Opportunity abounds for indie developers producing games for phones, tablets

Vancouver video game producer Bryna Dabby used to spend a year or more working with dozens of people to produce a game that was put on a disk and sold for $60.

Today, the Electronic Arts alumnus works in a company with fewer than 10 people, spending mere months to create a game that can be downloaded on a phone or tablet for free or a fraction of the cost of a console game.

Her CV is becoming the new norm in an industry that has been transformed by technology just as the music industry was.

However, unlike the music industry, which was dragged into the digital age, people who grew up playing video games and then went on to make them have been more inclined to embrace the new reality that has seen game production shift to the indie model.

For Dabby, who co-founded Nine Tail Studios with fellow EA alumni Brent Disbrow and Terry Chui, the shift in the gaming sector — while coming at a cost to jobs as studios shrank or shut down — has a silver lining.

“We started Nine Tail Studios because the timing was right,” she said. “The barrier to entry now is a lot lower for people who want to start their own thing. This is the opposite of a meltdown, out of all this change there has been a rebirth of creativity.”

Nine Tail Studios creates games for Apple iPhones and iPads, for Android smartphones and tablets and it makes downloadable console games. Such game development is cheaper, takes far fewer people and less time than big studio games like Call of Duty or Diablo. It has resulted in job losses and an exodus of some employees in the sector to Ontario and Quebec. But those who are working in start-ups can have a bigger role and more influence in the games they’re creating.

“I think creatively we are better off,” said Dabby. “Like the Phoenix we are rising from the ashes. There is an amazing amount of talent in this city.”

For Pavel Bains, co-founder of Vancouver’s Storypanda, a newly launched interactive iPad story network for kids, the arrival of his three children prompted him to rethink his career.

“We grew up playing video games, then we started making video games and then I had kids and I thought, I can’t make these violent games any more,” said Bains, who added that as he watched his kids playing with an iPad, he realized that was the new market.

Ray Sharma, founder and CEO of Toronto-based XMG Studio, Canada’s largest independent mobile video game developer, pointed out that in “a few short years, mobile games have gone from nothing to be a growth area overall.”

“What has surprised people is how mobile games have become competitive with console games.”

Sharma’s children are nine and 10 years of age and reflecting a growing trend, Sharma said they have cut the time they spend playing console games by 75 per cent, instead playing mobile game apps.

“That’s the risk the traditional gaming industry is facing with the rise in mobile gaming,” he said.

Each newly updated tablet comes with more processing power, a trend Sharma says will see tablets have as much processing power as consoles within a couple of years.

Mobile devices are also being used to link to TVs, so people can play app games on the big screen just as with console games.

Metro Vancouver’s Roadhouse Interactive and A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games are working on the next-generation of online social gaming, collaborating in Family Guy online, an online game for 20th Century Fox’s television show.

“What is different is that this is not a traditional license game,” said Roadhouse Interactive’s co-founder and chief creative officer Ian Verchere. In the case of Family Guy online, the studios get paid to create the game, working in partnership with the 20th Century Fox.

“Games have been oddly anachronistic, you bake a game onto CDs, stick it in trucks and drive them to ToysRUs, Future Shops and Walmarts all over the world,” said Verchere.

Family Guy online uses a web player plug-in for your Internet browser, allowing it to operate like a game console.

“There are no barriers to entry making it easy for people to get into the world of Family Guy,” said Verchere.

via vancouversun.com by Gillian Shaw