In an exclusive interview with the International Business Times UK, Veteran AAA Codemasters group leader turned iOS developer Ben Murch stated that Apple devices currently rule the roost in handheld gaming.
Co-founder of Rodeo Games - the British iOS development house responsible for the top ranking Hunters game - Murch left his job developing AAA games at Codemasters to focus on developing for iOS devices. With the studio mere weeks away from releasing its follow up title, Hunters 2, Murch explains why he left Codemasters choosing to hedge his bets on the then-young iOS ecosystem.
1) Before we begin could you explain a bit about your background in the games industry - where you started and what projects you've worked on prior to Rodeo?
Hello! I'm Ben Murch, creative director and co-founder at Rodeo Games. I started in the games industry ten years ago at the Oxford based developers, Rebellion. After several Game Boy Advance projects, Tiger Woods Golf being the most memorable, they let me loose on 3D work.
Various PS2/XBox titles followed, which was possibly the best experience I've ever gained in my life. I was learning more in a week than the entire three years I spent at University! Criterion was my next port of call, where I worked on the Burnout series. Again, a great learning experience, especially in finding out how bigger publishers worked on the inside.
Post Burnout, I heard that Codemasters were setting up shop in Guildford to work on some exciting new IP [intellectual property]. A couple of years in though, when the iOS boom happened, it seemed like the perfect time to startup. Rodeo Games was formed.
2) Could you tell us why you left AAA development?
The main driving force to leave AAA was really to work with my friends in a small, creative team and make a game we all wanted to play. Myself and other co-founders, Laurent, Rich and Adam, are all huge fans of turn-based-strategy games. We also all had iPhones and desperately wanted something along the lines of XCom for them.
There just wasn't anything out there, so we decided to fill the void. As far as AAA development goes, it's a tricky question. Game teams have gotten to the size now where regular workers really are just cogs in the machine. Which is absolutely fine, but if you want lots of creativity and control, you're better off doing something smaller.
The current AAA model isn't broken, but it will have to adapt over the next few years. I see a future where the norm for console games won't be a flat $60 [£37.80]. Instead, you're going to see lots of different size games at lots of different price points. With services like XBL, PSN and Steam, we're starting to see the beginnings of it.
3) Why did you specifically chose to develop for Apple iOS devices over Android or even other alternative platforms like Facebook?
Simple; Apple was the safe bet.... Actually, perhaps it would be best to say the least risky bet! Apple has a singular store that everyone knows how to use. The charts are accessible and simple. At the time it was a fairly known quantity. We'd seen other companies have success on there, so we knew it could be done. Facebook as a platform is a strange one. It didn't (and still doesn't) feel like the people who play games on FB would be interested in what we had to offer. A good friend of mine said "You get really good on one platform, then think about expanding to others". We had a clear vision of what we wanted on iOS and set about delivering that.
4) Already consumers can get high quality games like Infinity Blade and GTA III on current generation Apple devices. Would you agree with analysts' predictions that dedicated handhelds like the Vita and the 3DS will eventually die out as multi-function devices like the iPad 3 and iPhone 5 offer developers the power to create high-quality titles?
That's really the million dollar question isn't it! I don't think so. I mean it really depends on so many factors. The DS was ridiculously successful, the 3DS will eventually be successful too. What happens with the Vita remains to be seen. I don't think it'll set the world on fire, but it'll probably carve a nice niche. Loosing the Monster Hunter PSP exclusivity over in Japan will hurt, but not kill.
What we are seeing these days is an evolving market of middle age gamers. As the teenage Sega and Nintendo crowd start hitting their 30's, situations change. Maybe high end portables like the Vita will become popular amongst gamers who now have children and don't have the luxury of playing big screen games all the time. You can already see Nintendo muscling in on the "family time" market with the Wii U.
For now though, Apple appear to be ruling the roost most suited to us. So that's where we'll stay!