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Halfbrick's Deo On Going From Work To Hire To Distinctive Downloads

In a talk at the Digital Distribution Summit, Halfbrick head Shainiel Deo explained the Brisbane-based developer's evolution, its balancing act between contract work and upcoming PSP Minis titles, plus XBLA game Raskulls.
In a talk at the Digital Distribution Summit, Halfbrick head Shainiel Deo explained the Brisbane-based developer's evolution, its balancing act between contract work and upcoming PSP Minis titles, plus XBLA game Raskulls. The developer, which is known for creating DS titles such as Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island, decided to start developing a series of Xbox Live Indie Games titles to promote itself as a development company. The Xbox Live Indie Games -- with titles including Halfbrick Blast Off, Halfbrick Rocket Racing, and more -- were not commercially successful, Deo said. But they were good in getting Halfbrick's name out there, and have helped get feedback to iterate the games for other platforms. The company also also did a 'design a Raskull' competition for their upcoming Xbox Live Arcade title Raskulls, which is a platform action-based 2D title with elements of Mr. Driller-style gameplay. This got good community reaction, and that fact, tied with the high-quality Xbox Live Indie Games released monthly, have helped increase the game's profile. It's funny, Deo mused, that his company has actually been around for 9 years, and for 8 of those years they were a relatively anonymous work-for-hire developer. He said that Halfbrick would continue to work on new areas such as PSP Minis and iPhone titles, but has learned over just the past few months that self-publicizing has really helped all of the areas of their business. An interesting lesson from the Xbox Live Indie Games titles that Halfbrick released was that it was very easy to make these experimental titles too 'hardcore' and expert-specific. Deo stressed: "You need to make your games accessible." In addition, if titles are too hardcore, users can easily get annoyed with them and 1-star rate them, the Halfbrick head noted. This has pushed the games -- which are extremely polished -- out of the top 20 Indie Games by rating, due to 'love them/hate them' style feedback. But on the plus side, the solid overall polish and quality got all three of their XBLIG games featured on IGN's Picks on the Xbox Live dashboard, which helped notoriety. Interestingly, Deo revealed that there was a minimal difference between actual sales across the $5 and $2 price range for different launches of their games on Xbox Live Indie Games. However he felt that a $1 'impulse' price point is a different and potentially more enticing proposition -- though it may not have the overall revenue benefits of launching at a higher price. Finally, Deo pointed out that it's a good idea to get in early on new hardware platforms, as Halfbrick is doing for PSP Minis. Since the studio was announced as having multiple titles for the downloadable PSP game store -- with the first one to debut the week after the service's launch -- it's getting both interest and developer PR.

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