Shifting business models to blame

Blitz closes 1UP publishing label

Blitz Games Studios is to wind down and close its 1UP initiative, which helped small studios develop, distribute, and promote their games.

“What’s changed is that the market seems to have shifted quite a lot in the way games are sold,” 1UP producer Neil Holmes told Develop.

“Two years ago you could go through all of the portals and you could get business in all those portals. Now, if you go through Steam you can get good sales, and that’s about it; if you go through anywhere else you’re nowhere.”

Holmes has seen the initiative publish 12 titles and assist some 150 indies with various elements of turning games into finished products. He points to changes to portals, such as Big Fish’s reduction in games prices, as part of the reason for closure.

“After Big Fish everybody else panicked and followed suit. Prices dropped and portals started being far more picky about the kind of titles they were taking; so, for example, a portal would decide they were only going to do hidden object games, or just casual or just going to do core titles. So the whole thing got much more confused.”

The introduction of a focus on front page sales on Steam and other portals further added to the difficulties suffered by indies, claimed Holmes.

“There’s not really a sustainable business model today for a lot of the indie studios, which is such a shame because there’s really so much creativity and so much great stuff that is in that area that just isn’t being seen and isn’t getting the exposure it should,” concluded the producer.

Holmes and his team will be making all of the 1UP documentation freely available.

“It almost feels as if it’s an afterthought for most of the portals. They like the idea of indie gaming, but perhaps because they know the numbers aren’t necessarily there, there’s not a marketing spend behind them.”

Blitz, however, has not yet given up on independent studios, and is continuing to develop its IndieCity platform, which is to serve as a community and distribution store for small development studios, and a solution to the problem that eventually felled 1UP.

“We absolutely have massive respect for the developers we’ve worked with and we want to make sure we continue supporting them as much as we can,” stated Holmes.

Blitz 1UP will continue to support projects that are yet to be concluded, meaning it will remain ongoing until mid-2012.

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