Tough times for indie game start-ups
While state funding is available, independent Irish gaming companies face stiff competition and long hours to get their work to the market, writes JJ WORRALL
WHILE ENTERPRISE Ireland funding in the independent video games sector is greater than ever before, start-ups in this space have warned they’re facing a “very crowded landscape” when launching a new title.
With the “gold rush” of mobile games app development now “fairly much over” according to BitSmith Games founder Owen Harris, many companies are now focused on multi-platform releases.
“Some people are still intoxicated by stories of wild success in the mobile phone space, but really the App Store, or Android Market are a lottery,” says Harris, who believes the PC gaming market is a more stable, “relatively huge” market for independent Irish gaming companies to aim for.
Harris, like other independent developers, is looking forward to next week’s worldwide release of the US documentary Indie Game: The Movie. Available for download this week, it delves into the torturously-long process of bringing a game to the PC or console market.
The filmmakers behind the documentary, James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, say that in the case of their subjects “the journey is a lot harder and darker than the games designers thought it would be”.
“It takes over every facet of their life,” says Lisanne. “They work 20 hours a day trying to get it finished. They’re trying to get it out there but with no guarantee of success.”
It’s a tale that many in the Irish independent games space can relate to. “We don’t have huge games content creation in Ireland,” says DIT game design lecturer Hugh McAtamney. Outside of a “myriad of part-time developers” creating mobile apps there is a small creative community cropping up that are working full-time on their creations though, often with the help of a €50,000 Competitive Start Fund (CSF) from Enterprise Ireland.
Enterprise Ireland’s Tom Cusack, who helps manage the CSF, says that with 15 of these grants given out quarterly, “roughly three or four per quarter are companies focused on the games industry”.
The aforementioned BitSmith Games gained a CSF and has just finished up a year’s work in creating the iPad, PC and Mac versions of a Celtic mythology-based “2D side scrolling runner-style game” called Kú with various release dates across those platforms from August to October.
Then there’s BatCatGames which also qualified for a CSF. Run by Andrea Magnorsky and Andrew O’Connor, they launched their “twin-stick arena shooter set inside a petri dish” called P-3 Biotic on the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace in January.