It's hard being a penguin. First, you can’t fly. Then your soccer ball is hijacked by freak Arctic winds.

Such is the drama that unfolds in Crabs & Penguins, a fun, multilevel mobile game recently released by The Coca-Cola Company. The app, which is aimed at players ages 13 and older, was developed by the Coca-Cola Content Factory in collaboration with McDonald's. It is available on iPad, iPhone and Android as well as PC and Mac.

The Adventure

In the game, a colony of emperor penguins is playing soccer on Penguin Island when swirling winds suddenly carry their ball skyward. The ball lands thousands of miles away, on Crab Island, where a "hero" crab sets out to return it. Players assume the role of the crab, starting from a tropical paradise and navigating shark-infested waters, sunken ships, volcanoes and other dangers, before reaching the treacherous waters of the Arctic. Players collect points as they conquer increasing levels of difficulty. Upon reaching the north and Penguin Island, the hero crab returns the ball, and the penguins show their gratitude by awarding their hero an ice-cold bottle of Coca-Cola to take back to Crab Island.

Playing Coca-Cola’s Crabs & Penguins Mobile Game

The "hero" crab in the game sets sail on a ship constructed from a Coca-Cola bottle.

How It Was Created

It's an epic adventure born of an equally epic development process. "The modeling was done in Thailand, the drawings in Ecuador and a team in Los Angeles did the actual animation," explains project lead Stafford Green.

The dramatic soundtrack was recorded live by an orchestra in Prague, while the Los Angeles-based composer listened via Skype and made adjustments,” Green adds, laughing. “Did I mention Skype is very important in our world? With Skype and other digital tools, you can get so much done, no matter where you’re based. Crabs & Penguins is the essence of a crowd-sourced, totally global and networked project.”

Green's Content Factory is an in-house Coca-Cola group that works outside the traditional agency model, relying on a network of independent writers, producers and artists worldwide. The team worked with McDonald’s to creat an immersive mobile experience that also provides moments of happiness and surprise. "Mobile gaming, viral advertising – these are fun and dynamic types of consumer engagement, obviously, but there’s serious intent. If we don't evolve our efforts in this direction, we'll miss a whole generation of customers, shoppers and consumers," says Green. "This game is just one example of how the company is innovating its marketing and advertising beyond traditional channels like TV or print."

"I just love the fact that this little island crab is on this epic adventure to bring happiness to these penguins," Green says. "It's a sweeping saga. But it’s also endearing and funny. At its core, it offers a fun experience with a positive message of friendship, adventure and community." 

It's a message that's resonating.  To date, nearly 250,000 people have downoaded the free game.  The app has links for players to swap scores on Twitter or Facebook. Apps for iPad, iPhone and Android feature numerous additional items for loyalty programs and other digital rewards, including soundtrack, wallpapers and screensavers. The app is available on iTunes for free as well as in Google Play.  If you can't get enough of the heroic crab and plucky penguins, there are two new apps out featuring a talking crab and a talking penguin. Both apps record your voice and play it back for you "in character."  They are shareable through Facebook.  Just search "crabs and penguins" on your iPad or iPhone, and download one of the "Talking" apps.