Icon Games Head of Development Comments on PSP Minis Development
Richard Hill-Whittall, head of development at Icon Games Entertainment, recently posted a blog entry on Icon’s website (and also on Gamasutra) concerning the development of several of the company’s PSP Minis titles. The article also compares and comments on the development processes of WiiWare and PSN. In fact, the post does not mince words with respect to the feelings that Icon has towards Nintendo’s WiiWare service. In an effort to get more details on some of the assertions made in the post I emailed Hill-Whittall several questions. The follow-up questions provide additional details on several things said within the original post.
“Sony were very approachable and very developer friendly (are you reading this Nintendo?!) with us, and with other developers I spoke to. Hell – they even loaned us the PSP dev-kits!” said Hill-Whittall in the post. When I emailed Hill-Whittall and asked about differences in development between PSP and Nintendo, he said that the submission processes for Sony and WiiWare are very similar and even obtaining dev kits for either platform isn’t the problem. “Nintendo are just not very switched on when it comes to downloadable titles – especially Wiiware; I think essentially they are living in the past and applying old defunct ideology to the development and publishing of download titles.”
Further to this he added “They do not make anything of the key features of digital downloads – such as regular updating, price drops, sales, promotions – instead they designed this super rigid system that is even less flexible than retail!” He also voiced his scepticism when asked about WiiWare’s future as a platform. “WiiWares (sic) future? Pretty much none unless they make some big changes, which they won’t.”
In contrast to the harsh criticism of WiiWare, Hill-Whittall mentioned in his blog post that the profit margins for the company’s Minis titles have been mostly exceeding expectations with the only exception being Soccer Bashi which has been deemed “a total failure” selling only 420 units in PAL territories and 600 units in NTSC territories. “…the losses we’ve made with this are frightening. Moral of the story I think is don’t do a retro block breaker unless you really revolutionise the genre or make it really cheap!”
In closing, Hill-Whittall responded to my questions regarding the future of Minis games and the experience of working with SCEA and SCEE. Within his post he said, “There also seemed to be a marked difference in approach and enthusiasm for the Minis program between SCEE and SCEA, with SCEE very positive and pro-active with Minis and SCEA much less so.” When asked whether he could provide additional details regarding Icon’s relationship with SCEA and SCEE, he said “I won’t really comment on SCEA – but SCEE were great; They leant us the PSP dev kits which was a big cash-flow help, they promoted the games well before launch, they were always very prompt and responsive with any help requests and they were just very positive about Minis which made it really exciting to work on them.”
Regarding the future of Minis, Hill-Whittall added, “The Minis on the other hand have a much brighter future [compared to WiiWare]; such as Vita emulation. I’d say there’s a fair bit of life left in Minis.”
Considering the $20 million investment initiative that Sony announced previously, the future of Sony offerings, including PSP Minis, could be very bright indeed. Also here’s hoping that Richard Hill-Whittall continues to be this outspoken with respect to platform development.