In the third article of this 2015 'Year in Development' series Renegade Kid's co-founder, Jools Watsham, talks about a year that brought various multi-platform ports and two remasters on the 3DS eShop.
To begin at the beginning, your year kicked off with Moon Chronicles 2-4 in North America. For starters, what prompted the shift to releasing them all at once rather than as gradual episodic downloads?
Yes, it was very exciting to finally release those. The original plan was to release them separately at a nice reasonable pace, but that plan did not happen. They got delayed, so we decided to not keep everyone waiting longer and released them all at once. Honestly, the episodic approach is something I am glad we tried, but we did not successfully achieve it with Moon Chronicles. I think it can work, but requires a lot of resources to do it effectively. As such, when we release the game in Europe it will be a single game that contains all of the content.
Naturally I need to ask how the European version is going, do you have a release window for that?
We do not have a release window for that yet. In the past I have given estimated times, which are then assumed to be written in stone and people get disappointed and call us names - so to avoid that, I'll avoid speculating. We are a small team and are very busy with Mutant Mudds Super Challenge, Treasurenauts, and Dementium II: Remastered right now. We want to release Moon Chronicles in Europe and hope to be able to accomplish that soon.
You mentioned that Moon Chronicles as an episodic release didn't work for you, highlighting resource limitations. Did it perform reasonably well, commercially?
It has performed "OK". Not a runaway success, but not a disaster. Somewhere in between I guess. We always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Having it be a part of the first Nintendo Humble Bundle helped give it a big boost, though, which was greatly appreciated.
Can you talk a little about the Humble Nindie Bundle and how you came to be involved?
I was just as surprised as everyone else. We were lucky enough to be contacted by Nintendo asking if we would be interested in participating. I didn't really process it at first, because seeing Nintendo and Humble Bundle in the same sentence was so unexpected. It made complete sense for this to happen, but seemed like it would be such a challenge to accomplish it. Needless to say, the wonderful minds at Nintendo figured out how to make it happen, and we were delighted to be a part of it.
There was a lot of chat around the numbers of bundles sold, the disappointment that it was North America-only and so on. In your view, was it a success, and what could be improved in future bundles?
Yes, in my view I think it was a success. Having it worldwide would certainly be an improvement for players and for sales. I think throwing in a first-party Nintendo title would also help for exposure and audience interest, like the big guys helping the little guys a bit. But, all in all, I think it worked out very well for everyone involved.
As we moved into Summer you brought Xeodrifter to Wii U and other platforms. Can you talk about those ports and how well they were received on home consoles (and Vita)?
The port of Xeodrifter to Wii U has not sold very well, unfortunately. But, the ports to PS4 and Vita have done quite well. We worked with publisher Gambitious to bring Xeodrifter to Sony platforms, and were fortunate enough to be featured as a PS+ title in the month of release. The game has performed well on those platforms, thankfully.
Why do you think it's struggled on Wii U?
I think if it was a simultaneous launch on 3DS and Wii U, it may have helped sales on the Wii U (and 3DS). As it was considered an "old" game upon its Wii U release, the press did not pick up on it as much. So, overall I think it had little exposure on the eShop and elsewhere, which resulted in low sales. It is unfortunate, because the game is quite charming and fun. I think it works really well as a Wii U title.
Cross-buy would have been a factor, I assume, as you were essentially looking for all-new customers rather than double-dippers?
Yes, we supported cross-buy with the Wii U release, which may have reduced our overall sales, sadly.
In the summer you also had Mutant Mudds: Super Challenge in the E3 [email protected] promotion. Did you notice a lot of interest and feedback off the back of that?
Yes, that was fantastic. Having the game be a part of the special E3 program was wonderful, and also being a part of the Treehouse Live event during E3 was incredible. A very special time that I will not forget. There was a lot of positive response to the demo, which is always encouraging.
Do you feel that being 'featured' by Nintendo in this way is an equivalent to, for example, being 'app of the day' in iOS, in terms of greatly boosting exposure? Can Nintendo do more in this area or is it already doing enough?
Yes, when we are highlighted by Nintendo in any way it helps tremendously, whether that be at events such as E3 or on the eShop shelf. It helps get the word out about our games, and turns into sales. No doubt. Could Nintendo do more? Sure, but is it their responsibility to do that? I guess that is debatable. Of course every company who is releasing games on Nintendo platforms would love to have their titles featured by Nintendo, but that is not possible, and it would also destroy the value of being featured. However, the reality is that Nintendo is competing against other gaming markets such as iOS and Sony in terms of third-party support. So, to keep publishers interested and excited about releasing games on their platforms, they need to be competitive in how they support their partners.
