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Zoonami Keeper

Martin Hollis on GoldenEye, GameCity and why he loves WiiWare

Martin Hollis was part of the team behind two of the most influential shooters of all time: GoldenEye and Perfect Dark, directing and producing both games, before leaving Rare to join Nintendo of America as part of the GameCube development team.

In 2000, Hollis founded Zoonami studios in Cambridge and has since produced a number of games, including Wiiware hit Bonsai Barber. Hollis is also a regular contributor to Nottingham's GameCity event, which is taking place this week.

As part of a forthcoming series of interviews with key speakers at the event, we spoke to Hollis about his experiences with WiiWare, what he thinks of GoldenEye being remade and why we should be curating games as a medium with real cultural importance.

GamesIndustry.bizLet's start by talking a little bit about WiiWare - it's not a system we ever hear much about from an inside perspective. What's is it like to work on and how much support do Nintendo offer developers?
Martin Hollis

Well, I think it's a very fine thing. The best thing about it is the size of the marketplace you can access. There's a huge number of people who have a Wii, and a goodly proportion of those download games from Wii-ware - it's tens of millions of people, and it's not overloaded with games, unlike some other app stores I could mention.

That's the chief thing. Nintendo doesn't give you a huge amount of support in that they won't launch a marketing campaign for your product, typically, you have to take that responsibility on yourself. But that's typical for all digital distribution.

GamesIndustry.bizAnd what sort of margins are you operating under on WiiWare?
Martin Hollis

Well, that's a very question! [laughs] It's difficult to get hold of numbers for WiiWare. I think it's even more difficult than it is to get hold of numbers for XBLA and PSN, and it's not too easy for those. The platform holders like to keep it all secret.

Our experience was extremely positive, but our title was a second-party title and it did have some TV advertising with a spot inside a larger advert for Wii. We assume that has to have an impact. As for margins, it's always the case that, if you make a good game you're selling ten or a hundred times as many units as the guy who made a mediocre game, a game that's maybe a little bit sub-par. Not much, but just a little bit. So that factor completely overrides any other.

I've heard stories of people who've done really very well, third-party developers who've bought titles to WiiWare, Kyle Gabler stands out and there are others in Europe as well... and I've heard stories who've decided not to make a sequel. That's generally the best indicator of someone finding that their product was profitable, when they choose to make a sequel.

Of course, Frontier in Cambridge did well and decided to make a sequel to Lost Winds, and there are various other small indie type studios around Europe who've chosen to come back again.

GamesIndustry.bizDo you think it's perhaps more of a margins game than XBLA and PSN? Less to do with high investment/high return and more suited to people who want to keep development costs low and not necessarily look for such big numbers, just a comfortable margin?
Martin Hollis

To answer that question with authority I'd have to have seen a spread of numbers. My impression is that you can make a game if you've got a few thousand Euros, Dollars, Pounds - because you will need a dev kit or two, ideally, minimum; and you've got two really talented guys, you can make a game, and you can sell 200,000 and upwards. Some of the titles are £8 or £10.

So the opportunities are there for people, you have to make a game that fits in with Nintendo - has a Nintendo feeling.

GamesIndustry.bizGiven that, why do you think that not as much attention is given to WiiWare? What's stopping people from seeing the quality that is there?
Martin Hollis

That's a very good question. Apple have had such massive success in capturing media attention - they've sucked all of the air out of it. I don't know that Nintendo's putting a great deal of energy into trying to generate PR for WiiWare or Dsiware.

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