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From Steam rejection to success: The story of Image & Form
In 2012, Sweden studio Image & Form received a short and to-the-point rejection letter from Valve. A year later, and with a different game under its belt, the company this time received immediate approval from the Steam overlords.
In 2012, Sweden studio Image & Form received a short and to-the-point rejection letter from Valve. A year later, and with a different game under its belt, the company this time received immediate approval from the Steam overlords. What changed then? Was it simply the quality of the second game? Says Brjann Sigurgeirsson of Image & Form, he believes it was the fact that the first game was originally a mobile title, and that neither Valve nor the press really care for mobile games all that much. "We were a PC and Mac kids' games developer for a very long time," he explains, "then we moved into mobile development in 2009/2010, and we released an excellent game called Anthill on iOS." The game was picked as Apple's game of the week when it released, and went on to receive tens of thousands of downloads -- but Image & Form's next step for the game was shot down fairly rapidly. "It was a dream to have it on Steam," says Sigurgeirsson. "When we released Anthill for iOS, since it was sort of critically acclaimed, we thought OK, we'll just put that on Steam, and we'll sell even more copies. And we were so surprised when we got our rejection letter from Valve." "It was so immaculate too," he adds. "The rejection letter was basically just a wall. It was a very short letter, saying 'Thank you, we looked at the game, we don't want it, please don't ever write to us again.' And so we were like, is there any way we can get onto Steam?"
But why was this? Both SteamWorld Dig and Anthill have received the same level of fan and critic acclaim, just on different platforms. Was it that the games press in general tend to shout about PC and console games more often than mobile games, and therefore Valve were more aware of SteamWorld Dig's claim to fame?
"Yeah, I think so," answers Sigurgeirsson. "Critics have been talking about the game as being a possible handhand game of the year contender, and that sort of has an impact I think. I believe the people at Valve have sort of tapped into that - they must have read it somewhere that this game is quite possibly one of the best games made this year."
But it's also the landscape on mobile that's to blame, reckons the dev. "You have such a short time period where you can flaunt your game on mobile, because everything is happening so quickly, and there are so many thousands of games coming out every day," he adds. "I think it sort of gets lost quickly." SteamWorld Dig
And then the team worried that bringing the game from an intense platform like the 3DS over to the big screen may not translate well.
"When you play SteamWorld Dig on the 3DS, it's so immersive," the dev reasons. "The time just disappears, because you're so into that little thing that you're holding in your hands. I was worried that when we made the PC version, was it going to be as immersive, or will you be looking around your living room while you're playing the game?"
"Luckily, I feel it's the same," he says. "But it was really a 'wow' feeling I got from playing on the 3DS. It's so immersive."
What's the next step for Image & Form, then? The Nintendo 3DS made SteamWorld Dig a success, but now that the studio is in there with Valve, is it going to become a PC developer?
"The response we got from the community and Nintendo was so great, that we promised that the next SteamWorld game is definitely coming to the 3DS," says Sigurgeirsson. "It's a promise that we intend to keep. if we decide now that we've become too important or too big for the 3DS, then we'll lose a lot in the process. Those people have been fantastic to us, and so we definitely will make it for 3DS."
"But maybe for the next game, we will try to be more of a 'real' game development studio, and see if we can't develop for more platforms from day one," he adds.