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"By the time you hear about the goldrush it's been milked dry"

Developers leaving behind big markets to chase fads, says Puppy Games; Steam sales hit $100,000 in 3 weeks

The founder of Revenge of the Titans developer - Puppy Games - has said that while companies chase the next big thing such as Facebook and iOS games, they're leaving behind a market crying out for new content.

In Puppy Games' case it's an under-served PC audience, one that has already seen the business net big sums: $180,000 from the first ten days of the Humble Indie Bundle, $100,000 in three weeks on Steam and $45,000 in direct sales.

"By the time you hear about the goldrush, whatever it is that was making people rich has been milked dry," said Puppy Games' Caspian Prince in an exclusive interview published today.

If we muck up and don't make a successful game, we're doomed.

Caspian Prince, Puppy Games

"In the last ten years, several fads have come and gone. There was Facebook games, that came and went because Zynga sewed that up. Casual games was the big thing in 2004 or 2005, but BigFish sewed that up. Hidden object games shortly after. I think iOS is the latest fad, but of course now we've heard about everyone getting rich on it, it's a dead cert that if we port anything to iOS there's going to be no money in it."

Prince said his company plans to get "more weirdy and nichey", sticking to the desktop PC as a games platform rather than jumping to new formats like tablets or HTML5.

"Specifically we're going to exploit the things that you can only do on the PC. All our games are unashamedly aimed at the desktop. While everyone else flees the desktop to chase these new fads and goldrushes, they're leaving a big space behind. There's not an awful lot going on in the PC space. It's getting something of a renaissance now thanks to Steam, I've lots of praise for Steam."

Java is still the key language for Puppy Games, not least because Prince originally wrote an open source library that has since gone on to be used in multiple titles including last year's breakout hit Minecraft.

"I cry myself to sleep every night thinking about the money I could have made on the library if I'd only released it under a royalty license," Prince told GamesIndustry.biz. "Although I'm not so bothered, because you've probably guessed by now that my plans have finally come to fruition after all these years."

The $180,000 from the Humble Indie Bundle "set us up for maybe a year or so" and Steam's $100,000 "bought us approximately another year of development," according to Prince, but he's well aware that an indie developer is only as good as its last game. And the company isn't looking to expand anytime soon in a risky market.

"Even with all this money floating around, we've only got enough to live modestly for two years. Revenge of the Titans took three years to make. So first of all we've got to get our arses into gear and start making things quicker.

"The other thing is that if we muck up and don't make a successful game, we're doomed. We've spent two years and then suddenly we're broke and have to go back to contracting and that's the end of that. It's a really crappy situation to be in, where every project you do could be the last. So we don't want to basically go hiring loads of people then realise that there's no money to pay them after six months."

In the same interview, Prince also sheds some light on Panasonic's failed handheld console, a project he worked on before it was canned by the electronics group.

"It was actually a pretty reasonable piece of kit - it was an NVIDIA TEGRA with half a gig of RAM in it and a posh little screen, running Linux. About the size, I'd say, of a Motorola Android phone. It would have been a good piece of kit, and it ran Java and Flash as well as native stuff."

It was ambitious but missed a narrow window for release, according to Prince, before Panasonic decided to cut its losses.

"I've got a funny feeling someone might just have got cold feet at the higher echelons of Panasonic and said 'what's this?' It's probably a good idea that they did, because Sony unleashed their PlayStation phone shortly afterwards, and I thought: 'That's it then, basically.'

"There's the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation phone, and between them that's all everyone's every going to want for gaming if they haven't got an iPhone already. And the NGP. There was suddenly a heap of competition there. If Panasonic had got it out a year ago, they'd have been okay, but they didn't."

The full interview with Caspian Prince can be read here.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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