Four Play

Four Play
Michael French

By Michael French

July 14th 2009 at 3:30PM

Meet the studios reshaping PSP game creation

 

Develop broke the news first: Sony is introducing new ways to make and distribute PSP games. It's already signed up a raft of teams, but there are four specific studios hoping to usher in a new age for digital downloads…


Funtank/Candystand

AKA: The casual games specialist

Funtank is owner of Candystand, one of the premiere casual games sites on the web which boasts over 170 ‘low-barrier titles’ for mass market consumers.

Since it was launched in 1997, the firm says its Flash and Shockwave games have been played over two billion times on PC – and now they are heading to PSP.

 “We were thrilled when Sony reached out with the idea that we could take our premium products from Candystand and make new versions of our most popular games,” the firm’s president Scott Tannen explains to Develop.

 “We’ll take our games that are tried and tested in the marketplace, with 10m to 20m plays a piece, and bring premium versions to the PSP.”

Candystand, which was previously owned by chewing gum and sweets firm Wrigley, also has a strange claim to fame – the creation of advergames. That’s something the firm wants to bring to PSP, chiming with the idea that the format can host cheaper ‘pocket money’ games and new titles.

By allowing new kinds of games and apps on the platform, the PSP is ripe to exploit this business model, says Tannen: “One place we are going to innovate is by creating a forum for large companies, premium advertisers like Coca-Cola to bring their games ad-supported a free to consumers, digitally through the PSP. We believe that will create a number of opportunities – for advertisers and consumers this means we can offer rewarding content that is fun to play, but also free.”

Gameshastra

AKA: The emerging market champion

Gameshastra is based in Hyderabad, India and actually started working with Sony in 2006 on building the region’s nascent development community.

“India is more famous for IT and IT outsourcing, but we saw an opportunity to use the great talent in the region for C++ and gaming,” says vice president Rahul Sandil.

When it was founded, the firm first started as a QA business, but it was clear SCEE was interested in helping companies in India embrace games development; it was authorised in two weeks by Sony UK.

Since then Gameshastra has played a key part in SCEE’s plans to introduce local content to drive sales of its hardware as it moved from a service company to a studio. Sandil explains: “The Indian games sector was growing and we came up with the idea of a game based on our forgotten backyard sports. The first person we pitched it to was Sony and we got a publishing deal.”

Now the firm is working on five PSP games Sandil describes as ‘snack’ experiences, with five more on the drawing board after that.

“Not many developers get a chance to be picked up by Sony – this opportunity is very exciting not just because we are talking about new products but also our sweet spot is; casual games. There is a huge potential on PSP for casual games.”

Adding more varied content to the device will grow the market for it in India, he adds “India is a country with 1bn people, 200m families – but just an install based of 300,000 PSPs. So the opportunity is immense, both in terms of hardware and software.”

Creat

AKA: The PSN pro

founded in 1990 and with studios in St Petersburg, Russia and Massacusetts, USA, Creat is the number two publisher for PlayStation Network games already thanks to previous releases like PS3 game Magic Ball.

Now it wants to repeat the success on PlayStation Portable.

“Sony has really given us an opportunity for innovation and support,” says Scott Hyman, business development director.

“This new opportunity allows us to develop PSP games with much smaller scope than what we have been doing for the PSN.

“We have made other games for the PSP before, but our business model is really devoted to the downloadable space these days.”

The studio already has three games on PSN, with three more announced, and a few more on the way by the end of they year.

The three heading for PlayStation Portable are Alien Havoc, BubbleTrubble and FreekScape. According to Hyman the new PSP strategy “allows us now, with smaller games, to do things that are more innovative, with smaller price points and budgets – there is less of a risk and we can find out what it is that customers will gravitate towards”.

He adds that in time that could mean a PS3 PlayStation Network  title spun out of a PSP ‘experiment’, or even a bigger boxed release or compilation on disc: “It depends on what kind of feedback we get.”

He adds: “The move to digital is a natural progression for us.”

Subatomic

AKA: The iPhone innovator

As creator of Fieldrunners for iPhone and iPod Touch, Subatomic has already conquered one handheld platform, but now its tiny team wants to take on Sony’s too.

Fieldrunners is described by COO Ash Monif as the ‘premier tower defence game’ – and it’s hard to argue given glowing reviews from as far flung as Time magazine, and its status as an IGF winner. Oh, and it’s a Develop favourite.

The PSP version will boast new content including exclusive maps, units and weapons, all of which should incentivise players.

“Part of the success we have experienced has been adding new content and offering new things to players,” says Monif.

“We plan to do the same on PSP, so gamers and fans can look forward to more content on a regular basis. We feel that we will actually be able to bring a higher quality of service quicker and faster to the market through PSP.”

He thinks Sony’s new strategy will give rise to ‘super-casual’ games on the format:  “This initiative is about bringing the lighter, lower barrier content to the PSP that has been so successful in other categories. You don’t see this happening at Microsoft and you even don’t see it happening at Nintendo yet. Part of that ‘snackability’ of the content is because you can deliver the content over WiFi super-fast. We’re making games that are just 20MB each, that’s less than a minute to download – instant gratification, snackable content. This is an opportunity for the premier indie developers – and I hope we represent that group – to come in and offer content that will fit the PSP.”