Earlier today Renegade Kid announced that it has closed down, with its co-founders going separate ways with their own studios. Jools Watsham is taking control of Renegade Kid's 2D IPs with Atooi, while Gregg Hargrove is taking on the 3D IPs with Infitizmo. Over the last decade the studio has released a variety of titles, from DS retail games to a range of titles in this generation on the 3DS and Wii U eShop, in addition to other download stores. It's a brand name that's become familiar among Nintendo download fans, in particular, with titles like Mutant Mudds and recently Dementium Remastered making a mark.
Over the past couple of years it's become clear, however, that maintaining success and profitability remains a particular challenge for small development companies. Renegade Kid faced struggles of its own, releasing well-praised games like Xeodrifter on multiple platforms but also reporting disappointing initial sales for titles like Dementium Remastered. In our 'Year in Development' feature of late 2015 with Jools Watsham, he provided a distinct impression of the studio facing demanding times as it tried to make ends meet across multiple projects and releases.
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.
With news of the studio's closure coming through we decided to catch up with Watsham and Hargrove to talk about how they came to the decision to close Renegade Kid, and what they're doing next. They reflect on financial challenges, favourite memories from a decade of working together and talk about their plans for Atooi and Infitizmo.
First of all, can you both introduce yourselves to our readers?
JW: My name is Jools Watsham. I started making games professionally in 1992. I co-founded Renegade Kid with Gregg in 2006/2007. I primarily focused on the design, 2D art, and planning aspects of Renegade Kid games, as well as handling affairs of business and PR.
GH: My name is Gregg Hargrove, co-founder and Director at Renegade Kid. I got my start making BBS (Bulletin Board System) games look pretty in 1992. With Renegade Kid, my primary focus was on art and writing as well as the banking/accounting side of the business.
You've announced that Renegade Kid is closing. Can you outline the key reasons for this?
JW: The video game industry has changed a lot in the past 10 years that we've been developing games as Renegade Kid. From the very beginning, it has always been a challenge to secure partnerships with publishers to fund the development of original games, and since the advent of self-publishing – when digital distribution became more mainstream – it has shifted our business model towards becoming more dependent on revenue instead of seeking funding from publishing partners.
It has been a great financial challenge and an extreme workload for the entire team to maintain a balance between cash flow, staying competitive with our games, and spending quality time with our families and friends.
As such, it has been a great financial challenge and an extreme workload for the entire team to maintain a balance between cash flow, staying competitive with our games, and spending quality time with our families and friends. Couple these realities with the desire to achieve personal goals, Gregg and I came to the difficult decision to each pursue solo ventures and close Renegade Kid.
Starting fresh with small, lean teams enables us both to focus more on less moving parts and potentially achieve better success. It puts both Atooi and Infitizmo in more advantageous positions.
How long has this decision been on the cards?
JW: I think the writing has been on the wall for a while, but it is the sort of thing that you can easily ignore while you're busy making games. We started discussing the idea of ending Renegade Kid this year due to the financial challenges we faced last year and the ever-mounting challenges that we faced moving forward with the same structure.
GH: Yeah, it's been coming for a while and I think we both really came to grips with that this year.
Can you talk a little about how you've divided up the Renegade Kid IPs?
GH: It works out pretty equitably with Infitizmo inheriting all of the 3D titles and Atooi the 2D titles.
JW: Yeah, this was thankfully very easy.
Looking back on Renegade Kid's history, which games are you both most proud of from your library?
JW: Our first game, Dementium: The Ward is really hard to top in how proud I felt to have the game in a retail box after the risky step we took from a well-paying job to go solo and make a mature game for Nintendo's kid-friendly handheld. Next on the list would have to be Mutant Mudds for me. It was the result of many years of wanting to create a 2D platformer, and the fact that it was our first self-published game also made it a big milestone.
GH: The games we've made at RK are like my children, you love them all for different reasons really. Dementium: The Ward for the DS will always be very special to me because it was the first and it was so exciting to be breaking out and doing our own thing and we were just making the game we both really wanted to make at the time. Mutant Mudds is also one of those kinds of titles. Though I had much less to do with the production of that game, it was exciting to see a game that Jools labored on for the sheer joy of its creation be so well received. And it's just an amazingly fun game!
What are your personal highlights from your years in Renegade Kid, such as a standout memory?
GH: The first year and publishing Dementium: The Ward with GameCock was super exiting. The GameCock guys definitely had a way of making everything you did feel like an event. E3 that year was super fun even though it was a strange, non-LA E3. The camaraderie was awesome.
Every time we did our own RK booth somewhere, PAX East or SXSW, was very cool. I really liked PAX though. Talking to the fans and making connections was a real highlight. Anytime Jools and I got to travel together and talk about our games was a real treat.
Talking to the fans and making connections was a real highlight. Anytime Jools and I got to travel together and talk about our games was a real treat.
JW: Yeah, the press tours that Gregg and I did together were really fun and exciting. Visiting various different press outlets, such as IGN and GameSpot in Northern California, was great because we were showing games that we were very proud of. We never focused too much on a sales pitch and instead let the games speak for themselves – engaging in casual conversation with the press folk we met.
We were very spoiled by Gamecock with our first game, Dementium. They threw a huge press event for all of their games at Hotel California the year E3 was in the hangars instead of at the convention center. Gamecock took over the entire hotel. There were about 6 or 8 other developers there with us showing off games. It was a magical time. Each team had a hotel room that doubled as our press room and where we crashed at night. It was a blast!
Any regrets as you sign off from Renegade Kid?
JW: It is a bittersweet moment, for sure. I am sad that Renegade Kid has come to an end, but I am excited and optimistic for the future. I do not regret anything, though. We always worked our hardest and smartest. We always put the games first. I am very proud of what we have accomplished with Renegade Kid.
GH: I always want to do more... and better. I'm proud of everything we've accomplished, but we've done everything on very restrictive budgets with tight timelines. I wish we could have expanded on some of our storylines. We created so much rich back story that was only ever hinted at in our games. There were a dozen good ideas for games that never got done for one reason or another.
What's next for both of you in terms of your next projects, and are you planning to work on Nintendo hardware?
GH: I love to work with Nintendo. I've always had a great experience working with them and I can't imagine not supporting something Nintendo. My next projects are currently not something I can make public unfortunately but I want to expand on both Moon and Dementium in the future and there is a new mystery project in the works for the near future. Haha, is that vague enough for everyone?
JW: I have a press release and announcement coming out this week for my next game. Keep it locked here at Nintendo Life for more info!
Can fans expect to see Treasurenauts and Cult County in the future (if not answered above)?
JW: Yes, Treasurenauts will be coming out in 2017. We will have more news on that very soon!
GH: I would love to explore Cult County. There were a lot of cool ideas in there. It will probably show up in my future work in some shape or form.
Do you have any final messages for our readers?
GH: Thanks to all our fans for all the interest, kindness, and enthusiasm you've shown us and our games. You've made it all worthwhile and we hope you can stick around for volume 2!
JW: Thank you to everyone who played and enjoyed our games. Your enthusiasm and support is extremely motivating and greatly appreciated. I hope you continue to follow our games at Atooi (http://www.atooi.com) and Infitizmo (http://www.infitizmo.com).
We'd like to thank both Jools Watsham and Gregg Hargrove for their time. Let us know what you hope to see from both in the future, and perhaps talk about your favourite Renegade Kid game in the comments.