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YoYo Games: “Our competition with Unity is all in people's heads”

CTO Russell Kay believes GameMaker can still thrive in a market of free AAA game engines

Scottish tools provider YoYo Games has today launched GameMaker Studio 2, and tells GamesIndustry.biz it has no fear of a struggle against the likes of Unity and Unreal.

In the years since the original GameMaker was released, Epic Games has made Unreal Engine 4 available for free (complete with source code), Crytek has adopted a pay-what-you-want model, and Unity has launched a series of different tiers ranging from its free Personal edition to the beefier Professional edition.

"We're kind of in a different market to those guys," CTO Russell Kay told GamesIndustry.biz during GDC. "They're targeting AAA developers. We're targeting the lower end of the marketplace, the less technical end.

"We have to make sure our tools are easy to use. We have to take complicated concepts and simplify them."

While that's certainly true for Unreal and Crytek, Unity has often been declared the champion for independent devs and start-ups the world over with almost any indie game you can name powered by Unity.

"We make no bones about it: Unity is probably our biggest competitor," Kay admits. "But we're not really competing with Unity - that's only in people's heads. We're a different end of the market. They're coming down towards us, but we're taking our customers with us up towards them."

Kay adds that Unity is primarily focused on 3D games, while YoYo Games enables its customers to build high-quality 2D games - as many indies are wont to do.

GameMaker is famed for allowing many developers to start their career - even with no prior experience - powering games such as Nidhogg, Hotline Miami, Gunpoint and so on. However, GameMaker Studio 2 still carries a seemingly steep price tag with the most basic Desktop package, which allows devs to build games for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu, priced at $99.99.

Devs will also have to fork out $149.99 for the HTML5 version, $399.99 for Universal Windows Platform and $399.99 for Android and iOS. However, head of production and partnerships Stuart Poole points us towards the free trial version and observes that these prices have actually been cut compared to the software's forebear.

"It's cheaper than [the original] GameMaker Studio," he says. "Pro was $150, whereas this is $100. Mobile is $399, whereas you used to get iOS for $299 and Android for $299."

For GameMaker Studio 2, YoYo Games have made a wide array of significant improvements. The editor has been "gutted", as Kay puts it, and revamped to enable smoother workflows all built around the firm's trademarked drag-and-drop interface, which allows devs with no coding experience to pull in events and mechanics from a series of menus.

The firm has also introduced enhanced monetisation tools, layer-based level editing to help users create more complex visuals and more.

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