How KleptoCats Cartoon Network happened
Many of you know the story of how KleptoCats happened (if not, I already wrote about it in a previous post). The important thing to remember is that the game was released in March 2016 and it was quite successful for us, it helped HyperBeard became a real game studio.
Since then, many things have happened around the KleptoCats brand, we have a lot of merchandise (plushies, toys, calendars, books, stickers, wallets, socks, etc.), we have some animations on YouTube and we created a sequel, a spinoff and the most recent thing: KleptoCats Cartoon Network.
It all started in June 2017, a year after the release of the original KleptoCats and a couple months before we even started working in KleptoCats 2. At exactly that time I was visiting Buenos Aires, Argentina for vacations. When I arrived there I contacted my friend Martina Santoro to see if she could help me meet some game dev studios there, as usual, she went above and beyond and filled my free time with meetings. One of those meetings was with the game team in Cartoon Network.
I got to CN’s office super excited, this was my first time meeting people from a big company like that and I was kinda nervous. After taking all the steps to get into an important office like theirs, somebody guided me towards a meeting room and told me to wait there. 5 minutes later a couple of CN employees entered the room and presented themselves as part of the animation people. I was confused. I explained them that I was a game developer and they got confused as well.
Things didn’t start that well but I’m good at improvising, I started drafting an idea in my mind about animations, I mean, the KleptoCats brand can be anything, so I started pitching. I showed them the game and explained the core concept, then I started “One of the most asked questions about KleptoCats is, where do the cats go to steal things?” then I continued “I think we could create a series of animated shorts to answer that question. We could make 1 minute animations full of gags and distribute them on YouTube”. After my short pitch they continued playing the game and sharing some ideas on how this could happen. The meeting ended with them telling me that they liked the concept and that I should make a bible for the idea and send it to them so things could move forward.
I was super excited after that meeting, so much that I didn’t even care that I didn’t really understand what a bible was. When I went back to the office I immediately told the whole team about the meeting, I researched what a bible was (my friend Axur sent me some references) and I started working on the document while the team helped me with some ideas and graphical content. I sent the document the same week I got back. Some days passed, I got no response. I contacted them again but heard nothing. Weeks passed and I grew desperate so I went and look for answers somewhere else, I contacted Cartoon Network Mexico.
Time passed without a clear answer and we moved away from the idea. Earlier that year we released Clawbert and Chichens and while we were still supporting those games we were also looking for the next thing. We settled for KleptoCats 2, to be released in early 2018. KleptoCats was still getting money and downloads but we felt that we could make something better, and that was the whole premise behind the sequel, to make a KleptoCats that showed how much we’ve grown as a developer.
At this time we also visited Pixelatl for the first time. I knew about the event but this was the first time that we would be attending, giving a talk and participating in the activities. I fell in love with the event immediately and we have been sponsors ever since. Anyway, this event is about animations, comics and video games but it feels more like an event for creatives in general. There’s many things that cross over if you pay attention. In there I met Thalía Machuca, she owns an animation studio in Guadalajara called Platypus. We started talking about prices, times and all that and a couple weeks after we were working together on making the KleptoCats animations happen.
We created 6 episodes (The pilot + 5 more, all available on YouTube) and released them throughout 2018. They have more than 2.5M views amongst them. We decided to put GemDog (the only non-cat character in KleptoCats) in the Pilot and the fans loved it, so we decided that KleptoDogs would be GemDog’s spinoff adding to the Klepto-brand. KleptoDogs was released in July 2018 and has passed 3M downloads to date. And it has its own book!
Eventually I talked to CN Mexico again and they liked the animations and got more interested in making a deal with us. At that time I wanted a little bit more so I started pitching the idea of a series of shorts with CN’s IPs or even a real TV show, I said that I would cover our part by making a game with KleptoCats and CN’s IPs. That way they could help with the animations and we would work on the game, every company working on the thing they know best. CN Mexico liked the idea but they felt that it was too ambitious for Mexico, nonetheless they would pitch it internally and see if there was interest in it.
Sadly, things seemed to slow down and we lost all momentum on the project. I thought that was going to be it for our collaboration but out of nowhere CN US contacted us to see if we were interested on making a game with one of their IPs. This came through their digital licensing division so they knew nothing of all our previous negotiations. We took that opportunity and pitched KleptoCats CN with the shorts and all, and the licensing team reacted really well to it. There was a lot of negotiation and contracts that needed to happen, but eventually at the beginning of 2019, we got the approval and the development of the game started.
I was involved in a lot of things to make this happen but I wasn’t involved in the actual game. I pitched and had the base idea for it and also added a couple extra ideas (the mementos and the descriptions said by CN’s characters). Other than that the full creative and art direction landed on JP (Co-founder and Art Director of HyperBeard Games) and he did an excellent job on it. Obviously, this is not a one man effort, he had the help of a talented team in all the different areas, you can see their names and what they did on the project on the credits list at the end of this post.
That’s just on the game development side, but there were other areas involved. The team that worked on the trailer did an awesome job as you can see below. The social team created a lot of art for our social networks. QA guaranteed that the game had the best quality for you to enjoy. These big projects are a team effort, which is the only way to make something of this level of quality.
And that’s it, that’s what it takes to make a game like KleptoCats CN happen. I think there are many lessons here but probably the most important is to follow your ideas, look for angles, try to find a way to achieve the things you want to achieve and don’t give up. Even if that particular idea seems impossible at the moment, continue working on other things and save it for later, you never know when the idea might become real.
EDIT: I think it’s really important to add that, while other studios have worked with CN and made games with them, KleptoCats CN puts our IP and theirs on the same level and I feel like that hasn’t really happened before. In this game we have our KleptoCats hanging with characters from important cartoons like Steven Universe, Adventure Time, We Bare Bears, The Amazing World of Gumball and Powerpuff Girls. I’m super proud of what we accomplished and seeing our characters with theirs feels really natural. I’m still super interested in making a full KleptoCats cartoon, if you know how to make it happen, get in touch!
KleptoCats CN is currently out, it is well reviewed (4.9 stars!) on iOS and Android and we can really feel the passion behind the reviews, the fans of KleptoCats and all the CN’s IPs really like the game. If you don’t own the game yet, what are you waiting for? The game is totally free and a really fun experience! You can download it here.
Art and Creative Director
Music & SFX
And a special thanks to the entire CN digital licensing team and support staff and the amazing IPs that we were able to work with to make this game happen.