A pleasant sit down with the CEO of Hothead Games over subjects such as digital distribution.
by Just Adventure
June 1, 2008
How does the roll-out for a digital distribution game differ from the roll-out for a brick-and-mortar game?
Well, to be honest, I think we are still learning that one! Traditionally, a developer finishes a game and then goes on vacation only to return and begin a new game production. We finished our game and then the work REALLY started!So far, there are a lot of reasons to love digital distribution. We can update the game and all customers from that day forward get the new and improved edition. Those that already have the game can simply download it again. These are great benefits for us and for gamers.
The interesting surprise for us is just how many people want to have a physical product. For whatever reason, the move to digital with music has not suffered as much — perhaps because there was a transition from the old LPs and cover jackets to a much reduced CD with liner notes and now . . . nothing. With games, people still have fond memories of old time favorites including cloth maps and other nice editions to the game box. However, most of today’s gamers are lucky to get a game manual of any sort, so perhaps that transition is happening with games as well.
Digital can mean faster game releases and lower costs but I can understand the appeal of having something physical to keep. Heck, I still have the original Faery Tale Adventure for my Amiga behind me in the LP-like liner — it was my Zelda (as I did not have a Nintendo back then).
What was the deciding factor in digital distribution only?
Digital distribution is really changing how content is being used by people. We are not far off being able to choose what shows to watch and when — i.e. the consumers choose what they are going to have and how they are going to have it. Some people already have that with the different methods available, but to do it legally and mainstream? That is still not there. Hothead really believes in those kinds of choices which is why, besides good business reasons, you are seeing us bring our games to market digitally and to many different OSs and platforms.
It is also very expensive to take a game to retail which is why we are seeing more and more polarity between large 'tent pole' game productions and small, online casual ones, with nothing in between. At Hothead, we want to sell smaller, less expensive retail-like games — but directly online. This allows us to charge people less, still make enough money to continue making games and most importantly, explore game designs and genres that can not sustain the high costs of a traditional retail release.
It’s important to note that our games may eventually be released at stores and, in the future, they may even be released at the same time as they are offered digitally — it depends on the game, really. You are seeing some film studios experiment with a DVD release at the same time as box office and I imagine the next step for them would be to make it also available online at the same time. The same goes for us.
How far apart will episodes be released?
We are well into Episode Two and have started work on Episode Three as well. We are aiming for a release every four months or so, but there are a lot of logistics to work out because we are also supporting our games on game consoles, not just PC platforms.
Has any thought been given to eventually releasing a boxed compilation of the finished series?
Yes, this is certainly in the plans. Just as HBO will take a series to DVD compilations, we have plans to do likewise. However, we don’t know how long it will take us to get to that stage and it will require a partner. Hothead is going to focus on digital distribution for the foreseeable future. We may do a combination where we have collector’s editions of our games as well, but we are still working out such details.
Is Greenhouse Interactive looking for episodic games only or also stand-alone projects? And how would an independent developer contact them?
Greenhouse is a separate company from Hothead. Although we are currently involved with the service day to day, Hothead is going to focus much of its energy on episodic development and Greenhouse is certainly not. Greenhouse's mission is to help bring independently produced games and gamers together and that shouldn't limit the kinds of projects developers submit at all. Indie developers can write to gdunn [at] playgreenhouse.com for more Greenhouse information.