computer games games industry games publishing iphone

AAA iPhone games more profitable than AAA Xbox/PlayStation games

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games (owners of Unreal Engine, and deelopers of AAA games on 360/PS3/iOS):

“The most profitable game we’ve ever made, in terms of man years invested versus revenue, is actually Infinity Blade. It’s more profitable than Gears of War.”

Touch Arcade has some terrible analysis (don’t listen to a word of it), but I quite liked their summary:

“Just let that sink in for a minute. Infinity Blade, an iOS exclusive title that has been priced anywhere between $5.99 and 99¢ over the years, is more profitable than a $60 AAA title that enjoyed all the glitz and glamor that comes along side a multi-million dollar game launch marketing blitz. We’re talking major network TV commercials, prime shelf space in nationwide retailers like Wal-Mart, and everything else …and Infinity Blade wins.”

…although *ouch* at that last 4 words, where they show some stunning foolishness. Console games make *more overall profit* than iOS games – Tim’s words clearly only covered the profit *margin* – making it very stupid to say “Infinity Blade wins”.

And we have to factor in (again, GAH! TouchArcade … do you really have so little idea what goes on in your own area of news?) that InfinityBlade *did indeed* get major TV exposure etc – it’s just that Epic didn’t provide it, Apple did.

What we really want to know is … what’s the ratio of profit margins between the two games – Gears of War 1/2 (their premier console AAA title), and Infiity Blade 1/2 (their premier iOS AAA title)?

My pure guess is that it’s a fairly small multiple – maybe only 1.2 x margin – so that if you have a LOT of money to invest, console is still a good target. Meanwhile, Epic will use this as justification that “everyone should license Unreal Engine v4 – because otherwise your dev costs are too high on console, compared to other platforms”

(as I hope we all realise … Epic stopped being “an independent game developer” many years ago; Epic in the 21st century is “a middleware company, that sometimes makes games on the side”)

games industry recruiting

There IS no skills gap; employers are lying to themselves

In the games industry – especially in the UK – big employers have spent the past 10 years claiming there is a “skills gap” – that not enough people are being “trained by universities” (which shows how stupid the speakers were; Universities don’t do training, and most never will – it’s against the core principle of a University). Meanwhile I’ve been counter-claiming that they’re making this up, that there’s no “gap”, and that they know this full well – they just want an excuse to artificially pay lower wages than they deserve to.

Now someone’s published a book on the topic. Unlike my straw-poll arguments, this has actually been researched :), so it may be a lot more convincing. I haven’t read it yet, but this interview with the author has enough juicy details to have me convinced it’ll be a good read.

For instance, here’s a segment on “how does an employer start with 25,000 candidates for a role, and then declare that there exists no-one suitable?”:

“…and the way screening works is you build in a series of typically yes/no questions that try to get at whether somebody has the ability to do this job. And a lot of that ultimately ends up, it’s all you can ask about, is experience and credentials. So you end up with a series of yes/no questions. And you have to clear them all, and I think people building these don’t quite understand that once you have a series of these yes/no questions built in, and the probabilities are cumulative right? You have to hit them all, then you pretty easily end with no one that can fit.

So say that the odds are 50 percent that the typical applicant will give you the right answer in terms of what you’re looking for for the first question, and a 50 percent that they’ll give you the right answer to the second question. Well, then, you’re down to one in four people who will clear those two hurdles, and once you run it out to about 10 questions, it gets you down to about one in 1000 people [ADAM: i.e. on statistics alone – independent of quality etc!] who would clear those hurdles.

… the first hurdle is usually, What wage are you looking for? And if you guess too high, out that goes, right?

… at the end of the day, you find that nobody fits the job requirement.”

amusing games industry

TheChaosEngine is dead! NOOOOOOOOOO!

To anyone in the games industry, this should be a cause for weeping and decrying the Godless universe:

(I’m guessing it’s just Network Solutions being typically crap and screwing-up the domain renewal)

games industry recruiting

Looking for a games industry job in UK, with enthusiasm but little experience?

