As the Birmingham-based VooFoo Studios celebrates its tenth anniversary, Katharine Byrne speaks with marketing and PR manager Sean Walsh (pictured right) about the growth of the studio and its recent move into publishing.
How would you describe VooFoo's journey over the last ten years?
It’s safe to say the past ten years have been eventful! It has, however, always been interesting and we wouldn’t want it any other way. We’re incredibly lucky to work in such a diverse and innovative industry that offers so many opportunities, none more so than for indie studios like ourselves.
Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. There have been challenges, particularly during our first few years of business, when lack of access to funding led to uncertainties over whether games would actually see the light of day. We had to balance maintaining a busy workload with a strategy that brought long-term sustainability, and for a small team in a notoriously unpredictable industry that can be tough.
We’ve worked hard over the years to get that right and we’re proud to have established a reputation for technical and creative expertise with games like Hustle Kings, which gave us our first break and really helped to establish the studio. We’re really proud of everything we’ve achieved since then, from developing the hugely successful ‘Pure’series of games to our move into publishing last year with the release of Mantis Burn Racing.
What's next for VooFoo over the next ten years?
We have some really exciting plans for the studio, building on the foundations we’ve laid over the last ten years to extend the business into new areas. We’re going to continue to support Mantis Burn Racing both in terms of content and extending it into new areas, including esports, which is a great fit for such a fun, competitive racing game.
We’re going to be working on more of our own IP and growing the publishing side of the business. We’re already working on a number of as yet unannounced projects, which are as diverse as they are exciting and may just surprise a few people. We’ll also continue to further develop our own in-house game engine and tools and we’ll be exploring licensing opportunities around those.
What would you say has been the studio's biggest success story over the last decade?
We can be proud of the fact we’ve created some very successful award-nominated games in that time that have collectively generated over 5.5m downloads to date.
The success of Hustle Kings gave us credibility and a level of security which we’ve been able to build upon with the hugely successful ‘Pure’ games – Pure Chess, Pure Pool and Pure Hold’em have all performed really well both critically and commercially. Publishing our own IP, Mantis Burn Racing, a game that was mostly self-funded, whilst challenging, was also hugely rewarding and we’re really pleased to see that doing so well.
What's your secret to creating a successful indie studio?
One of the major challenges for us has been discoverability. It’s important to find your niche, work out what you’re good at and be creative. For an indie studio to be successful, you need to remain agile and prepared to adapt to [any] challenges. Grow at your own pace and remember, it’s important to take as much from your disappointments as you do from your successes.
Why did you start self-publishing with Mantis Burn Racing?
Our heritage actually lies in racing games. Founder Mark Williams is the guy behind Max Rally, which released on the Commodore Amiga back in 1998. It’s a genre we’ve always wanted to revisit; we’ve had plans to make a new, modern top-down racing game ever since. We were certainly looking for the independence that publishing brings, to be in control of our own destiny as a studio and to be able to own our IP was important.
Mantis Burn Racing was the PS4 Pro's first native 4K title – did you face any problems getting it up and running?
We’re a team that's built a reputation for technical and artistic expertise and the PS4 Pro gave us a great opportunity to showcase our technology. We'd actually been asking Sony about 4K support for some time before they announced the Pro, so when the opportunity arose, we jumped at it and the process was pretty straightforward. The fact we were the PS4 Pro’s first native 4K game running at 60fps with no checkerboarding or other upscaling techniques certainly didn’t hurt our PR efforts either.
VooFoo's also offering publishing services to other small indie teams now – what kind of studios are you looking to work with?
We understand first-hand, the risks, challenges and pit-falls that small indie studios face when taking their games to market. This is where we can really help. We’ve been in the same position as these studios and we know how tough it can be to find the right publishing partner.
What we offer is both understanding and practical guidance through the development and publishing process to help these studios maximise their potential. We’re a developer and publisher who has the experience and ability to manage the entire publishing process for these smaller studios, giving them the freedom and confidence to get on with doing what they do best, which is making great games.