With GameMaker under new ownership, some devs have long-term concern

GameMaker: Studio has a new owner, following a $16.4 million acquisition. But what does this mean for game developers, and how does the buyer intend to support the engine?

In a surprise move on Monday, Yoyo Games -- the company behind the popular GameMaker Studio game creation tool -- said it would sell off everything to a developer called Playtech, known best for its online "gaming" (i.e. gambling) software.

The news that the game engine would change hands in the $16.4 million deal understandably caused ripples of concern among developers who use GameMaker: Studio. This engine has gained traction as the basis for games such as Hotline Miami, Nidhogg, Risk of Rain, Gunpoint, Super Crate Box, and many others.

A representative from Playtech tried to ease developers' concerns, telling Gamasutra that GameMaker: Studio's pricing model will not change and that everything else will continue on, business as usual.

"Nothing will change on that front [pricing models], or any for that matter," the rep said. "We will continue to cater for and build on the loyal community GameMaker and Yoyo have developed, as well as investing more resources into improving and making the system faster, more efficient, user-friendly and appeal to a wider professional games developer audience."

But words of assurance in the near-term won't immediately assuage concerns for the long-term future of GameMaker, which is common when any company or product changes hands like this. Prior to the acquisition, Yoyo was making strides in making GameMaker increasingly relevant to modern, cross-platform game development. Now it's up to Playtech, a company that is in the gambling business but also in the casual game development space, to maintain support of GameMaker and its 750,000 registered developers.

"[I'm concerned about] long term support of the product," said Julian Pritchard, independent developer with Pandawlf, which is using the engine for console game development. His sentiments were not uncommon in the wake of the news. "…Other devs are using it since it's a really great piece of software, but I'm now wondering how well-supported my efforts are going to be."

Playtech said the Yoyo buy is part of a three-pronged strategy for the company: support for in-house game development; internal and external publishing; and a focus on game development technology (which is where GameMaker: Studio comes into play). The company has a year-old internal casual game dev studio called Plamee, which employs 120 developers.

"[GameMaker: Studio] will fit well with [Playtech's] in-house casual team, extending its expertise and know-how in the development of casual games, marketing systems and related infrastructure," the Playtech rep said. "This acquisition will enable Playtech to further diversify its business, benefiting from a combined B2B/B2C offering focused on a strong and growing segment of the wider gaming market."

Playtech said it would continue to make sure external GameMaker: Studio users remain a priority, even in light of its own internal game development and publishing business. The company said it is adding "more resources" to the existing GameMaker: Studio team and working on adding new features to the engine.

"The wider plan is GameMaker 2.0," the rep said. "This is under development and will be completed later this year."

While there is concern, it seems that game developers who use GameMaker aren't panicking quite yet. "[The] biggest worry is long-term, it needs commitment," game developer Rob Fearon said. "After the first year is done we'll see how things pan out, I reckon. [I'm] not worried for now though, partially because I've lived the dry times with GameMaker on multiple occasions, and saw it get pulled back to [being] good."

Sandy Duncan, now former CEO of Yoyo, had not replied to request for comment as of publishing time, but said on Twitter, "Thx to everyone for kind wishes on the sale of @yoyogames For those of you who are concerned, don't be. This is all GOOD. #watchthisspace"

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