How about this one:

A “buyer” for Sainsburys: you get to influence the titles stocked by one of the UK’s biggest retailers. I’ve never – ever! – met a games-buyer before, but I know quite a few buyers for more mainstream areas (clothing, fashion, etc), and so long as you’re organized and diligent, it sounds like a good job. You spend a lot of time dealing with the ebb and flow of what the public are actually buying – surely, very good practice for a career in design or publishing.

And yet, as I said … I’ve never met one before. Strange, that.

EDIT: and here’s another one, for Argos:

games design games industry games publishing

Lvl 50 on Kongregate; how many games industry people say the same?

I’ve played many hundreds – probably over a thousand – games on Kongregate alone, now.

On top of all the thousands I’ve played on console, PC, flash, handheld, mobile, etc.

I feel pretty confident in analysing game mechanics, and success/fail reasons for given game-designs, based off my extensive experience.

I frequently use my knowledge to influence design decisions and programming decisions in the games I work on.

But how many people in the games industry can say the same?


(PS: many people claim to “have no time to play games – too busy working”; my view has always been: if you really care about the art and the craft of this industry, you’ll make the time. No question about it)

games industry games publishing

How much royalty/bonus for successful AAA video game?

Something like 90% of game developers NEVER get a royalty for their games, and almost as many never get a bonus.

But for the handful that work on titles where the studio negotiated a good deal (modulo the Publisher’s legal team using legal chicanery to make all royalties work out at “$0”) … it’s interesting to see what they get.

So, for Call of Duty, we have: Infinity Ward’s 2003 royalty deal with Activision.

NOTE: that doc *does not include* bonuses; it mentions them a few times, and says they’re taken out “before” the royalties. One of the publisher tricks is to award 100% of the profit to their own executives as “bonuses” – so that the external developer gets a royalties based off $0. You’d really want to see the bonuses doc too to check what the value of these royalties is…

Anyway, that aside, some headline points:

  • no upside limit (royalties aren’t “capped” – a sneaky practice I’ve seen publishers use before. A dev studio should NEVER accept a cap!)
  • NEW game series / IP created by the developer: developer gets 10% of net income (profit)
  • Sequels to the developer’s NEW games, or NEW games that re-use the developer’s game-engine, and NOT made by the developer: developer gets 2% of net income (profit)
  • Sequels made to the developer’s EXISTING games by the developer: developer gets 10-15% of net income (profit)
  • Sequels made to the developer’s EXISTING games and NOT made by the developer: developer gets 4% of net income (profit)
games industry recruiting

Games QA job in Brighton UK

No link provided, but should be easy to find the studio email HR address:

“Hi All, I’m looking for a QA person to join us at Zoe Mode. I need someone with experience as I need QA for multiple titles of different genres. A sense of rhythm will help. Please pass this on, thx.”

Alys is a good person to work with.

computer games games design games industry games publishing iphone

TCE iPhone Games by Indie (and mainstream) Game Professionals

TheChaosEngine – private forums hangout for games-industry professionals. There’s an epic thread on there where people post projects they / their team / their employer has published on iPhone. It’s currently 40 pages long, so I went through and pulled out the links to the iTunes pages for each game.

NB: these run the gamut from “my first iPhone app” to “large-team of developers working for multinational publisher”. Quality here will vary hugely – YMMV!

Also, interesting to note … these are listed in order of posting to the forums, so … as you go down the list, you’re seeing an evolution over time of personal/indie (and occasionally “big team / AAA”) games on the app store.

TCE games, in first-launched order (earliest first)



These posters didn’t provide a real iTunes link – I had to hunt it down on their websites – so they’re out of order:

entrepreneurship games industry

UK companies don’t suck, they just need tax breaks

According to Sefton Hill:

“You just think about quality developers like Bizarre Creations, Black Rock – people who are making really good games and going out of business. Those guys were so talented so how can that happen?

