In this series of features we invite 'Nindies' to share thoughts on their experiences in 2016. In this entry Jools Watsham outlines a year in which Renegade Kid closed and he went in a new direction with Atooi.
Wow, 2016 has been a very busy year – full of many ups and many downs. Let's dig into this year's journey!
On the heels of releasing Dementium Remastered in North America for 3DS in December 2015, we immediately moved onto preparing the game for February 2016's European release. Never being ones allowed to focus on just one project at a time, we also signed a contract with our good friends at Nighthawk in January 2016 to develop a console adaptation of ATV Wild Ride for PS4 and Xbox One, utilizing the Unity engine. The game is called ATV Renegades, and taking on this project afforded us some much-needed short-term cash to pay the bills.
Sales of Dementium Remastered ended up being only OK. Not great. Not terrible. Well, maybe a little terrible. We had hoped to sell a lot more units, but I think the fact that it was largely considered a port of an old game didn't capture people's attention like a new game would have. It is a game that I am very proud of, though. We poured a lot of work into the game to enhance the experience for new and returning players and took advantage of the increased power the 3DS offers over the DS to good effect.
While we were finishing Dementium Remastered and gearing up for ATV Renegades we were also finishing up Mutant Mudds Super Challenge. We had experienced a lot of issues with press coverage and overall exposure in the past with staggered release dates of our games on multiple platforms and in different territories, and we believed this contributed to low sales numbers. We wanted to do it differently with Super Challenge.
On a side note: we partnered up with Nighthawk in mid-2015 to (finally) finish development of our delayed and much beloved Treasurenauts. However, development of Mutant Mudds Super Challenge had taken longer than expected and unfortunately pushed Treasurenauts to the side temporarily (yet again).
We managed to pull off a simultaneous March 2016 release of Mutant Mudds Super Challenge on 3DS and Wii U in North America and Europe, which was a very tricky thing to accomplish. Matthew pulled off an impressive feat with this and deserves much credit for making it possible. The overall exposure the game received due to the simultaneous release was great, and the game scored very well with reviewers. But, we made new mistakes that ultimately contributed to the games' less-than-stellar sales.
Many people were unsure exactly what the game was. Was it an expansion of the first game, like a mission pack? Was it a sequel? It wasn't clear. In addition to this confusion, we doubled down on the "super challenging" motif, which may have pushed many potential customers away. Maybe folks didn't really want a super challenge after all.
As with all of the games I worked on at Renegade Kid, I am very proud of the craftsmanship and effort we put into Mutant Mudds Super Challenge. We always put the game first and kept our focus on what was best for the experience. As such, I thought Mutant Mudds Super Challenge was an improvement over the original Mutant Mudds in almost every way – except it boasted an extremely high level of difficulty and perhaps not enough new features.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing. With sales of Mutant Mudds Super Challenge being disappointingly low on all platforms in all territories, I believe a normal level of difficulty would have been received more favourably by the majority of players that had interest in the Mutant Mudds universe. Our efforts would have been better placed in implementing new ideas to foster the concept of a sequel instead of a "Lost Levels" approach. The combination of an unclear message and increased level of difficultly ultimately presented an unappealing title, despite the game having received many glowing reviews.
Sadly, the low sales of Mutant Mudds Super Challenge were the catalyst for Renegade Kid's closure. Soon after the games' release, when the sales numbers were in, Gregg and I discussed the future of Renegade Kid. We had both been spread extremely thin in terms of our work load for the past few years, and the extra effort we were putting in wasn't paying off in terms of sales. We were hoping that either Dementium Remastered or Mutant Mudds Super Challenge would bring in some much-needed money to propel us to doing new titles in the future. ATV Renegades was a nice opportunity to bring one of our titles to consoles, but financially it relied heavily on receiving monies from sales on the back-end.
We were beginning to get into a pattern of always putting out fires in the form of bashing out short projects and/or developing ports of existing games with the hope they would bring in cash to help us develop new "proper" games – like finally finishing off Treasurenauts! But, it wasn't working. The writing was on the wall that one day this approach would soon start affecting the games negatively. Something had to change.
Gregg and I chatted for a few hours, considering many different options, and in the end decided that each of us going solo was what we both thought was best for the future. This was not an easy decision for either of us. We are great friends who have known each other for over 20 years. Renegade Kid is something that we created together. To say goodbye to it was not something either of us wanted to do. But, in the end we must work smart as well as work hard. It felt like we had only been working hard for the past couple of years.
From one company's ashes, two new companies were born! Gregg started Infitizmo, while I shifted my attention to Atooi, which was a company I formed in 2015 to pursue experimental mobile development – such as Totes the Goat (December 2015). We amicably divided up the various games we had development together over the past 10 years as Renegade Kid, with the "3D polygonal" games going to Infitizmo and the "2D pixel" games going to Atooi. This was a natural division of games, and something both Gregg and I could get excited about for the future. We released a press release revealing this information in August 2016.
We were still on the hook for ATV Renegades and Treasurenauts – each tied to Renegade Kid and our new companies respectively. The transition from Renegade Kid to our new companies was going to be interesting. We managed to get ATV Renegades feature-complete really well. All that remains now is finalizing the technical side on PS4 and Xbox One. It is a good game that I am proud to have been a part of, with some great improvements over the DS/3DS versions. I expect it will release in mid-2017.
Treasurenauts was a bit more complicated… I had started the development of Chicken Wiggle for Atooi. The intention was to develop a very small and quick title to release and hopefully bring in a little cash while I finish up Treasurenauts with Nighthawk. But, as usual, the scope of Chicken Wiggle blew up and inadvertently required more time to complete the game. The good news is that Chicken Wiggle is nearly completed and it is pretty darn great. I'll be dedicating 100% of my efforts towards Treasurenauts after the Christmas break, when we submit Chicken Wiggle to Nintendo for their approval. Nighthawk have been very patient and gracious partners, which I am extremely appreciative and thankful for.
