We continue the interview with American McGee…
T: Big Head Bash, Crazy Fairies and Akaneiro are all “Free to Play” titles. What draws you to this model? What opportunities do you see in it? and what’s your own definition of Free to Play?
A: I like to think of it like a ‘pay what you want’ model. You can get into any of our games and access 100% of the content for free – though you have to exchange your time in order to do so. Or, if you don’t feel like waiting, you can pay for access to those things you don’t feel like earning. That means it’s up to the players whether or not – or how much – they pay. If they feel like the game is worthwhile or the content is interesting, they’ll pay for it. If not, they aren’t out of pocket. It also provides a wonderful way for us to maintain a connection with the audience and provide constant updates to the content and game play. Coming from the world of console games, this is probably one of my favorite aspects of the model (which is really more related to being an online game in general.)
T: From a production point of view what are some of major differences between working on a title such as Alice: Madness Returns and the current Free to Play titles you’re developing.
A: With Alice we weren’t able to really grasp the entire product until it was Final, burned to a disc and shipped in a box. And by then we were completely unable to make meaningful changes to the content in response to customer reactions. With most retail titles, within 3 weeks the sales drop to nil and it’s “game over”. With online games we can release an early Open Beta, get feedback, make adjustments and continue to develop more content and features. This type of development continues on an ongoing basis for as long as there are players to support it. The result is a development that’s more driven by the gamers and their desires.
T: When does the production of a game like Big Head Bash stop? In theory you could keep adding new characters and levels forever. Do you have a certain criteria when to pull the plug on a title and move on to something new.
A: Again, that’s totally up to the players. If they continue to play and to demand new content, then we continue to support it.
T: Most of the currently developed games by Spicyhorse are heading to many different platforms both desktop and mobile. Do you plan on that early on in development or the decision to go multi-platform comes later on.
A: We knew from the inception of this latest phase of development life that mobile plus web were going to be huge platforms for a new audience of games around the globe. And from the start we knew that finding a way to allow gamers from all devices and platforms to play together inside the same games, in real-time, would be key to building really strong communities.
T: Can we expect anything from Spicyhorse on iOS anytime soon?
A: All of our current slate of games run fine on iOS, but because of limitations on live updating of content we’ve yet to release a build to that platform. Android makes it much easier for us to release updates to content on a regular basis, so makes this easier for us from the start. We’re building tech to help automate this process across all platforms (including iOS) so this won’t be an issue in the near future.
T: From the begining of your career until now you have seen many shifts in the games industry. Both in respect to design and business models. What’s the key secret that allows you to keep finding ways to be able to create games for such a long time.
A: Everything keeps repeating itself! If you stick around long enough you don’t even have to be original – you just have to know how to leverage new technology around classic mechanics and stories to attract new audiences. Ok, you have to be a little original – but the basics remain the same while the platforms and technologies are constantly shifting. The key is in understanding where in a particular cycle you are (especially as it repeats) and leveraging past experience against current trends.
T: I know you’re a busy man American, Thank you for taking the time to answer these. What can we expect from Spicyhorse in 2013?
A: We’ll be launching Akaneiro: Demon Hunters into the wild and releasing two new titles before mid-year. At the same time we’re making constant improvements to both BigHead BASH and Crazy Fairies – so the team will be staying busy and our players can expect to see tons of new features and content across all of our online games.