Joey Jia is the CEO of Crazy Maple Studio, a gaming studio with the goal of bringing fictional stories to life by blending animation, music, sound effects, and a unique style of gameplay that offers players and readers an immersive interactive experience.
Could you share the vision behind Crazy Maple Studio?
Crazy Maple Studio’s vision was and still is today, a platform for both writers and readers to connect, share, play, create, and explore the world of storytelling, globally.
I felt traditional publishing hadn’t kept up with authors or fans and that it was time to democratize the reader and writer experience.
To give voice to authors and readers outside of what publishing gatekeepers had offered up. Serialized fiction, interactive storytelling, and mobile…these are all just technologies that we’ve harnessed to democratize access to writing and reading. We hope by using this technology, we elevate the human experience.
What initially attracted you to the concept of choose your own story games?
For me, the concept of narrative choose your own story games is just another way that content can be experienced that's immersive and fun.
Readers should have the chance to see themselves in a story. Let’s face it, a lot of interactive experiences aren’t reflective of the player. It’s really important to us that users really see representation in the story. Not only in their mind, but on the screen, too. Fans can choose gender and skin tone, and can even experience the same story multiple times in different ways.
I also saw a void in the market. Traditional publishing was not—and still isn’t—exploring new avenues of storytelling. The industry needed a shake-up, something new and unique that would engage a different audience of mobile gamers.
Could you tell us about the KISS app, and how it brings romantic fiction to a user’s smartphone?
KISS launched in October of 2020. The smart phone is a globally accessible safe space. Our readership is global, our Chapters Stories are localized in 13 languages, and their phone is the portal that allows them to explore romance adventures in a way that’s completely their own.
We certainly aren’t the only reading app out there, but our content is curated and chosen specifically by editors who have worked in traditional and indie publishing with New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors. When a reader enters into KISS, they know they’ll be provided with only the highest quality content.
Our newest reading app, Scream: Chills & Thrills, focuses on mystery, thrillers, suspense, true crime, and horror, with the same high quality of curated content.
Readers pay as they go, allowing them to sample authors/books without heavy commitments. Unlike traditional models or indie publishing, readers don’t have to purchase a book in its entirety.
AI on KISS and Scream ensures that readers have access to thousands of books that reflect their tastes. Authors benefit from the AI too, which gives them an endless source of discoverability. This is especially empowering for marginalized voices who historically have not had an easy path to publication.
An added perk of this mobile tech: authors can write and share their stories from anywhere in the world, at any time. They can create a livelihood from their content and foster real and meaningful relationships with the community of readers that they’ve grown on the app. Our authors can connect with casual readers, a demographic underserved in traditional models.
Writers who wish to work with KISS can submit stories. What benefits do writers see from this?
KISS provides authors with access to an entirely new audience of casual readers. These are readers who never would have found their book. We’re also providing authors with a bonus stream of previously untapped revenue, and we’re creating a community for our writers and readers for all voices, all genres.
Our authors are also paid for their work and it happens quickly. In traditional publishing few fiction writers receive advances, but in Kiss, Kiss writers can access an online portal for statements, payments and data, so it enables storytellers to have a consistent income that celebrates their bursts of creativity.
Another product is the Chapters: Interactive Stories. Could you tell us more about this?
Chapters: Interactive Stories is our first product and still a fan favorite with almost 3 million monthly active users. In Chapters, users choose their own avatar and make choices to direct the story as they read through an adapted popular romance novel. Chapters places the user in the story.
Chapters: Interactive Stories continues to be a vibrant place for storytellers and interactive fans. We have recently launched a User Generated Content (UGC) area called Community. We have over 7,000 writers contributing stories there daily in 5 different languages including Spanish, German, and English.
Community has shown us that fans want to support one another. The average fan in Community reads 5 stories per day and over 600,000 chapters are consumed globally every day.
Could you give an example of a story that a gamer can currently experience?
It’s so hard to narrow it down to just one story. We have thousands of stories and different genres. Why limit yourself to just one? Depending on your mood, you can indulge in an office fling, have a rendezvous with a vampire, or take a walk on the wild side. One of the interactive games our users are especially enjoying right now is “Touch and Go,” an adaptation of a book by USA TODAY bestselling author Mira Lyn Kelly. Readers are also enjoying “Seducing My Professor,” an adaptation of a popular Tessa Bailey book.
We have so many genres and themes to choose from, my best advice is to get on the app, browse, and see where you end up. You might be surprised at what you end up being drawn to.
In your opinion, what differentiates a gripping successful narrative compared to an average story?
There is so much appetite for niche stories. And the fans of these niche stories are very often the most engaged, the most voracious fans.
I think we’ve proven that the formula for “gripping” isn’t as straightforward as traditional studios or traditional publishers would have us believe. We’re scaling new talent, interactivity, accessibility, and representation, and for our fans, those are the ingredients for gripping stories.
Engaging characters, great chapter hooks, high-stakes, and drama are what keep our readers “turning the page”.
Where do you see the future of these types of stories evolving?
Stories will continue to be more interactive and more accessible to both creators and fans. There’s a lot of talk about whether technology will replace storytellers, but I don’t see that ever happening. In the end, storytelling is part of the human experience, and we’re compelled to tell stories. Our stories will evolve as the world around us evolves.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Crazy Maple Studio?
What’s different about Crazy Maple Studio is our focus is really on empowering creators. Our writers are both globally recognized best sellers and emerging authors publishing for the first time. What we’ve found is these writers have an opportunity to perform equally well on our platform, and they both have access to a global audience and data feedback, which gives them insight into the minds of their most engaged audiences.
Readers and gamers can always count on new content, the stream will never run dry. There will always be a new story, a new experience.
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Crazy Maple Studio.