Frima: Big business threats are our "huge opportunities"
If you're not offering games at a "compelling price point, then your competitor will," says ambitious studio
Pocket God and Zombie Tycoon developer Frima Studio has said that what some perceive as a threat to the industry - low price points on mobile and social games - is a huge opportunity for those willing to embrace the business model.
Speaking last week at GDC, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, declared that mobile markets are "drowning" in cheap content, and that low price points would leave developers unable to "make a living."
But for developers in the new digital economy, it's far from a threat, according to Frima's senior brand manager, Jake Theis.
"As a company that launched A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks, and I don't think we've ever shipped a physical copy of a game, it's a huge, huge market opportunity," he told GamesIndustry.biz in an interview published today.
"If you want everyone that has the capacity to play a game to touch it, if you aren't able to offer it for a compelling price point, then your competitor will. Unless you can get everyone to collude on prices, well, no one's going to do that - someone's always going to see the opportunity in delivering what the customer wants."
It's something that isn't lost on all the older, more established games companies. Electronic Arts dropped all its iOS titles to 59p/99c over Christmas seeing it dominate the App Store, while Gameloft has also been accused of price gouging in the past.
Obvious clones and bandwagon-jumping will backfire, said Theis, but if the content is compelling enough it can make a substantial profit even at low price points.
"You need to have intellectual property that can stand out from the pack. If 13 farm games come out in a row in the social space then I would agree with him [Iwata], but if you come out with something that is strikingly different that you can navigate through, I think there's tremendous opportunity."
Frima is currently pushing forward with plans to develop and release intellectual property, funded by the work-for-hire projects that make up 90 per cent of its business.
PSP and PSN release A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks has shifted over 100,000 downloads, thanks in part to a Sony PlayStation Plus promotion, prompting the Canadian outfit to port the game to 6-8 platforms by the end of the year.
Its Facebook game, a port of Bolt Creative's Pocket God, has more than 200,000 monthly active users after ten weeks on the market.
"Social is really big and robust. It's interesting that I've heard a lot of people say that it's so hard to compete because you have the dominant companies at the top end," added Theis. "But to be the 500th most popular game on Facebook - in terms of monthly active users - you can still have a really dedicated community and have a nice little business, and launch brands on Facebook pretty simply and straight forward."
For the smaller, new intellectual properties like A Space Shooter... Frima has only been dedicating a fraction of the 265-man studio. At most 12 people worked on the PSN title, but plans to ramp up and have original properties as the main part of the business within two years are already in place, and according to CEO Steve Couture, that involves acquiring already established IP.
"The kind of acquisition we can make, if they are based on IP, that would be more to continue the operation of that IP itself instead of trying to produce as work-for-hire," he said.
If it's digital and has a screen, it's a potential business for Frima, which is currently looking at all social formats, tablets, smartphones and even Microsoft's Kinect as a platform for new IP.
"We had an interesting conversation two days ago about the people that dedicate themselves to one platform, when new platforms come along they are walling themselves off from fantastic options," offered Theis.
"Who would have thought a few years ago that tablets would have taken off the way in which they have? Or four or five years ago that Facebook would take off for games - those options didn't exist. We want to make sure when we're launching intellectual property we're not confining ourselves and we're able to take the best opportunity at any given time."
The full interview with Frima Studio's Theis and Couture, where they also discuss how the company would be different without government incentives, can be read here.