Emergent is offering a lower-cost license for the latest version of its Gamebryo game engine to the growing casual games sector.
Speaking exclusively to Develop prior to its press conference at Games Convention, Emergent CEO Geoffrey Selzer explained how the new pricing structure has come from observing the growth of the industry.
“Casual means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Casual developers are now doing games on Xbox Live and PSN and WiiWare, and what they're really trying to do is go after a new market, but they're still demanding the same type of technology. They're still going up against all of the same challenges that you do when you're launching a large-scale game. So this is our attempt to align our interests and the industry's interests.”
But, posited Selzer, there’s convergence between the traditional gaming market and the casual gaming market not just in terms of the class of game that developers want to create – as time goes on the demands of gamers will similarly rise.
“I think that you're going to see that that audience is going to have a great deal of demand about quality of visuals and quality of gameplay,” he explained. “How do you access that market without some level of technology solution that enables a rapid evolution of content in that environment? I think that not only are you going to see greater acceptance of middleware [in that market], but also greater demand, so the real trick is to evolve the economic models that make sense for both sides.”
In fact, the company thinks that the casual game development market has been entirely underserved when it comes to middleware. “I think people have thought that they could provide a watered-down version of their technology to that market and it's going to serve them,” said Emergent’s marketing and communications manager Erin Dwyer.
“One of the things we wanted to make sure we did was that we didn't water down the technology, but we created custom pricing models and structures around it so that it fits their budget and their timeline. They're not necessarily making less of a game, it's just that there's different constraints and obstructions in their way.”
So while there may not be a glut of normal-mapped casual games right now, by providing those developers with tools used by big-budget boys, and adding in the partner tech integration possibilities such as Allegorithmic’s ProFX or Scaleform’s GFx, Emergent is hoping to get ahead of the game and kick-start the broadening of the already-vague ‘casual’ label – and, in turn, uncover a market ripe for tapping by middleware companies.