I can't talk about 2016 without mentioning the Nintendo Switch, can I? No way! The reveal trailer that Nintendo released on October 20th was awesome! I was very impressed with the 3-minute trailer that showed off a cool-looking home console / handheld hybrid platform, as well as a handful of great-looking new games. Even though my current focus with Atooi is the 3DS, rest assured that we will embark on Switch development in the near future and will have something exciting to reveal in 2017.
Looking to the future, Atooi's 2017 releases will include Chicken Wiggle and Treasurenauts. Our gaming stable includes the likes of Mutant Mudds, Bomb Monkey, and Xeodrifter so you can expect to see more from these properties in the future too! I am excited and energized for my new path with Atooi, and look forward to bringing more retro-inspired goodness to the Nintendo audience.
Chicken Wiggle has the same curse that crippled - in Europe at least - Kirby Fighters Deluxe: just as the latter came out (again, in Europe) only after Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, thus killing the point of having a smaller game to ease the wait for Smash 4, Chicken Wiggle also has the misfortune of coming out long after the 3DS version of Super Mario Maker.
... that said, I also vowed to avoid buying Kirby Fighters Deluxe after playing Smash on the go, but after a while I bought KFD anyway. Chicken Wiggle has some better luck in that regard - if it comes with either a budget price and/or an online sharing feature, both things SMM3D lacks, I'll be glad to take the bait. Until then, my making on the go will have a mustache on its face.
So Treasurenuats is coming?
Good to hear.
I'm looking forward to seeing what happens from here. I love you guys. You make great games.
Will you guys ask the dude who is making the renegade kid 3D games if he plans on doing Dementium 2 remastered still? Not a word from him since the split.
Huh, I had hoped Mutant Mudds Super Challenge had sold better. It's a brilliant game and I love the challenge, though I agree that it is lacking a bit in new features. Will buy Chicken Wiggle day one.
At this point, I don't believe Treasurenauts will come out. It seems to just keep being put on the backburner at every turn.
Prove me wrong man, please prove me wrong.
Looking forward to Xeodrifter 2, Jools.
I hope Chicken Wiggle will sell well, it looks excellent. I loved both Mutant Mudds games, and it's unfortunate to learn they haven't found the success they deserved.
CW looks good
Wow @jools the business sounds tough to navigate through. I wish You success with future releases. I have bought all your games except 1 to keep support up for renegade kid. I will continue to support. I love the games you brought us. We had good times with ATV on 3ds and our weekly get togethers. You smoked us and I realized I would have to play a heck of a lot more to get that good. Dementium was awesome. I wish it had sold better for you guys. The 3d effect in it was some of the coolest effects on the system. It just looked awesome. Mutant muds was cool and I played quite a bit of it. But didnt buy the sequels. Im just not much into sequels all that often unless its an RPG type of game. Anyway best of luck you in 2017 and beyond. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
It's a shame that Renegade Kid as it was is no more but at least they were able to split amicably and it wasn't a result of disagreements in the team. I'll be keeping an eye on both teams' future works because I really felt that their games were a bit on the underrated side, with Moon Chronicles and Mutant Mudds being my favorite games from them.
I think you nailed the problems with mutant mudds super challenge for me.
I loved the look of the original on the 3ds, bit it was too hard. The idea of a sequel sounded great, but a harder sequel, that was really a 1.5 want appealing.
I've been waiting for Treasurenauts forever, and look forward to the co-op fun!
I've been meaning to get Super Challenge, I have the first game on my 3DS, Wii U and i0S. Even though it's gonna be MOAR of a challenge, i'll accept it when I do!
I'll also check out ATV Renegades on PS4. I played the 3DS version and enjoyed it, also it releases near my B-day, so maybe it'll rev up as a NOICE B-day gift
Thanks for your awesome efforts Jools, I hope you and the other guys the best in the future! Passion unfortunately doesn't always pay the bills but there are many people among gamers that appreciate that kind of drive.
I tried to support them as much as I could, but unfortunately, after trying Mutant Mudds, I just didn't think it was very good (sorry!). A solid game, but it just didn't do it for me. The 3D effect was nice, though.
I did get Dementium Remastered, too. It's... not very good IMO. It's by no means terrible. I think it would have sold a lot more if it was a bit cheaper, same with a lot of their other games to be honest.
I tend to do research on games before I buy them... especially when they're quite expensive. I'd have bought Xeodrifter, but £8 seems a lot for only a couple hours playtime. If it were £3/4...then yeah, maybe I'd bite. They never (or very rarely) ran sales on their games either, which didn't help. Also, I was a bit salty that they didn't release Moon Chronicles in Europe as I was hype for that.
Anyway, I think they were a cool studio that didn't get to reach their full potential. It's sad that they've split up. I wish them well in the future.
It's a shame that gamers are put off by a challenging game nowadays. MMSC was fantastic and provided some solid content to 100% it. I really wish more series would follow up with a challenge mode or something like that. I felt like it was truly for the fans, which is why it's so disappointing that it didn't sell well.
I have been waiting for TREASURENAUTS for so long..... I hope it finally comes out on SWITCH, WiiU, and 3DS.
I keep seeing and hearing about Chicken Wiggle, no actual gameplay videos... hard to be excited for a game you don't even know much about.
Lots of mediocrity from these guys. Mutant Mudds, Dementium, Moon, Xeodrifter. Plus that terrible ATV game on 3DS, and TreasureNotReleasedYet. Naut surprised people aren't handing over money to this guy anymore. I certainly won't be.
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