Jon Hare’s Tower Studios is about to enter the publishing arena with both feet as it anticipates the launch of its imminent release of Speedball 2 Evolution, a modern reworking of the classic Bitmap Brothers game on the Apple iOS platforms, and the Sony PlayStation PSP (minis).
Tower Studios recently published“Shoot to Kill” on Apple iPhone™&Apple iPad, a Vivid Games production, which was released to good critical acclaim earlier this year. Hare has learned a lot about the challenges of gaining Tower’s games the profile necessary for commercial success in a crowded market, and is keen to see the market develop on the Apple iOS and Browser platforms to allow the more serious and talented developers and publishers to make headway through the ocean of product currently available.
Given Hare’s industry experience, having been at the helm of Sensible Software, one of the most successful UK game developers of the late 1980s and early 1990s with classic hit franchises such as Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder and Wizball during the 8-Bit and 16-Bit eras, he is more than adequately qualified to comment on the similarities and the differences between today’s games market and that of the past.
Says Jon Hare: “On the surface it would appear that today’s developers and small publishers have similar opportunities to those in the Commodore 64 and Amiga eras that companies like Sensible Software dominated. However, from a business perspective the landscape is very different, and it is now increasingly hard for a successful, but non-corporate company to run a sensible and prudent creative business at a time where many consumers will only play-for-free, and the big hitting publishers use their occasionally loss leading marketing budgets to drown out the voices of the competition. Also there are a bewildering variety of platforms and monetization models, further complicating the job of launching a game, and due to market saturation it is often very, very difficult to get enough attention on your product, regardless of quality”
Jon Hare, along with business partner Chris Yates ran Sensible Software at an impressive average of 49% profit per year from 1986– 1999, before selling the company to Codemasters. During this time the studio never needed to risk big money on development or advertising to develop award-winning titles.
Today I am painfully aware that the saturated downloadable and mobile markets with minimalistic price-points mean that achieving similar success to the past requires more than talent and hard work; luck and timing also plays a big factor. To me, it is not acceptable to expect companies to be large, reckless or lucky in order to find success. For every“Angry Birds” game hitting the market, another 999 are vanishing in the void. This is not the kind of odds with which you want to be gambling your family’s house or the contents of your underperforming savings account. 999/1 odds are OK for youngsters with nothing to lose, but not for people who are a bit older, and with a bit more to risk. Unfortunately, those older people include just about the entire publishing community in the UK, most of whom are entrepreneurs who like to make things happen, but who are not willing - or able - to take unnecessary irresponsible risks.” , Hare continues.
In addition to self-publishing, Tower Studios have considered partnering with larger publishing partners to distribute or co-publish on those platforms where such a co-operation would benefit both parties and consumers alike:
“ Like all smaller publishers Tower Studios is capable of publishing iOS and browser-based games independently, the question is, is this really the best way to maximize the success and exposure of the game in the current saturated market? Take our latest project“Speedball 2 Evolution” which is now completed and due for release at the beginning of next year. It is a truly excellent version of a classic old game on modern technology; and I would hate to think that all the work we and our development partners Vivid Games have put into this title could be wasted, purely because we cannot penetrate the market or because we are unlucky, or because Speedball is predominantly a European license and the iOS market is about 90% US based. In a healthy market, having a great and high-quality game guarantees some measure of success, but due to the current processes that dictate success on the App Store and other equivalent digital distribution mechanisms, being successful feels like a lottery, and many of us don’t like this feeling of lack of control - it feels like a step backwards.”, Jon explains.
One solution to this challenge, according the Hare, might be for a number of UK based publishers to work together and share resources when it comes to PR, marketing and monetization strategies, and to work with closely with Apple, who are excellent in the UK, and other influential partners who can help get products directly to market in the downloadable and online space.
“At Tower Studios we have the opportunity to work on so many great original games and retro licensed titles on so many formats, and to really carve out a niche for ourselves as the purveyors of quality online and mobile games with the very best of old fashioned values and modern technology at their heart. I have every faith that our products are excellent. These days it seems that making great games is the easy part; it is generating enough publicity and getting consumers to put their hand in their pocket for something that is not mainstream that is the challenge”, Jon Hare concludes.
Recently released Shoot To Kill is available on the App Store by following these links:
Speedball 2 Evolution, Tower Studios soon-to-be released retro classic has an appetizer trailer available for viewing by visiting: http://www.youtube.com/user/VividGamesChannel#p/a/u/2/1wP-t_XZ5As
Additional information about Tower Studios is available by visiting www.tower-studios.co.uk. Interview requests, opinion pieces and other media inquiries should be directed to the publishers PR-Partner, Indie Developer Consulting ( firstname.lastname@example.org)