Well, obviously, it wasn’t anything to do with operational mis-management, poor commercial decisions, gambles that didn’t pay off, bad strategic decisions about partnerships/publishers/companies to sell themselves to, a global recession, failure to keep pace with changing trends in culture and audience, technology falling behind, etc.

No – it was the lack of tax breaks.


games design games industry games publishing

Game Pitches – actual pitch docs from real games (just discovered this, via TCE):

The repository for video game pitches and design documents

This site serves to be a free resource to game designers offering them the web’s largest single collection of game design documents and game pitches.

It says “resource got game designers”, but … pitch documents are hugely valuable to anyone working on the business/funding side too. (there are two aspects to the site – design docs, and pitch docs).

There’s some good stuff on there – from the GTA design doc to Spider’s original concept doc. Note to fledgling designers: they’re impressively brief and succinct!

…and if you work for a studio or publisher, perhaps you could ask about getting some of your company’s old pitch/design docs put up online?

amusing games industry

Side effects of treating everyone with suspicion

Today I was forwarded what looked like an interesting little event: “The Gamification of Everything”. I applied. Or … tried to.

The process on all event websites today is:

  1. Type in your name
  2. Type in your email address
  3. Click “attend”

3 steps.

This event has a process with … 15 steps (!).

The website claimed to have registered me for the event.

Your registration is cancelled

And then, after all that, they emailed me to say they weren’t accepting my request to attend, apparently because I didn’t give them an acceptable company name (I put “n/a” in the field, as I was attending as a private individual):

I noticed that you’ve signed onto our website and want to register for the next Convergence Conversation meeting , but you don‘t say which organisation you represent nor where you are based. But you are the ‘founder’ of what?! I would appreciate more information please – if you are self-employed I can use your name as the organisation.

Maybe you were in a hurry – but as I’m sure you will understand. we like to know who the attendees are, the field of work they come from/represent.

The price of suspicion

To be clear: I signed up for their event, and the website accepted it. I put it in my diary. Then they contact me acknowledging that I “wanted to register”.

What? No: I *did* register.

Will I find myself turned away at the door when I turn up on the day? WTF?

Thanks, but no thanks:

“I’m not going to risk turning up to an event and being turned away on
the door. Just the thought of that is unpleasant. Feel free to delete
my application. I’m sorry to say that I won’t be coming ”

It amazes me how many people seem unaware of the effect it has on others when they pre-suppose guilt and nefarious motives. I mean … what on earth did they imagine I was going to do? Burst in and scream:

“Death to the infidel Gamifiers! Gamification is the scourge of mankind!”

…and start knocking over tables?

PS: that 15-step signup in full

The process for this event is:

  1. click signup
  2. type in
    2. email
    3. where you live
    4. the company where you work
    5. the city where your company’s office is situated
    6. the *postcode* of your company
    7. the *country* of your company (yes, really – these are all required fields, form won’t submit without them!)
    8. your job title
    9. …some other bits I’ve already forgotten
  3. wait for a confirmation email
  4. click the confirm email link
  5. wait for a password email
  6. login to the website using the new password (most sites at least auto-login at this point; not this one)
  7. return to the event page
  8. click the “I’m attending” button
computer games games industry games publishing marketing and PR

MS XBox Europe: man puts elbow in own ear

…or at least tries to, when Chris Lewis comes out with quotes like this:

“you can be very confident we seek to maximise our own advantage to ensure the playing field is even, and certainly plays to our advantage”

Wait, what? An “even playing field” is one which “plays to [Microsoft’s] advantage” ? Hmm. Talk about a crushing sense of self-entitlement…

“we just want what our consumers want from us.

If [developers don’t give us free stuff which we don’t pay for], Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360”

Wait, what? Are you saying that what “our consumers want” is to be prevented from playing the games they want to play (“Microsoft … not allow the content to be released”)?

I’ve seen a lot of bullsh*t over the years from weak-willed Marketing department employees who feel that “not saying a bad word about their boss’s / employer’s incompetence and greed” is the right way to do a job, but … this is especially bad.

