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Consoles must offer self-publishing to attract indies, says Jackbox

You Don't Know Jack studio expanding IPs and platforms, not exploring traditional consoles without self-publishing

For years, development studio Jellyvision partnered with big-name publishers to get new installments of its You Don't Know Jack franchise onto store shelves. Now the company has a new name--Jackbox Games--and a new approach. Speaking with GamesIndustry International, Jackbox Games GM Mike Bilder said Jackbox is looking to expand its catalog far beyond You Don't Know Jack, bringing original intellectual properties to mobile devices, PCs, and consoles, whether they be from the Big Three or any of the upstart companies offering their own set-top boxes.

"Trying to hit consoles and retail releases required us to get a large publisher to back us, but these new platforms have allowed us to go into self-publishing," Bilder said. "We can create new IP, You Don't Know Jack on different platforms, and we can self-publish them on mobile, social channels, some of the next-gen consoles, and some of the indie consoles that are coming out. As you've seen, we're on the Ouya now. So it's just a market opportunity for us."

Bilder said Jackbox has always wanted to branch out beyond You Don't Know Jack before--he reckons the game's writers have exhausted all possible This-or-That and Either-Or trivia questions--but there have always been too many hurdles with traditional console publishing.

"That's a much harder thing to do, to convince a publisher to spend quite a bit of money on you on something that's unknown," Bilder said. "In this case, these new platforms allow us to be more nimble. They don't require the big development budget of a full retail release on a console. And then there's also some fun in the ability to customize for the particular platform and user you're going after."

While Bilder isn't ruling out traditional console development on the next-gen systems, he said the company is only exploring it on consoles where Jackbox would be able to self-publish its titles.

"It certainly seems like Sony are embracing indie developers and self-publishing models," Bilder said. "I'll be curious to watch how that unfolds, and I'll certainly explore it from our perspective to see if it's a viable opportunity. I can't speak for everyone else, but I know there are certainly hurdles that exist on other platforms...I think this next console cycle will be very telling on how the big platforms embrace--or don't--the smaller indies and self-publishing studios."

Jackbox's first forays beyond the You Don't Know Jack series are already available on mobile devices. The company recently launched the trivia game Lie Swatter on iOS, while the photo editing app Clone Booth debuted earlier this week on Android and iOS devices. It has also released versions of You Don't Know Jack for Facebook and Ouya.

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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