Are you being offered a lot of games at the moment?
JK: We're turning down loads of work. We just don't have the bandwidth. I hate turning down projects because I think people will be offended but if I don't have the people to do it, I can't do it. Partly it's because over the past couple of years, a lot of developers have gone bust or shrunk down, leaving a landscape that's screwed up. It's like a big tree has collapsed in the jungle.
There's now this giant space, which small start-ups are beginning to fill up as the business landscape has changed and allowed them to do things like Xbox Live Arcade, Sony Marketplace, or whatever it's being called this month, and Steam. But in terms of the medium-sized guys like us, we've either died off or had to get bigger. Similarly, what we've heard anecdotally is a lot of the big publishers think there are only between 10 and 20 developers in the world who can do nextgen games. This means they are competing for a smaller number of slots.
Something else I've noticed recently is there's a lot more PlayStation 2 work popping up again. Publishers are saying, 'You know we said we didn't want a PS2 version of that nextgen game you're working on? Well we've done some projections and we'd like one now'. That's an interesting phenomenon.
How come you're doing so many PSP games, but you haven't done any DS games at all?
JK: It's bizarre because we didn't plan on it. We've done 14 PSP titles, and publishers keep coming to us with more. The budgets are decent too, but there seem to be few developers who want to do PSP work. What's really weird is that we've been nominated for a Develop magazine award as the best handheld developer, but we're not a handheld developer. We're a developer who's happened to make a lot of PSP games. We've got two nextgen titles in development [Shellshock 2 for Eidos, and one TBA title], but they take time. Meanwhile we can work through a lot of hybrid currentgen/nextgen stuff.
As for DS, it's difficult because our engine is floating point and DS is fixed point. That means the first publisher to commission us to do a DS game has to take the risk and cost of us developing the engine for DS. That's the reason we've yet to get into DS. It's not to say we won't be though. It's a bit like one of those oddities of evolution. One of the nerves in the giraffe's neck goes all the way down and back up, which is bonkers but that's just the way it happened.
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You most recently acquired Awesome Developments. How did that come about?
JK: We were talking to a client about a particular project that we just couldn't fit it in. It was a good game, a good budget and a good client. We wanted to keep the client happy, but they needed the game delivered by Christmas 2007. We had some people available at Oxford but it wasn't a full team, so we had to turn the project down. Then I got a phone call saying that the staff at Awesome, or Ignition Banbury as it was called, were being laid off.
I thought I'd see if could hire some people, got permission from Ignition and drove up. Most of them wanted to stay together as a group so I did a quick deal to keep them on. Got back in touch with the client, and said, 'I've got half a team in Oxford and this new team in Banbury. They're untried but I think they're quite good'. And the game was for PSP, which they have experience of so it all worked out. We're currently preparing to move our main office in Oxford though. It's taking its own sweet time, but hopefully we'll be in the new office by Christmas and then the Banbury studio will come down to Oxford and be fully integrated.