Interview: Playbox on Bang Bang Racing THD and how frighteningly easy it is to pirate games on Android

Micro Machines + golf, and the rise of the console mobile developers

Interview: Playbox on Bang Bang Racing THD and how frighteningly easy it is to pirate games on Android

Playbox’s Bang Bang Racing THD was one of the first releases on Nvidia’s Android Tegra platform, combining cutting-edge visuals with classic top-down racing.

We caught up with the company’s MD Gary Nichols to talk about the studio's plans for the future and the challenges in developing a premium title on the Android platform.

Pocket Gamer: What is the company's background?

Gary Nichols: We started in 2005 and one of the first games we did was with SEGA and Sports Interactive called Football Manager Quiz. We grew the company slowly, and over the years have developed for Wii, DS, PC, Mobile, PS3, and Xbox 360.

In the last six months, we decided to concentrate on the mobile market rather than on console games.

Why do you think so many development teams are moving to mobile from consoles?

I would say there are a lot of similarities between our company and others who make this move. Console publishers are signing less and less product and taking longer to sign it, and the great thing about mobile is it's like game development used to be in the '90s: exciting, fast paced, and with short development times.

There are more opportunities, and we're able to communicate directly to our players and act on their feedback instantly, which we have done with Bang Bang Racing THD.

How was working with Nvidia for the release of Bang Bang Racing THD?

Really fantastic, it's an awesome company! Nvidia gave us lots of support and really care about the products and its users. We couldn't have asked for a better partner.

How has the game performed in terms of sales, and what has the experience taught you?

The game is doing okay considering it's a Tegra HD game and therefore has a high price point. It's comparable with the other THD games.

We learnt that people generally don't like to spend much on Android games, and so the experience has taught us that free-to-play is the best solution for making games on Android. That's something we are addressing in our next range of games.

How was the impact of piracy on your sales numbers?

It really affected our sales and as a small developer it's not something that's easy to ignore. It's frightening how easy it is to pirate games on Android and this is why the freemium model is so attractive.

Did you have code that tracked the pirated downloads or something else in place?

Yes, we do have code in place to track this kind of data, but it also helps us track what people are actually doing in our game: which tracks they play, which cars, etc. This data is helping us to create games that will be more appealing to Android users in the future.

Will we be seeing the game on other platforms in the future?

Yes, for sure, we're planning to have the iOS and non-Tegra Android version ready for later in the year (this version may also come with some new content that we haven't released yet so stay tuned).

Would you say multiplatform is the only way to approach mobiles now?

We find it interesting that some hit games come out on iOS and then aren't seen on Android for a long time - sometimes never - but we're lucky due to our background in console development we have always kept our technology platform independent. This means releasing an iOS and Android build at the same time is something very easy for us to do.

Do you view the Android market differently from, say, iOS?

We do view it slightly differently, but only because of the payment side. It's so easy to pay for stuff on iOS and it's always the same price, but on Android the pricing is all over the place. It's not been standardised, so we think it's easier to sell games on iOS than it is on Android.

What other titles should we expect to see on the horizon from Playbox?

We've got some really cool stuff up our sleeves. At the moment we're finalising three new titles that we are ready to release on Android.

House of Golf, for example, is a fun crazy golf game in a similar style to Micro Machines - it looks amazing.

Wait - golf meets Micro Machines?

Yeah, bet you never thought you would utter those words!

Micro Machines was great, and everyone has fond memories of it. Our game pays homage to it insomuch as our courses are all set within a house, and the holes are arranged across tables, chairs, kitchen tables, beds, and the like.

What other titles are on the cards?

Angry Wife is also nearly ready for us to release. It's a funny game that sees the player having to catch items as they are thrown out the window by his....Angry Wife. You have to catch the items to work your way up to the top of the building and kiss and make up.

Finally, we have Switch, a really stunning game in which you have to avoid obstacles and get as far as you can. The game is really exciting as it actually causes your stomach to knot at times due to the speed and near misses as you "switch" lanes.

Will these new games be premium downloads as with Bang Bang Racing THD, or are you looking at other methods?

We are looking at other methods, again using what we learnt from Bang Bang Racing THD. We're looking at going down the ad-supported route with some in-app purchasing. We want as many people as possible to enjoy our games.

Will there be any updates to Bang Bang Racing THD, or are you exclusively focusing on upcoming titles?

We are planning some updates, for we have already made lots of improvements to the game based on what our players have told us. But right now, the new titles are our main focus.

Many thanks to Gary for his time.
Will Wilson
Will Wilson
Will's obsession with gaming started off with sketching Laser Squad levels on pads of paper, but recently grew into violently shouting "Tango Down!" at random strangers on the street. He now directs that positive energy into his writing (due in no small part to a binding court order).