Kami Retro developer Antony White on why console publishers don't understand iOS

Gamers want original content, not console ports

Kami Retro developer Antony White on why console publishers don't understand iOS
| Paw Print Games news

Recent years has seen a fundamental shift from game developers with hundreds of staff working on console games to small start ups working on mobile and social games.

One such example is UK studio Paw Print Games. It's just had a US top 50 iPhone game with Kami Retro, which was released by Korean publisher Gamevil.

We caught up with director Antony White to find out what it's like being a three-man indie and what the company's future plans are.

Pocket Gamer: What's the story behind Paw Print?

Antony White: Paw Print Games was founded in January this year by Steven Craft, Matthew Maggs and myself. We're based in Manchester.

After a combined twenty five years in the games and animation industries with companies such as Sony and Travellers Tales, we decided we wanted to be able to devote more than just evenings and weekends to our hobby projects. So we made the decision to resign from our jobs, form Paw Print Games, and work full time on our own projects.

Why have you initially chosen to iOS?

iOS was something we started to work on two and a half years ago when the App Store was in its relative infancy.

We released a game called KamiCrazy in December 2008. The project may not have been a substantial success financially, but it did open our eyes to the potential of the App Store. The lite version of the game made the top ten charts, getting up to fifty thousand downloads per day, and over a million downloads shortly after release.

Since then we've continued to work on various game ideas and have improved our cross-platform engine so that it supports a range of platforms including PC, iOS, Android, bada, and Palm.

What's your view of Android?

We have no experience of the Android market to date, although we aim to have Kami Retro released on Android soon enough.

The Android market is less crowded than iOS, and we hope Kami Retro will stand out as something unique and appealing. With the number of Android devices increasing by the day, the Android market can only get stronger.

Do you have any plans for Windows Phone 7?

We are currently investigating the prospect of bringing Kami Retro to Windows Phone 7. Given the right circumstance we would love to see Kami Retro there.

How is Kami Retro performing on iOS?

It's performing as expected. We have an update currently in submission that adds some interesting new content and further updates planned.

How are you finding the App Store?

From a developers point of view, it's quite a complicated marketplace. Creating and publishing a good game is not enough to be a commercial success. Unless you can achieve market visibility it can be hard for an app or game to gain traction.

We have been trying to make Kami Retro visible to as many users as possibility through online press coverage, radio interviews, newspaper interviews, YouTube animation shorts, etc.

Our hard work has also been noticed by Apple which featured Kami Retro as App Store game of the week in the US last week, and has featured us in many countries across the world this week.

There's an argument iOS is losing its appeal for indies and bigger companies are starting to dominate. Do you think there's any truth in this?

The bigger studios generally have all of the tools to put their titles onto iOS, but so far it's rare for them to employ their tools or facilities into much more than a console port of their latest game.

I'm not convinced this is what the majority of iOS users desire. I base this on the games that generally appear at the top of the paid games list on the App Store, which are generally those aimed directly at the casual market.

That said, I am not criticising the bigger companies for monetising their products via the iOS market. Every company has to make money. With the number of large studios going under, it can only be good for the industry as a whole for the large studios to dip into as many markets as possible.

If it ever gets to the stage where you have to be a big company to survive, we'll just make sure we have grown by then.

The retro market has enjoyed a lot of success on smartphones. Why do you think that's the case?

Partly the install base: smartphones are popular with an age group that played retro games as children, some of them may no longer find time to play console games, but being able to play a couple of minutes here and there on their phone can be more appealing.

Back when retro games weren't retro, there was only so much you could do from a graphical point of view in any game, so what really defined a great game was the gameplay.

With current games, gameplay can sometimes be lost behind realistic environments and graphics, but once the user has taken in the 'wow factor' of some games, they often find themselves then drawn back to the basic building blocks of retro titles.

With three people on staff, what process do you employ when developing new titles?

Coffee, more coffee and no sleep! Joking aside, we have spent considerable amount of time thus far ensuring we create structured systems that can be shared between platforms and projects as much as possible.

We have learnt a lot from our years in the games industry in terms of what is beneficial for getting games turned around quickly and successfully, and also what is not so beneficial.

We perform a rigorous cost analysis before embarking on anything, and only take on work we believe has a good chance of performing well. Providing we are able to make enough sales to pay our coffee bill, we will be able to continue working on more titles.

What releases do you have planned for the future?

Keep a look out for the Android, iPad, Palm, and bada releases of Kami Retro.

We have a few projects in mid-development and are negotiating with various studios and publishers to work out our best option to bring our next titles to market.

Where do you see the company going on mobile?

For the longer term projects we have in mind we would need a larger team. However for the titles in the immediate future we have tools and procedures in place to allow us to continue delivering high quality titles with a minimal staff size.

Thanks to Antony for his time.

You can find out more about Paw Print Games via its website.

Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.