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There's never been a better time to be independent - Young

ngmoco founder encourages developers to pick up Apple's $99 SDK to make their mark in games

Neil Young, founder of iPhone specialist ngmoco, has said that due to the evolution of gaming brought on by Apple's handheld, there's never been a better time to be an independent developer.

While a number of independent studios working on traditional console games are struggling following cancelled projects from nervous publishers, Young encouraged the audience at the GDC Mobile conference today to pick up Apple's USD 99 SDK to make a mark in game development.

"I know there is a general malaise over the games industry today. But I can tell you from my standpoint and certainly on the iPhone, there's never been a better time to be an independent developer."

"The gap between job security of you being an independent or you working in a big company has changed pretty dramatically over the course of the last year. And Apple has provided you with an incredibly easy way to start and enter this eco system."

Rather than go through the long-winded process of applying for development kit from console format holders, Young suggested picking up the Apple SDK – it's cheap and quickly available.

"I've made games for pretty much every console you could imagine... and have not seen development tools that are as robust and effective as the tools that Apple has provided us," stated Young.

And any concerns that the iPhone isn't a dedicated games device compared to Sony's PSP or Nintendo's DS are wrong, said Young.

"It is a really good device for playing games. Don't let the haters tell you that it sucks relative to the DS and PSP, because it doesn't."

"It's clear already that from a graphics standpoint that the quality of iPhone games is eclipsing its console counterparts. And that's even more acute when you compare and contrast to the prior generation [of mobile games]."

But Young didn't dismiss Nintendo's business, he suggested that it's important to observe the way the company has operated and succeeded against its rival.

He pointed out that when the PSP and DS first went head to head in the handheld market, publishers and developers assumed the PSP, with its higher technical specs, multiple features and familiar Sony architecture, would be the more successful console.

"There's a lot that we can learn from Nintendo. If you look at the epic battle back in the day where the Nintendo DS was up against the PSP, on the surface it looked like the PSP had it in the bag."

But with unique dual screens and touch technology, along with a library of titles that would only work on the handheld, the DS has proven to be the more successful system.

"You know the way the story ended. The DS, both in terms of software sales and hardware installed base, crushed the PSP. It didn't do it by competing on spec, it did it by competing on features and functionality," he said.

During the keynote, Young also revealed the ngmoco has secured a further round of funding totalling USD 10 million, and the publisher is already at work on two sequels to the acclaimed game Rolando.

Both titles will be out by November, said Young, highlighting the fact that for the franchise, ngmoco will have produced three games, 12 worlds, 148 levels and 40-plus hours of gameplay within 11 months.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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