Study after study from the Literacy Trust and The Reading Agency show that uncommitted readers are more likely to be motivated by reading from a screen than from paper.
Boys in particular are reluctant to read from the age of 11 and mobile gaming becomes much more important to them.
Our objective was to lure these boys back into the world of reading.
We realised this would be almost impossible with a conventional book.
The breakthrough was to accept that if our audience was more interested in playing mobile games than in reading stories, then we should somehow leverage that interest in a positive way.
We decided to create a new kind of reading experience - one that turned a book into a mobile game.
The concept was simple:
The fusion of a book and a game where the gameplay makes the story better - and the story makes the gameplay better.
To bring our concept to life we had to pull together two entirely different disciplines: Book Publishing and Games Development.
We began with a story that would appeal to boys.
This was created by a team of award winning authors known as The 2Steves.
Their plot took told the tale of a young lad who goes from playing soccer in the local park, to being spotted by a talent scout, signing for a leading Club and then playing in a Cup Final.
So we had a story...
But we recognised that we couldn't create the compelling mobile gameplay ourselves.
We had to work with the experts in this field so we approached the developers behind the BAFTA-winning and multi-million selling mobile game called New Star Soccer. ("The Best Game on Mobile" - EuroGamer)
The format we created together mixes traditional (written) story narrative with real gameplay challenges.
This means the written story has to take different narrative paths, depending on how the user performs in each game segment.
The consequence of this is that there are multiple plot threads and multiple endings.
In fact, New Star Soccer G-Story ended up featuring a combined total of 180,000 words of text, across 18 chapters.
This is interspersed with 240 different segments of gameplay, including shooting, dribbling, passing, tackling, penalties and more.
Each of these can change the whole course of the story.
Similarly, all the other choices the reader makes – from picking an agent, to how much they train, to which sponsorship deals they sign – will alter the plot.
In addition we interspersed the narrative elements with text messages, web pages and 'live' streaming of match commentaries.
And finally we enabled each reader to fully personalise the experience so that they actually became the hero of the story and played for their own favourite team.
As you might imagine, to make sense of all these variables was a massive undertaking.
Hachette, The 2Steves and New Star Games met up pretty much every week for over a year.
Together we mapped out each step of the story, including every piece of gameplay and every permutation of the plot.
Neither side of the partnership could do anything without it impacting upon the other.
This meant that every element of the app had to be discussed, agreed, tested and approved by everyone concerned.
It is fair to say that the upon its release the app did get some poor reviews in the app store from die-hard gamers who complained about the 'high number of words' in the story (!!)
However it has since gone from strength to strength as users have begun to familiarise themselves with the new format.
It wasn't long before the New Star Soccer G-Story app went to Number One in the app store.
It was also selected by Apple as an Editor's pick and a Featured app.
The Guardian also made it one of their favourite Apps of the month.
But most importantly of all the app has been highly praised by the teaching community:
“This is a genius idea. It's a simple concept, but will be so effective at hooking those reluctant readers," enthused Tim Redgrave, Head Teacher and Founder of the Patrons of Reading Schools initiative.
“I'm really excited about it being released. It's a great way to get kids – or anyone interested in football – to read. The way the gameplay determines the storyline narrative is brilliant. I'm sure this will encourage more children to read."