One of the biggest differences with Nintendo is the fact that they have very strong first-party games. The majority of people who buy Nintendo platforms buy them to play Nintendo games. Therefore, their need for third-party support might be less than Sony or Microsoft. However, we saw how that worked out with the Wii U. Limited third-party support may have been one (of the many) reasons the Wii U was not as successful as it could have been. In my opinion, Nintendo could and should do more to feature indie publishers who are developing high quality experiences for their platforms, but this is coming from me, who is an indie publisher!
There's often talk of the eShop and download developers being particularly vital to Nintendo as third-party content providers, so it's a debate that'll rumble on. Your year has gone into the final stretch with Dementium Remastered. Has that been well received in North America since launch?
Yes, it has been received very well. Dementium Remastered is a very big upgrade from the original game that was released on the DS, and many fans of the original are really enjoying the new improvements on 3DS. New players are loving the horror experience on the 3DS, which is a genre not often supported on the handheld. We are very proud of the game, and extremely excited about completing Dementium II Remastered.
You recently spoke about sales being 'very low so far', and the sales prompting a pause on 3DS projects beyond those already confirmed. Why do you think that's been the case, in terms of Dementium sales?
Yes, unfortunately the sales of Dementium Remastered have been surprisingly low. Much lower than Xeodrifter, which was released in North America at a similar time last year.
I think there are many reasons the game may not have sold better. The fact that it is a remaster and not a new game is probably one reason. Perhaps the survival horror and / or first-person shooter genre is not at the top of many 3DS eShop buyers' lists.
Promotion is a big thing too. We did as much as we could to promote the game prior to its launch, including some advertising, which is something we don't typically invest in. However, the placement the game had on the eShop on release day was less than stellar, and the second week it was nowhere to be seen on the main shelf. Even though I do not believe it is Nintendo's duty to promote third-party games, there is no doubt in my mind that when Nintendo promote a good game, it will sell well. Dementium Remastered is a good game, but it was not promoted in a prominent way on the eShop.
If you have to name one prominent reason for producing these DS remasters, (both Moon Chronicles and Dementium) what would it be?
The 3DS is my favourite system to date. Period. I love it. I recently picked up the New 3DS (already had a New 3DS XL), and it is perfection. So, to bring these experiences to the console that I adore is exciting, a privilege, and an opportunity to reach a new audience. We are very proud of Moon Chronicles and the Dementium series. We were able to produce some enjoyable games for the DS, and it feels like a natural progression to enhance them for the 3DS eShop.
Before we look ahead to 2016, let's perhaps reflect on the 2015. You had some key releases on the eShop and elsewhere, so how would you rate it and compare it to 2014?
2014 was not a great year for us. Moon Chronicles only sold OK, but we managed to squeeze Xeodrifter out before the year closed - which helped a lot. 2015 was maybe a little better, but was also incredibly insane. I am disappointed that Mutant Mudds Super Challenge has taken longer to produce, but the game will be great. It feels like we have been porting Xeodrifter to everything, while also working on Mudds, Treasurenauts, and everything else. It has been a little nuts. And if that wasn't enough, I needed to release my own mobile title (Totes the Goat) on the side, which was a lot of fun!
Looking ahead to 2016, are you confident that Super Challenge and Treasurenauts will land and prove successful on the eShop?
I am never sure how successful a game might be, but I am confident that both games will be good, enjoyable experiences. Whether they sell or not depends on so many factors, I can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
I feel obliged to ask about Mutant Mudds 2, as it's been on the minds of some for a while now. What's the current status of that game?
Fair enough! One for the future then. I'll also touch on the recent introduction of international ratings. Will this lead to more frequent European / Australian releases in the future, or will other localisation factors likely lead to discrepancies?
Yes, this will help a great deal. If we had known when it was happening we could have been prepared with Dementium Remastered, but we only learned of it going live when we were finishing up the game. Moving forward it will help a great deal and enable us to have Europe and Australia in our plans along side the US, which is a huge relief.
Finally, can you outline rough plans for 2016 releases and share any messages for our readers?
Dementium II Remastered and Treasurenauts are titles we plan to release in 2016. We are eagerly awaiting news of the NX, and would love to be able to develop a launch title for the system. But, until we know something about the device, we can't make any progress. I would like to send out a big thank you to all of our eShop fans who may be reading this. Your support and positive feedback is extremely valuable to us. Thank you!
And as a quick thing, I assume Super Challenge is 2016?
I literally just realized that I forgot to include that. YES! Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is definitely 2016!
We have way too many games on the go, apparently!
We'd like to thank Jools Watsham for his time. Be sure to check out our first article in this series - A Year in Development with Shin'en Multimedia - and the second, A Year in Development with 13AM Games.