I think Chris needs a bit more practice at the technique of:

“say what the person you’re trying to brown-nose wants you to say, no matter how much it makes you look like a pathetic, stupid, snivelling idiot”

computer games games industry startup advice

Euclideon: $2m scam for fake games tech?

TL;DR – notch reckons “it’s a scam” (I wouldn’t go that far – “scam” is a strong word, I reckon they’re just too naive/ignorant/foolish/arrogant to realise what a huge mistake they’re making)

My gut feeling is: this would be a terrible investment. By comparison, the middleware companies that sell for tens of millions of dollars usually don’t seek this level of investment until AFTER they have many licenses / sales already. Euclideon seems to be asking for money BEFORE demonstrating that any games company can do anything useful with it.

In the games industry, we have a name for this particular kind of exuberant, short-sighted claim:

“Infinite Monkey Engine”

(apologies to Demis Hassabis, a nice guy who created the term “Infinite Polygon Engine” intending it to be genuine. It backfired horribly when it turned out to have little or no value in game terms; IIRC it only shipped in “Republic: The Revolution”?)

IMHO … The Euclideon folks have shown no signs (in public) of being aware of what a complete waste of time and money their technology “probably” is. They apparently haven’t (bothered to?) spoken to any games-industry companies – this should be an absolute requirement LONG before they raise funding above the $50,000 level.

Maybe they have; maybe their own PR is a big confidence-trick – they know how misleading/wrong their claims are, and they’re just trying to keep potential competitors fooled. If so, I’d say that’s a rather … short-sighted … strategy.

More likely: they’re full of their own inventiveness, and have nowhere near enough startup / business experience to have run the analysis on *why* this tech isn’t used *any more*.

(public signs so far suggest they’ve picked up an old tech, convinced themselves it’s new and novel, and don’t realise that it’s a dead-end that the industry has already rejected)

advocacy games industry

Nathan Brown: Grow a pair, or stop reporting, please

Any journalist who continues to not only re-hash the self-aggrandizing bull**** of greedy and abusive games-industry managers, but goes further and writes about these people and their behaviour in unquestioning, positive terms … is open-season for ridicule right now. We’ve had enough; developers are starting to get really pissed at journalists who kow-tow to the rich and the powerful, while ignoring the people who actually, you know, *make* the games they’re supposed to care about.

By no means the worst example, but Nathan’s recent pieces on Michael Pachter were the last straw for me, personally.

Nathan, a writer for EDGE online, could perhaps benefit from the following observations. I’m not a researcher, I’m not a journalist, but I think there’s more than enough circumstantial info here to suggest that Nathan should have been a lot more careful about presenting Michael’s comments in such a positive, accepting, unquestioning, light.

  1. Michael Pachter is not necessarily a “member” of the Games Industry. A cursory examination suggests he’s a financial-analyst, with little or no experience of game design, development, production, publishing, etc
  2. Michael said some grossly offensive things, and industry professionals are – quite rightly – rather upset
  3. Michael appears to have blessed the continued, deliberate, abuse of employees; this is dangerous stuff – he’s potentially aiding and abetting the ruining of people’s lives
  4. He apparently makes a large amount of money because people trust him to advise them on the industry; the reaction to his appalling commentary is in danger of costing him tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars
  5. Any claim from him that he’s been taken “out of context” needs some serious examination; it does NOT deserve to be simply published without critique. Are you a journalist, or an outsourced PR assistant?
  6. Everyone in the games industry is well aware that “unpaid overtime” exists in many other industries
  7. The claim that Pachter “give[s] informed industry advice to investors” needs some substantiation; a quick Google suggests a lot of people would disagree; beyond the financial predictions (which he’s veered away from here), where’s his “informed” advice coming from? There’s even a satire blog about him: “My word is Money, Bitch. Listen Up”
  8. Much of the ire is based on the video itself; many sites chose to re-quote each other simply because that’s faster than doing a manual transcription. That doesn’t mean we were all too lazy to watch the actual video
games industry iphone

We don’t need no AAA console studios

Over the past couple of years, there’s been much coverage within the games-industry press about the fall and fall of the UK games industry. Nicholas Lovell has done a particularly good job of tracking studio closures. Many of the big companies, and the trade associations, seem to have spent most of their time trying to win tax breaks.

