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Just 17 - Part One

Team 17's Martyn Brown talks Worms, Alien Breed, and living the online self-publishing dream

Team 17 is one of the oldest brands in UK videogame development, and even in publishing back in the Amiga days. But now the company has come full circle into self-publishing, using some of its classic brands - including Worms - to gain a strong foothold on the next-gen consoles' downloadable platforms.

Here studio director Martyn Brown reflects on the success of Worms, looks ahead to the new Alien Breed game and offers his thoughts on how a new tier of online-only publishers are coming to the fore.

GamesIndustry.biz At the time of writing you've got two Worms titles in the XBLA top ten - congratulations - but is that something you'd have predicted when you started on the road to self-publishing that first Worms game?
Martyn Brown

No, not at all - we never expected that. When we green-lit the whole XBLA stuff, which was late 2005, we didn't really have any expectation of the market place. Obviously we were aware of the longevity of the Worms brand and what it could do in the market, but the expectation on digital was nothing - we had no idea. At that time we didn't really have any expectation of how Xbox Live itself would do - it just made a lot of sense for us to do it, with the opportunities to extend the brand.

So we went ahead with it, and to find it 28 months later still in the top ten... I think secretly the last few weeks we've been saying amongst ourselves that wouldn't it be great if we had two titles in the top ten, and we kinda figured maybe that would be the case with the new Worms and Alien Breed later in the year, but not with the first two Worms games.

For the first one to be at number seven at the same time the new one's number one is phenomenal really.

GamesIndustry.biz And what's your expectation for the second game - you must be hoping it'll kick on and do as well as the first, but there's no way to tell?
Martyn Brown

No, there isn't - it's sold very well so far, but it's early days. The problem for us is that while we get very good data from Microsoft now, unfortunately we didn't have that data in the same period for the original Worms, so we don't now how that one tracked for the first months.

If it does half as well as the original we'll be mighty pleased, to be honest - it's suck it and see though really, we've got no great demands. We've broken even already, so anything else is a plus.

GamesIndustry.biz How long did it take for the game to break even?
Martyn Brown

The first one was a matter of hours, this one's been a matter of days. That's pretty good news.

GamesIndustry.biz As a business model, you've also got Alien Breed coming later in the year, so this self-publishing lark seems to be alright, doesn't it? You're in a better position than most, with established teams and your own IP, but it's looking nice.
Martyn Brown

Yeah, I think that's the secret though really - having the IP. But that's also married with our previous publishing experience - we did retail publishing for six years, so we know the nuts and bolts of how you publish a title, regardless of the platform, it just happens to be digital now.

The way that works for us, because it mirrors very closely how we behaved in the Amiga period, our foremost years really, when there was less of an accent on the marketing. But yes, it's brilliant, and the great thing about having our own IP is that we can establish it over a number of platforms as well.

We do the odd exclusive periods, like the new Worms was exclusive on XBLA for a while, but eventually it'll hit PlayStation Network, PC, Mac, iPhone... but further down the line we've got other titles, including Alien Breed and other things as well. It's a great opportunity for us to revisit old brands and create new ones.

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Phil Elliott

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