Netflix’s ‘Cozy Grove 2’ Developers on What Changed for the Mobile-Only Sequel and How Streamer Will Measure Game’s Success

Gamers can return to the “Cozy Grove” universe this week with the launch of sequel game, “Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit.” The new titled, which launched Tuesday, is a mobile-only game exclusive to Netflix, which acquired “Cozy Grove” developer Spry Fox as an in-house studio in October 2022, differentiating it from its predecessor, which was released on Apple Arcade, Nintendo Switch (arguably the most-chosen platform for the game’s players), Xbox, PlayStation and PC in 2021.

But Spry Fox co-founder and studio director David Edery tells Variety that making the game for Netflix didn’t affect the title as much as fans of other platforms would first assume.

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“Obviously, we’re not on Switch at the present time — but the we still had to make the game compatible with controllers, it’s not like we could just forget that part,” Edery said. “So it didn’t change the scope of the game as much as you might think. One thing I can say transparently is because I knew literally 100% of people were gonna be playing the game on a mobile device, we cared even more about mobile than we would have before. Not to say we didn’t care about it before, because it was an Apple Arcade game before. But we made even more of an effort to make sure it was a pleasure to play on any screen, no matter what the size is, whether it’s a big iPad or a small phone.”

An example of an added feature for “Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit” is its new zoom in and zoom out button, which is “a thing that I would like to think we would have put in regardless,” Edery said, “but given that the game is 100% mobile now, we’re going to put in.”

“Otherwise it didn’t change stuff as much as you might think,” he added. “And our ambition is still at some point to have the game available on TVs and see some things like that. So we wouldn’t want to walk away from the investments that enable us to do that.”

Per Netflix, “Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit” is described as a game “about the healing power of helping others”: “In it, you play a spirit scout who’s stranded on a mysteriously charming island after a bus crash. When you’re not out searching for the rest of your troop or decorating your campsite, you serve as caretaker for the island, tending to the ghostly woes of its spectral inhabitants, bringing peace and friendship to adorable bears and other animals suffering from past trauma. When your restorative work is done, stretch out by exploring, fishing, crafting, and decorating to your heart’s delight.”

Two aspects of being a Netflix Games title that the “Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit” team values are the absence of microtransactions from the game and the wider reach they can reach on the streamer, which reported 269.60 million subscribers as of March.

“What’s nice with Netflix is, if you have to try to monetize your game, you have to do something to make people give you money,” “Camp Spirit” lead game designer Alicia Fortier said. “And that can be just a complete opposite motivation to wanting to do good for people’s lives. And those are diametrically opposed. So it’s really nice to not have to worry about that being on Netflix, so we can focus on giving players a good experience.”

Fortier also noted her excitement about being on Netflix due to the fact “we can reach people who wouldn’t have a Switch, because there are people who think, why would I spend hundreds of dollars on a console?” “If more and more people can get access to games, that would be my dream come true,” Fortier said.

Edery, Fortier and the Spry Fox team set out to make a sequel to the immensely popular “Cozy Grove” not just as a splashy project for new owner Netflix’s growing slate of original video games, but because of a few “main, major issues” with the original game.

“To be clear, ‘Cozy Grove 1’ worked out really well. We were really happy with it. People played it for surprisingly long time; there are people who are still playing it, even since launch day, which kind of amazes me. But there were two fairly significant issues,” Edery said. “One of them was just technically, we didn’t architect it in a way that made it easy to grow in terms of adding new land masses, adding as many characters as what we might want to in the future. And there’s a variety of reasons for that, but it wasn’t technically built to scale that way. Even people who love ‘Cozy Grove 1’ who played it on the Switch, have made comments, ‘Wow, once you slather your island with decorations and animals and stuff, you start to get performance issues.’ And that’s despite a fairly significant amount of work we did to compensate for that. So one of the reasons we wanted to make ‘Cozy Grove 2,’ ‘Camp Spirit,’ is just we wanted to rebuild the game from the ground up, so that we wouldn’t have those limitations anymore.”

Now, the “Camp Spirit” designers are looking ahead to all the updates they have in the works moving forward, while still leaving plenty of room for developing features in response to gamers’ reactions at launch. (Example of that from Fortier: “Let’s say the community becomes obsessed with a particular imp that shows up in the game — we should probably make that imp a more interesting part of the game.”)

“We have the next fair planned. We’ve got some Easter eggs in the launch scope that can lead to stuff people can discover for the first updates, and we wanted to get all our seasonal stuff prepared,” Fortier said. “One of the features I’m really curious to see the community response to see how we develop it is the asynchronous multiplayer. That’s all new for ‘Camp Spirit’ and can change the way people want to customize and communicate with their friends. It’s very important for us to maintain a sense of parallel play and not getting immediate social pressure on multiplayer. But still, I think it’s super fun that you can see your friends on your island and everything.”

While Netflix has become more and more transparent about the engagement and viewership for its TV series and films, gaming is a newly charted territory for the company and as such, it’s unclear exactly how they will measure success for their prized originals like “Cozy Grove: Camp Spirit” and what that will mean development on future games and overall strategy. But Edery has some insight into what’s expect from the game.

“The short answer is, I think Netflix is still evaluating, what are the right metrics for games? What does define a success? Because it is still a new business for Netflix, and so I don’t think there’s any hard, for sure, this defines success, this defines failure,” Edery said. “But I can tell you that for ‘Cozy Grove’ in particular, we all know what success is, and it’s that people decide to play the game for a long time, because that’s what it’s made for. And that was true before Netflix. If someone only wants to play the game for three days, we’ve done something wrong. The whole point is to be on this journey for months at least, to get to know these characters a day at a time at a very relaxed pace. So I think that works well for next Netflix and they’ll be very happy if we accomplish that, and as a studio, that’s the exact same thing that will make us happy.”

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