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Publishers expect retail product for XBLA budgets - Zoe Mode

Studio head says platform plurality has built expectations too high

Zoe Mode studio head Paul Mottram has said that he increasingly encounters publishers who expect to invest digital budgets and receive box quality products, thanks to increased expectations arising from platform plurality and digital success.

Speaking as part of a roundtable discussion held by GamesIndustry.biz earlier this week, Mottram argued that the rise of digital platforms has led publishers to expect too much from small budget download titles, saying that uncertainty over market position had lead to nervousness.

"It used to be that ten years ago, it was PS2," Mottram told the panel. "So you'd just do PS2 and then maybe some others. But now we're finding that everyone is not knowing what platform is going to succeed - we did our first 3DS title - we got Crush onto that, but we had to delay the release of that because of the success of the platform.

There's a nervousness which we're seeing from publishers who are traditionally funding some of our product

Paul Mottram, Zoe Mode

"So it's hard for us because none of the platforms are dominant at the moment. The Wii is on the wane, obviously Zumba [Fitness] has done really well on that, and we hope we see some success there, but there's a nervousness which we're seeing from publishers who are traditionally funding some of our products. With the move to digital, what I've seen is people wanting to spend XBLA budgets but expecting retail content. Unless we can address that it's going to be very hard for us to deliver the games we want to make."

However, Mottram also admitted that most of his gaming was done on an iPad - a platform which he spends more on than console.

"I pretty much do all my gaming these days on my iPad, and I never thought that would happen. I'm spending more on games on that, even at 59p, than I was on retail games at €80 or something. Now I'm spending £25 a month on getting games every day just to see what they're doing. I think that's good."

Relentless Software co-founder David Amor agreed that the rise of low-priced app and browser games represents an opportunity for the industry - even for developers and publishers used to more tradtional models.

"I like the fact that being able to play games in your browser and on your phone appears to have enabled a much larger audience," said Amor. "I'm sure that most people didn't buy their PC to play Farmville, and that most people didn't buy iPhones to play Angry Birds. But now they have them, we have a wider market.

"So should we be sore that there's a wider proliferation of platforms to be working on? Well, no, because with that came a whole new section of people to be making games for."

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Dan Pearson