Today Seattle-based TinyBuild announced that it had acquired three game studios. We’re Five Games, creators of Totally Reliable Delivery Service; Hungry Couch (Black Skylands) and Moon Moose (Cartel Tycoon), all join the growing publisher as in-house studios.
“Now we are over 127 people. We have seven internal studios, including those ones announced today. We have launched 40 projects to date, and we have 23 projects in the pipeline. And Totally Reliable Delivery service has crossed 14 million downloads.” Said TinyBuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik speaking to MCV/DEVELOP ahead of the announcement.
To date the publisher is best known for its Hello Neighbor series of games. While Totally Reliable Delivery Service launched back on April 1st on six platforms, including Switch and mobile, as well as appearing on Xbox Game Pass, and has proved a big success for the company.
Its developer, Minneapolis-based We’re Five Games is now working on an updated Steam version of the game, as well as being in pre-production for a second entry in the Totally Reliable Universe, expected to be revealed later this year. The team consists of five developers.
Hungry Couch is based in Moscow, and is working on Black Skylands an open world action RPG set to release Q2 this year. The initial solo developer has now grown to a team of twelve. “The studio will remain fully independent, and the acquisition allows it to continue scaling and working on more projects,” said a statement from TinyBuild.
Moon Moose, is also based in Russia, in St Petersburg. The team of eight is working on Cartel Tycoon – a drug-trade centric SimCity-styled title. It’s set for an early 2021 release.
TinyBuild already owned the IP for all the titles from the three developers. With Nichiporchik telling MCV/DEVELOP that the acquisitions were about removing the transactional nature of the publisher-developer relationship.
“So in that transaction, the game gets released, it may do phenomenally well. But if the developer and publisher are not aligned in one direction, to continue working on this, making it bigger or making spin offs, basically turning it into a franchise, then you have just created something, that has value as an intellectual property, that can reach really high levels, and then doesn’t, because you stopped working on it!”
“So it’s about how do you create aligned incentives between a publisher and developer so that it doesn’t feel like ‘we’re the publisher’, ‘you’re the developer’.
“And that’s what we have shown with the Hello Neighbor franchise, we have shipped three games, we have two more in development, we have books, we have everything else. There was like a central hive mind behind that franchise.
“And when the team is external, it’s just so much more difficult. Because you may not be incentivized to continue working on this IP. And what I want to prevent is situations like a typical third-party publishing relationship.”
The publisher is keen to build up small indies and then take them on in order to grow them further still.
“Most of the teams that we partnered up with, early on, they were like 2, 3, 5 people. And so in the example of Black Skylands, initially we just found a guy who was working in the web design studio, and part-time making a prototype, sharing it on Facebook, we noticed that and reached out to him saying, ‘hey, you want to make games full time?’
“And today, there, there are over a dozen people moving towards launch. And it took only 18 months – we helped build that. So that was kind of like, you know, we started dating, and then put a ring on it.”
Ahh, romance in the games industry. Read more from TinyBuild and Nichiporchik in the upcoming issue of MCV/DEVELOP where we’ll have the full interview. And you can catch up with the publisher’s latest announcements from its TinyBuild Direct video from earlier this month.