The argument has been: It’s impossible for AAA studios, with hundreds of employees, to stay “competitive” with Montreal, Vancouver, et al – unless the government gives them vast amounts of free profit. If they are not gifted this money, they will shut down, and make people jobless; witness NIcholas’s Job Loss Tracker above for evidence.

But the thing is … I really don’t care.

I really don’t believe we “need” those big studios.

(EDIT: NB: this post was sparked by Andy Wilson of Codemasters stating: “we need to start supporting the industry properly or the whole thing is going to melt into iPhone developers – and there’s only so many 4-man teams who are going to find success”. Of course, Codemasters is a great example of a badly-managed, has-been publisher that chews people up and spits them out)

If they cannot make the same high profit margins that those of us skilled and bold (foolish?) enough to do iOS are making, then they’re just getting in the way, and should sod off.

How many iOS studios were whining about the need for tax breaks?

How many were just being quietly profitable, and focussing on being “more profitable through good solid product and marketing”, rather than begging government to do it for them?

I welcome the demise of bloated, badly managed, unprofitable, second-rate console studios.

I also believe that console studios will return – but they’ll be offshoots of iOS studios, and they will be managed a million times better. Let’s forget the old studios, and their shitty business acumen, their mismanagement, and piss-poor leadership.

Good riddance, I say.

(unless they continue to be healthy – in which case: well done, and what a great asset to the community and industry! I judge them by their success, not by their ability to chew through people and resource as inefficiently as possible; it often seems in the press today as though the latter is the most important criteria :()

games industry marketing and PR

MMORPG marketing: try not to lie to bloggers

ATTENTION: all game marketers: don’t do this…

Hi Adam,

Although we do not know one another, I notice we share many contacts on (Karl Blanks, Ben Jesson, Jason Duke, Paul Billinghurst to name but a few I’ve had the pleasure of working with).

Funny; I don’t recognize those names?

I guess if you’re one of those people who just adds every person in the world to your LinkedIn, maybe you’d not have noticed. I don’t do that – I know all my LI contacts personally. I even wrote that on my LinkedIn Profile – all you have to do is read it and you’d see!

I do not have a premium LinkedIn account so could not send you an inMail.

Why not? You work in marketing/PR. How cheap are you?

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you in this way, but I recently stumbled upon your website –

I work for [redacted to spare his shame] and we’re just about to launch a Facebook version of our online MMORPG, [redacted – I’m not going to promote their game].

I’m reaching out to influential bloggers within the gaming space and consider you to be one of the top, most active out there. Our Facebook version of the [redacted – I’m not going to promote their game] is due for release on the 1st September 2011.

If you’re interested in reviewing the game or fancy an inside scoop prior to release, please let me know and I will forward you our press release.

Many thanks,

[redacted to spare his shame]
Online Marketing Manager
[redacted to spare his shame]

Flattery will get you everywhere. Except when you’re trying to trade off someone else’s reputation, where it won’t. The blatant mail-merge aspects of this email immediately turned it into a rejection, headed straight for my Spam folder.

I don’t promote titles until/unless I’ve actually played them, or I know the authors extremely well. He might have done a good job to drop the fake “we share friends” line, and pre-creating an account for me.

Putting the “you can review this if you want to” right at the end really doesn’t sound good; over-worked journos may be more interested in a pre-written article, but voluntary bloggers generally care more about the personal value of what they write. IMHO and IME; YMMV.

advocacy games industry

I <3 Crunch

Another week, another expose of terrible working conditons in a game-development studio.

I’m fed up.

