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Hello Games' Sean Murray

Joe Danger dev on creative freedom, retail decline and failing college

Hello Games has been something of a quiet success story. The company's debut game, colourful and cartoonish stunt-racing PSN title Joe Danger, broke even on its day of release and has continued to turn over nicely.

Now, the team are gearing up for Joe Danger DLC and a brand new project, doubling the team size to eight and taking over a new office.

At the Eurogamer Expo earlier this month, GamesIndustry.biz took the opportunity to question company MD, spokesman and all-round nice guy Sean Murray on Hello Games' winning formula, what sort of candidates have been applying for jobs and why Sony have the best fanboys.

EurogamerLet's talk about Joe Danger, which was a fantastic success story for a debut project - breaking even on its first day on PSN. How are sales figures sitting now?
Sean Murray

Well, it's one of those crazy things. We'd love to talk about our sales figures, in lots of detail actually, because we think they're really cool. We're really pleased with the success.

We can't, really, like most developers, but I will say that, actually we thought our sales at the start were really good. We were happy with that, just what we had in the first few days - if it had stopped there we would have been happy actually, because it meant that we could keep going.

What we didn't realise was that we hadn't done any advertising, we didn't have any PR people or marketing people, so every copy of the game that had been sold was being done by word of mouth. The really nice thing about that is that it's kept up. It's continued to sell pretty well, actually.

I think, I hope, that's because the game is actually good, people are enjoying it and telling other people about it. We certainly see that, there's a lot of referrals. It's a nice feeling to know that people are buying it because their friends have told them that it's good.

EurogamerThat must be doubly satisfying, to know that people are buying, not because they've seen a £40,000 ad on the side of a building, but because a friend has said 'buy this, it's great'.
Sean Murray

It means more, actually, that a friend has said to someone, that's good, buy it. We like those people!

EurogamerYou seem very pleased with your experience all round working with PSN - they seem to give you a lot of freedom and support. Do you have any ongoing arrangements with them to make more PSN exclusives?
Sean Murray

We don't have a contract like that with Sony. There's nothing to stop us doing, say, a PC version of Joe Danger tomorrow if that's what we wanted to do. Sony has actually been really really supportive and really really helpful, and hasn't asked for much more in return than the delivery of a good game.

We definitely want to work with them again, but there's nothing tying us to say we'll never work with anyone else again or anything like that - and we're excited to do some other stuff, definitely.

The thing that's blown us away, and this sounds like a really cheesy thing to say, is how supportive the community has been. Everyone knows that Sony fanboys are the best fanboys. [laughs] They're the most hardcore! They've been really supportive - they, hopefully, seem to associate Hello Games with a top title on PSN, and that's a big thing for us, a huge deal.

EurogamerYou defend your independence and creative control fiercely, it seems very important to you. If Sony came to you with an offer to buy, on the proviso of you retaining all of that freedom and creative control, would you consider it?
Sean Murray

Okay, I presume that's the sort of position that Media Molecule are in, and I think it's really interesting that Sony are doing that with developers, and they do seem to let developers have that sort of creative control - the way you describe it is this ridiculously ideal situation for a developer, but from what I hear, they do seem to do that.

Even so, we do maintain our independence above anything else. If we do come up with an amazing idea for an iPad game, we want to be able to do that. We want to be able to...It's not just platform - it's whatever our crazy idea is.

If it doesn't fit with the future of whatever publisher then we still want to be able to explore it, and that's why we got into what we're doing. For the time being at least, while we still have money, we're happy to be ourselves and make the games we want to make.

In fact, we're incredibly scared and wary of any kind of controlling factor. Sony hasn't been involved in the making of Joe Danger, really, and sometimes we had to ring them up, before the game came out and say "are we still on?" and they'd say, "oh yeah, you've got a slot booked in" and that was the only input they had.

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Dan Pearson avatar

Dan Pearson