Team17 will publish Yooka-Laylee and says it wants to take the Kickstarter phenomenon to retail.
The 3D platformer generated £2m via crowd-funding in June. It is the spiritual successor to Rare’s Banjo Kazooie and is being created by Playtonic, a studio set-up by former Rare veterans.
Team17 will release Yooka-Laylee next year. The Worms developer moved into publishing in 2013 and has scored a number of hits, such as this year’s prision escape game, The Escapists.
The firm will assist Playtonic with localisation, certification, QA, marketing and other business matters.
“Team17 has significant experience in making the most of releasing a game,” explained Gavin Price, creative lead and studio head at Playtonic.
“Personally I feel it would be a great shame if after our great Kickstarter success, we delivered on our promise of a great game and then it underperformed sales-wise because we didn’t have the knowledge, or made a mistake in the way we released or marketed the game.
“Thanks to our Kickstarter backers, we’re on a really positive trajectory and Team17 is acting like a booster for us on top of that by handling non-game dev tasks.”
Yooka-Laylee is potentially a big deal for Team17. The Banjo Kazooie series was a major seller, and Team17 MD Debbie Bestwick feels the 80,000 people that have already backed the project only represents a small proportion of the game’s eventual audience.
“[This partnership] is probably more significant than either Team17 or Playtonic fully realise right now,” she says. “They are friends of ours and we want to help it make sense for everyone.
“To the industry it’s probably another reason for people to look at what we are doing even closer. We’ve built an exciting, modern games label here that helps creators achieve their goals with a team who understands what it takes to release a game, all the while keeping full control of their studio and IP. We’re building a strong track record for helping indie devs and Playtonic is going to move that reputation to another level. Our goals and targets remain exactly the same as they always were: to help creators bring their games to market.”
Yooka-Laylee smashed its Kickstarter goals – raising more than £2m, which raises questions as to why Playtonic felt the need for a publisher in the first place.
“Playtonic was founded because our team wanted to make games the way it used to in the ‘90s – in a small, collaborative team in an environment that encourages creative autonomy,” explains Andy Robinson, editorial and communications manager.
“We believe these philosophies appeal not only to us, but fans of the team’s past work, and so we’re determined to ensure they’re preserved.
“We maintained from the start that we’d be open to a partner that could uphold these principles, while helping improve specific backend areas of development, thus freeing up our team to focus on core game development.
“Our Kickstarter backers pledged their money so that my embarrassingly talented colleagues could finally get their hands dirty again and get back to making great games. Nobody wants the artist who made Banjo and Kazooie searching for bugs all day, or the composer behind Donkey Kong Country sat on the phone to PlayStation certification – they want them creating.
“Team17’s expertise has impressed us and Yooka-Laylee will significantly benefit in a myriad of ways, not least in expanded localisation, improved QA testing, certification and access to vastly better resources – all the business necessities that indie studios traditionally struggle with.
“This isn’t a traditional publisher deal, Team 17 understand what we want to achieve and have created a unique partnership with us. It’s a deal all about giving us the support we need so Yooka-Laylee delivers on all its Kickstarter promises.”
Price added: “Our game is 100 per cent funded by the money raised on Kickstarter. The cost of making a game is a lot cheaper when you’re in Burton-on-Trent and not San Francisco.
“The Kickstarter money also covers our fulfilment costs such as physical goods and console codes for our backers as well as developing some bonus DLC as something to give back to our backers.”
What is sure to excite fans of Yooka-Laylee, however, is that Team17 wants to deliver Yooka-Laylee in a box on the High Street.
“There is a large demand for a physical game,” said Bestwick. “Playtonic took the decision not to include this in the Kickstarter for the very reason that it could impact on development and at the time of their Kickstarter it would have been a big risk. Team17 has lots of experience in physical and will share ideas and opportunities with Playtonic - so absolutely we will be looking into it.”
Team17 MD Debbie Bestwick and Playtonic boss Gavin Price
Yooka-Laylee is set to launch across multiple platforms, with a release date of October next year. Robinson tells MCV that the deal with Team17 means the company is now more confident that it will hit its release date.
The game is due to arrive on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Wii U. Price says that the firm fully intends to honour its plans to launch on Wii U – despite news that Nintendo is developing a new console. Fellow crowd-funding success Project CARS was due to launch on Wii U, but developer Slightly Mad said it would instead be porting it to Nintendo’s ‘NX’ system instead.
“Nintendo is not saying that much, it’s all still very secretive – I wish I knew more,” says Price. “But there’s nothing said that impacts any of our current plans. There’s still plenty to look forward to with the Wii U, right now I don’t foresee anything impacting us delivering that version.”
Yooka-Laylee is the first game by Playtonic, which has been described as 'the new Rare' because of where many of its employees have come from. The company has eyes on creating spin-off games from Yooka-Laylee once the project is completed, although Price says this will only be possible if next year’s platformer is ‘awesome’.