on controller support since it can really enhance the third-person modes. Beyond that, I will wait and see what the most popular suggestions from players are and decide from there.
TA: What games have you been playing and enjoying lately?
BL: I’ve been playing through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Switch as it is a childhood favorite of mine and I find it relaxing. I’ve enjoyed the new Resident Evil 4 remake as well. Hmm, did I just reveal myself as a console player who likes third-person action? I guess that explains why I wanted to add a third-person mode in my city building game!
Thanks to Codebrew Games for their time here.