GarageGames' post-takeover decision to launch a online game portal featuring fully-fledged 3D games in-browser may have seemed a tangental venture for the previously tech-focused company. Not so, says CEO Josh Williams and GG Networks general manager Andy Yang: just as always, it's all about empowering small developers...
Who is InstantAction aimed at? Is it just another casual portal?
Williams: Right now we're mostly going after core gamers, and the reason for that is that if you look at web games, they're pretty much all casual games that appeal to a wide audience - which is good - but this kind of middle-aged woman demographic. And then there's a bunch of teenage virtual worlds, like RuneScape and Habbo Hotel. But nobody is really going after core gamers on the web yet, putting 'core' games up there.
So the audience is those core gamers, but also 'lapsed' gamers - I still buy games but hardly have the time to play them, I'm almost a game collector these days. Also, people around the world, in other territories, who don't have access to a robust PC retail market or consoles or whatever. There's all sorts of people across the world who don't have access to that, but with InstantAction they can.
Even in Europe and North America, there's people who can't afford to play AAA games - you know, laying down a couple of hundred bucks for a console and then $60 for a game is really expensive - so I think there's a lot of people, a lot of kids who would play more games if they had access to them.
Do you think core gamers have been kind of left in the cold by the whole 'casual game' movement?
Yang: Oh yeah, they've not been served. But even when they were served before, innovation has declined rapidly in the industry over recent years, and budgets are so large now that you can't really take risks, so we're seeing the same games over and over again.
Are you primarily working internally on games for InstantAction or are you working with third parties?
Williams: Mostly third parties. We've got over 20 games in the pipeline at the moment, but only four of those are internal.
Part of the thing we're trying to do in working with developers in an advantageous way for them so that even if we fund the title the developer owns the IP, it's a good royalty rate, and that's good because we get good developers who are really passionate about the game they're working on, and in turn that means they're going to produce better games. But compared to a typical publishing contract for a PC game, it's pretty rockin' for the developer.
Are they largely companies that you've worked with before? How are you making the connections?
Williams: It's a mix. Mostly, it's people we haven't worked with before. We are working with some companies that we've had relationships with in the past. As for how we made the connections, well, we're just running around talking to everybody. Now that the word's out, we have quite a lot of people contacting us - I think a lot of people get the idea, especially when they see it. They see it having potential, and want to get involved.
Some of the teams we're working with are just three or four devs from the triple AAA industry who are sick of being one of a hundred people grinding it out on a big project for two or three years. They're sick of it, thinking making games isn't fun anymore - or at least not as much as it used to be - so we've got a few teams like this that can still make really core stuff, things they dreamed about making when they were kids, but with smaller teams and less time.
Yang: For example, there’s this game, Rokkitball - it's kind of an under-the-radar thing we've been developing for about three months now.
Williams: We had a prototype a couple of years ago - it's the sort of thing that people have been working on at weekends or whatever - and we started full production about three months ago.
But that's one of the cool things about this site - we can just focus on making the games look sweet and play sweet. If the game's good enough, we can just get it out there without having to go through the usual route. We can start getting player feedback straight away, rather than work on something for three years and then ship it to a box and then cross your fingers.
Part two of this interview, which delves further into the opportunities provided to developers using the online business model, will be published tomorrow.