‘Operation Cannot Possibly Fail’: Drive Ahead maker Dodreams’ pivot to social video

 

After 170m downloads, Dodreams’ fun physics-y car battle game Drive Ahead is changing. According to CEO Erik Pontiskoski it’s about to become a social space built around easy video sharing tools and community – with a metagame “about love”.

But you’ll still be smashing cars into each other, of course. The Dodreams team are calling it ‘Operation Cannot Possibly Fail’, after a South Park gag. And though it aims to build a social meta around love, the motivation here is more irritation than a warm and fuzzy feeling.

“I think it’s good to find something that irritates you in this business, because that can be a source of innovation,” Pöntiskoski tells us. “Because of course, instead of just complaining, you know, let’s try to do something better.”

“Today what’s wrong with games is that a lot of them provide competition against faceless strangers. Or it’s disposable entertainment, you know, like these hypercasual games that you play one day and you don’t remember the next day.”

Unlike hypercasual players, Drive Ahead’s community is in it for the long term, says Pöntiskoski. He claims that 40% of the game’s DAU have been playing for over a month, and the game has around 15,000 DAU who have been playing for over a year.

That community is already driven by sharing fun moments from the game and making connections with other players, he says. So fleshing out the game’s social video features is an obvious next step to keep those folks engaged and help them spread the word further. 

It’s a little hard to pin Pöntiskoski down on what these social video features are exactly; but according to him and Dodreams marketing lead Jaakko Markkanen, the tech doesn’t just record what’s happening on the screen, it takes the inputs and coordinates of all the objects in the battle and recreates them instantly in-engine.

The idea is that this will make it lightning fast for players to share clips, turn them into TikToks or let the game’s AI pick out the best moments and share those automatically. These features will be rolled out over the next six months, with Dodreams tweaking as it goes, based on community feedback.

A work-in-progress shot of the new video and social features coming to Drive Ahead.

The game’s frontend will act more like a social network, too. “You’ll go there to not just play but also to hang out and watch and like and comment and share your best moments,” says Pöntiskoski. “This is what I mean by this new meta that’s about love. You can get fans and followers and you could become, like, famous in the game.”

If the tech is as transformative to a game as Pöntiskoski believes it is, then it sounds like Dodreams is turning itself into a social video tools provider. But maybe not just yet. “It’s not a product we sell currently and we don’t have plans to become a distributor,” says Pöntiskoski. “But it would be interesting to see what others could do with this tech eventually, right?”

Right. So Operation Cannot Possibly Fail is a retooling of Drive Ahead to be more about hanging out with friends and sharing video, while also retaining the fun of bashing cars into each other. But what happens if Operation Cannot Possibly Fail does, um, fail?

“Well, you have to try again,” says Pöntiskoski. “As CEO, my job is to make sure that that we live to try again another day. And actually, Drive Ahead has failed already, many times. But that’s the ‘ship fast and learn’ mentality – we can have all this design and we can have all these fancy ideas, but are able to move the needle in the absolute number of paying users? That’s the proof at the end.”