5th Cell's Jeremiah Slaczka is proud that buzz-darling DS title Scribblenauts took only a year and three months -- half the time usually allotted major publisher launches. But given more time, he wonders what the team could accomplish, and is starting to think bigger.
"We're competing against companies like Square Enix and Nintendo, triple-A products," Slaczka tells us, as part of an in-depth Gamasutra feature. "People hold us to the same standard, which I'm totally fine with -- I want them to hold us to that standard. But they get three years, and I get one year. That's the big difference. I feel like a boxer with one hand died between my back. I can make incredible stuff in three years, you know?"
He admits that large teams with major budgets have earned their luxuries, by building up to that point. "We'll get there eventually," he says. So does he hope 5th Cell one day becomes large in that way?
"Yeah. I'd love to. I'd love to be large," he says. "We still want to do original stuff. We'll always do original stuff. Self-funding, self-publishing. I don't know, we'll see where it goes."
And that means expanding beyond he handheld platform, he explains. "This year, we're actually done with handheld for original titles. We're not going to spend our stuff on new original titles. We'll put that onto consoles," he says.
Not that the team's abandoning portable platforms -- they look forward to working them again if it suits. But for now, 5th Cell has its sights on consoles.
"We're doing an Xbox Live Arcade title next, and it's going to be pretty big," he says. It's going to be really cool. We're very excited about it... it's totally not ready to be announced. It's far away. The only thing that we've really announced is we're working on console stuff, and we'll see where it goes."
But for a studio that prizes originality -- 5th Cell always wants to maintain its "indie mentality," as Slaczka says -- getting big can make it harder to stay unique.
"I don't think that will ever happen with us," he says. "We grow up smartly. We learn. Because we actually grew really big way back in the mobile days, and we learned that that's a bad thing. So, we grow smartly. We don't grow just by hiring 200 people and firing them in six months after we don't need them... growth for growth's sake is stupid."
That's why 5th Cell has stuck to DS for so long, Slaczka says. "People always ask us, 'Why did you do four DS titles? Why haven't you gone to consoles yet?' It's because we have all this awesome tech [for the DS]," he explains. "We still have ideas we can do, and it's all about the idea."
"Like I said, if I come up with another Scribblenauts idea, and, say, it would fit on DS, we're going to do it."
Read the full feature interview with Slaczka at Gamasutra, with more on the studio's philosophy, future plans, and why he refused to create the SpongeBob and Wii versions of Drawn to Life.