Last November, former id Software and GameStop executive Steve Nix revealed his new company ForwardXP, with a focus on VR/AR and ultimately mixed reality. While ForwardXP is continuing to internally develop unannounced VR projects and technology, Nix says, today he's revealing his company's publishing initiative as well.
ForwardXP's first title under its new publishing label will be the puzzle game Please Don't Touch Anything, which it's working on with developer Four Quarters to bring to Oculus Rift, Gear VR, Steam, iOS and Google Play (Note: Escalation Studios also worked on the 3D and VR versions but has played no active role in development since last year).
Of course, there are many digital publishers in the games business today. With the indie boom in the last several years, it's become clear that many developers who are skilled at making games aren't very good at actually selling and promoting them. Companies like Devolver Digital, TinyBuild, GameStop's GameTrust and others exist to help those devs, but what will ForwardXP do differently?
"There is definitely room for more than one independent publisher, and I have a lot of respect for what the Devolver Digital team has done, and also what Gearbox is doing with their publishing label," Nix tell us. "The thing is, most indies don't realize all the things a veteran publisher can do for them until they launch their title on fewer platforms and stores than optimal, with way less visibility than the title deserves. What ForwardXP can offer those developers is decades of experience in successfully launching and managing digital titles.
"At Ritual, I had the good fortune to launch one of the very first Steam titles in 2004, and then managing the launch of the entire back catalog of games during my time at id Software on Steam in 2007, and then managing all digital platforms sales at id Software across PSN, Xbox Live, iTunes, etc. I then had the opportunity to learn the retailer's perspective and build an entire digital distribution platform as GM of Digital Distribution at GameStop. So we are developers at heart, but we understand every aspect of digital distribution, starting from its relative infancy, and we can bring that experience to help other indie developers today."
Nix also believes that his company can offer prospective development partners a better deal, and one in which the developer gets paid on time.
"Some publishers seem to spend a lot of money on things that really do not benefit their partner developers and we are built to avoid those mistakes"
"We have a veteran team and one of our core tenants is that we are going to stay lean and we all wear many hats at the appropriate time in the development and publishing cycle. Some publishers seem to spend a lot of money on things that really do not benefit their partner developers and we are built to avoid those mistakes," he says.
"This allows us to offer a far better business deal to the developer, and pay higher royalty rates, and actually pay them quickly. For a normal collaboration, where we are doing design consulting, testing, QA, marketing and world-wide store launches, we will have a small publishing fee on the digital store revenue. The developer owns their IP. The only situation where we might co-own some portion of the IP is if we are getting heavily involved in the actual development of the game."
Nix adds that ForwardXP is currently aiming to publish somewhere between six and ten games each year. "We want to give every title the time and attention that it deserves... These will primarily be small independent teams that have already developed solid core mechanics, but could benefit from feedback on polish, general go-to-market strategy, marketing and app promotion," he says.
While ForwardXP is open to pitches, the team remains the most excited by VR at the moment and helping VR devs gain traction. The next wave, however, could very much end up in the AR space, though.
"We are first and foremost excited about the growth in VR platforms, and ultimately think developers working in VR will be the best positioned to take advantage of AR which is going to be absolutely gigantic and change the way we live our lives," Nix comments. "I ran the mobile group at id Software when the iPhone launched and that dramatically changed the market opportunity for mobile games and apps. Apple's AR Kit is likely to have a similar impact on the trajectory of the AR market. We are very interested in that platform and excited about Epic's early support of VRKit in the Unreal Engine. "For our own internal development, nothing is formally announced, but we are very focused on our proprietary voice user interface technology which is being used to interact with AI and the environment in VR and AR worlds."