So … here’s a new site where I’ll post/track each public report of this stuff:

(the name is sarcastic, obviously ;). because it’s less than half the price of a .com, and I’m cheap :P)

advocacy games industry recruiting

Team Bondi: apparently, working weekends is “inevitable”

In yet another Team-Bondi-is-great-and-I-<3-the-Crunch letter, Dave Hieronymous manages to come across as a corporate apologist, or simply delusional. Heard of the 5-days-a-week working week? Well ... reading Dave’s open letter … I guess everyone else on the planet is just … a slacker? … not trying hard enough?

“Recognising that working on the weekend was inevitable”

Your project took 7 years.


For a project that most industry professionals I’ve spoken to agree could/should have been done in 2-3 years.

And working weekends was “inevitable”?


“I never (and in my experience, neither did any of the other managers) expected anything from my team that I didn’t expect of myself. The management team at Team Bondi was not ensconced in an Ivory Tower working normal hours while everyone else crunched. Brendan himself worked very long hours and few of us here in the studio are aware of how grueling the DA and motion capture shoot in LA was.”

So … do you believ that if you’re a sado-masochistic idiot who has no personal or social life and hates every living thing on the planet, including yourself … it’s no longer “abuse” if you force other people to live the same way?

I’ve already called Brendan out on this. So, for Dave, let’s recap: for the managers to work extra hours, when they’re sitting on vast amounts of equity and/or typically much larger salary packages (a 2x multiple – or more – is common), is one thing.

For them to tell everyone else – who is being rewarded very little by comparison – is another thing entirely.

Also, Brendan chooses what hours to work. His employees get told. “Agency” is a pretty huge thing in human psychology, and is a big part of that thing we call “Freedom”. You cannot simply ignore it.

Team Bondi: even their staunchest defenders keep damning it. If they offer you a job, I advise you: Run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction.

advocacy games industry

Team Bondi: A child takes …2? … weeks

This letter to the IGDA, apparently defending Team Bondi’s alleged abuse of their game-developers, seems to me to be damning with faint praise – or just showing that the author is shockingly naive. e.g.:

“I had two kids during the project, Team Bondi offered me each time one extra week off ( on top of the required week )”

According to online resources on AU paternity leave, the legal minimum is “Up to 1 week unpaid taken at time of birth … Employer has right to refuse.”.

OK, so Australia has/had a barbaric paternity leave system (which, incidentally, is being massively overhauled in 2011). But it’s really nothing to be proud of that your employer gave a new father 2 weeks of leave instead of 1. I wouldn’t want a new father back in the office for at least a month – even if we were desperate for staff in those weeks, the guy’s going to be massively sleep-deprived, charged with a whole new set of emotions, etc. Not good for him, not good for his colleagues.

And, really … do you feel it’s OK to take someone’s child away from them for 13 hours at a time, after just one week?

games industry recruiting

Clint Hocking thinks all young men are rapists

Seems a bit Freudian to me. According to Clint, Viking aggression wasn’t caused by eking out a bitter existence in freezing lands without enough farmland and food – a need to cull the local population, and take food from elsewhere to survive – but instead by the fact that all young men inevitably rape and pillage whenever they can

Normally, I’d leave him to his Hardcore Feminist Club and ignore him – but he’s using this as a metaphor to explain “what’s wrong with the games industry”. I’d say he’s as out of touch with the games industry as he is with history. And his article paints an implicit picture of the industry that’s deeply offputting.

There are small pockets like he describes; in my experience, they’re a minority, and they’re generally USA studios consisting mostly of recent graduates clowning around … or run by adult men who have issues with growing up, and still behave like kids.

But huge swathes of the games industry are nothing like that. I can only speak from personal experience (at a wide variety of companies), but … Clint’s description is the exception rather than the rule. It’s also IMHO more damaging than beneficial: apart from convincing everyone in their right mind not to hang around the 20-something wannabe-rapists that make up the bulk of a studio, he paints a picture of industry-wide mediocrity and workplace horror that would send any rational person running in the opposite direction. It’s not like that. Really.