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Hello Games' Murray: Get Risky On Digital Download

At Develop 2010, Hello Games' Sean Murray discussed the climate for downloadable games, prizing ownership, self-publishing and taking massive risks as the keys to success -- and explaining why Joe Danger came only to PSN.
Hello Games published its bright, toy-like motorcycle stunt racing game Joe Danger exclusively on PlayStation Network to retain self-publishing -- and because the studio, which was a 2010 Independent Games Festival finalist with the title, thought that PSN was a preferable climate for independent developers than Xbox Live Arcade. Speaking at Develop 2010, Hello Games' Sean Murray suggested that "the most successful games" on digital download are those that are self-published, and that Joe Danger -- which sold 50,000 units week one on PSN -- helps add proof. "Ownership" is actually a factor in how successful a game can be on digital platforms, he said -- Murray polled friends to see what titles they were most immediately familiar with on both XBLA and PSN, and found that the majority of the games they listed are ones associated tightly with their developer. Going solely with PSN for Joe Danger was "the only way we could self publish," Murray said, according to a transcript of his Develop keynote by ARG creator Dan Hon (Perplex City). "XBLA is kind of a slaughterhouse for smaller developers." "Download is populated by core gamers looking for something creative and unique. It’s what we wanted, what we loved," Murray also said. "I think it’s really important to stand out to make your own game. Digital download is populated by core gamers. For me, that’s great, they’re my kind of people. I understand what they want, I’m one of those people." Publishers, he says, may not quite understand that yet -- Murray described a pitch process where publishers were looking for card games, jigsaw puzzles and Sudoku, suggested Joe Danger be made as a Facebook app, and even said they wanted games that were "less about fun right now." "Playing safe is the riskiest thing you can do. If something was a good idea, it’d get in over a tickbox feature," Murray explained. "The titles on XBLA and PSN have that. Flower is risky. PixelJunk Shooter is risky. These are hard titles to pitch in the traditional sense -- can’t imagine pitching Castle Crashers," he said. "It’s because games on download... you are 100 percent relying on word of mouth."

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