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Game Room can be 'iTunes for games'

Service will be a "big library" of classic games when it's finished; 1000 titles a "conservative" estimate

Krome Studios' creative director Steve Stamatiadis has said that Microsoft's upcoming Game Room, which the studio is currently creating, could become the equivalent of iTunes for videogames.

"I think the thing is that you've got a whole range of stuff that people can't get any more," he said, speaking to "It's a way of getting these arcade games legally and authentically - that's a big plus. It's like having iTunes - you've got music that you can't find albums for, but you can now go and buy it. This is just a different version of that for games."

Microsoft announced the Game Room - its new Xbox Live service - earlier this year. The service will be a space for gamers to socialise - through their avatars - and to buy and play retro arcade games.

"I have no idea how far [Microsoft is] planning on taking it," Stamatiadis added. "But on the arcade front you have a lot of games that you can have in your arcade room that you may have seen once or twice, or you may never have seen in an arcade - there's a compilation. And I know Microsoft is going out there just talking to everyone. They're looking at lots of different classic games. It's going to be a big library when it's finished that's for sure. I know they're saying over a thousand, but I'm sure that's conservative."

Stamatiadis also spoke about redundancies at the studio - one of the world's largest independent studios, which had employed upwards of 400 people - last year, saying that the tough economic situation had forced it to reduce numbers for the first time in ten years.

"We didn't have enough to keep everyone going. We were quite large after Clone Wars which had three studios doing stuff, after that there wasn't much for those guys to do.

"Some we've actually been able to hire back, so it's not like they've all gone. We got people back as soon as we could get work for them. It was a really tough period but the guys were really good about it and we helped them out the best we could. [...] We had to do it because, frankly, stuff is pretty tough at the moment."

However, Stamatiadis said he was confident the industry would pick up in time - "People [will] realise they have to get games out again - they can't make money without making games" - and pointed out it's not the first lull the industry has gone though, it's just taking longer to recover.

As well as Game Room, the studio is also currently working on its first self-published PSN title, Blade Kitten, which Stamatiadis said he wanted to create after the work had been completed on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

"We said after doing Star Wars, which was a very large game and involved 140 people spread across different studios, that we didn't want to do another big game straight away," he explained.

For the creation of the IP, the studio designed an entire comic book and world before beginning work on the game. Stamatiadis said that self-publishing its first title had been a steep learning curve, but had allowed it to do "weird stuff" a publisher probably wouldn't have backed.

"Digital is a good place to try it and see if it's got any traction. It's easier than going to a publisher to try to get one title signed up for an unknown IP, because you've got no chance of doing that nowadays. Anything that's a little bit different, there's going to be less of a chance," he said.

"Do it online, you can find your audience easier. They don't have to go hunting down boxed copies somewhere.

"Smaller groups can get access directly to what they want to get hold of. That's what I'm hoping."

You can read the full interview with Steve Stamatiadis, in which he also discusses the challenges of self-publishing and the design process behind Blade Kitten, here.

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