Marching onward with our down under developer profiles, we look at Nnooo, one of the few smaller Aussie indies with a strong console focus.
Nnooo is a studio formed on the water in Sydney harbour by Nic Watt in 2006, specialising in WiiWare downloadable titles.
Watt was joined shortly after launching by Bruce Thomson, and the pair have run the company with a slew of successful titles since then, starting out with Pop, a launch title for WiiWare, and moving into award winning downloadable games EscapeVektor: Chapter One (WiiWare, PSN) and more recently the augmented reality title Spirit Hunters for DSi.
Both company heads are Scottish ex-pats with strong working relationships with first party developer relations people, and know significantly more about the process of entering the walled gardens of WiiWare, Playstation Network and Xbox Live than most other smaller indies in Australia (which tend to focus on the somewhat less demanding and QA-intensive Steam, iOS and Android markets).
Very recently, Nnooo has decided to make the jump into publishing, using their knowledge of the console landscape and relationships to help other indies make the jump onto the arguably more professionally demanding platforms.
"The first game we’re publishing is an action-packed tower defence strategy game called Cubemen 2," says Watt, "which is created by a Melbourne-based studio called 3 Sprockets. We negotiated with Nintendo to allow all the cross-platform online DLC and user-generated content, so if you make a level on PC I can play it on my WiiU. And I can play you on my iPhone against you on your WiiU."
"[Getting on console] is clearly harder," adds Thomson. "We’ve got all the contacts, we’ve got the marketing database, we’ve got technical knowledge (we’ve been through Q&A with all of them), so we kind of know how to get there. I think the hardest thing for developers who want to be on console is knowing where to start."
"They’re similar problems, it’s just that on iPhone you can pay $100, develop, release and you’ve got a game out there," Watt continues. "We’ve spent since 2006 building up relationships with Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, and they get better every year – so we’ve got 8 years worth of groundwork done."
"Releasing a game on these platforms is perhaps slightly harder than it would be on iOS or on PC because you can’t patch as frequently, they’ve got a lot more technical requirements that need to be overcome."
Neither Watt nor Thompson are pretending that they're in a position to do things other indie developers without the experience with first parties couldn't, but they're confident that their experience eases the transition and stops problems arising before they happen.
"If you were to do and do this yourself," Watt goes on, "most developers, particularly of our size, can maybe bring out a game every year if you’re lucky – we usually do every two years."
"Part of us wanting to do publishing is that now collectively we have a bigger voice, so we can go over there and represent more games as the publishing side grows, we can go over to E3 and the like with a big portfolio and people suddenly take you a lot more seriously."
It isn't just the distance from the first parties (both in terms of distance and time zones) which makes life as an Aussie indie difficult.
"Definitely being in Australia is harder," Watt answers quickly. "If you were in California, you’d have bigger talent pool there. There are more people for starters, but then there’s just a lot more well-educated people getting into the games industry and who have a passion and drive."
"Australia, by the nature of its population, its size and the way the cities are spread out, gives us a situation where there might be talented people in Melbourne(for example), but most of them don’t necessarily want to rush up to Sydney to get a job or vice versa."
Nnooo is currently working on releasing their PS4 downloadable game Blast 'em Bunnies on other platforms, and releasing the Flow-like game Orbitor on multiple consoles, which came out of a studnet project at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Canberra.