Atomicom turns to Kickstarter and PlayStation Mobile in a bid to escape the 'horrible model' of traditional publishing

MD Gary Nichols: 'We got ripped off too many times'

Atomicom turns to Kickstarter and PlayStation Mobile in a bid to escape the 'horrible model' of traditional publishing
In 2011, Liverpool-based developer Atomicom launched Switch, an endless racer for Android and iOS.

It wasn't a massive success. 

Now, the Merseyside studio is revisiting the project, redesigning and re-polishing ahead of its Q4 launch on Sony's PlayStation Mobile platform.

What's more, the busy team is also running a Kickstarter campaign to fund its new game, Super Off-Road.

But now that "every man and his dog" is running Kickstarter campaigns, the gaming press is less inclined to cover them. And let's face it; Sony's track record with mobile platforms isn't exactly glowing.

To find out how Atomicom was handling all this uncertainty, we spoke with the company's managing director, Gary Nichols.

Pocket Gamer: What attracted you to the PlayStation Mobile program?

Gary Nichols: Our background is console development, and both CTO Mike Clarke and I were former employees of Sony/Psygnosis during the glory days of the PlayStation so it's always appealed to us to have our content on Sony formats as there is a personal connection.

The game we're doing is based on an Android game we released last year called Switch.

Since its release Sony has used it to demo the new Walkman device at CES 2012 and they've also asked us to adapt the game to work with the Xperia Play handsets.

People have really taken to the game and we had lots of great reviews about it but it's failed to get a huge amount of traction on iOS/Android so we jumped at the chance to improve the game and bring it to PSM.

Sony hasn't always done a stellar job of managing its sub-stores so how much faith do you have in this new approach?

We are worried about it of course, but one thing Sony never does is skimp on its marketing.

So, even with the terrible news this week about Studio Liverpool's closure, we're confident that Sony will do a great job on PSM as they just have to, don't they?

The fact is, mobile is the future and Sony needs to be a part of that.

We've also got a great deal with Sony, so after a period of exclusivity we're free to launch the game on other devices and platforms, so it's a win-win situation for us. Hopefully we can also get the game on PS3 at some point in the near future.

Does the limited success of the PS Vita to date concern you at all?

Not really. We know a few companies releasing games on the PS Vita and as long as your budgets aren't massive you can make a return, so we're very excited.

Also there is not a huge amount of product there so new games coming out can do well because of the lack of content.

And we don't have a huge team so we don't have to sell a huge amount to break even either. Keeping lean means we can try new platforms and business models and not have to worry too much if they don't do as well as we hope.

You're currently attempting to crowdfund the development of a new game on Kickstarter. Why?

We were looking at Kickstarter last year as our producer on Bang Bang Racing funded a film through the site so it was always on our radar.

Earlier in the year we tried the traditional approach but have yet to find a bank that will actually loan any money even though we have distribution deals in place, deals with Sony, RIM, Lenovo, LG and millions of downloads of our products. We still get treated as a risk by the banks so the traditional model just doesn't work.

Back in February we submitted our concept for Super Off-Road to Kickstarter and it was accepted, but even that has its challenges, and we probably waited too long to launch it.

Since we were accepted all the big stories have happened – Double Fine and Carmageddon for example – so every man and his dog has a Kickstarter and the press is flooded with requests from these campaigns wanting coverage, so it's very hard to get noticed.

We've received some amazing feedback from people on various forums and direct messages from backers, but Kickstarter seems a very hit and miss way to raise money.

We're trying not to put all our eggs in one basket – although we’re pretty sure Charles Cecil just broke most of our eggs by accident with the launch of the awesome Broken Sword Kickstarter.

We also wouldn't like to go back to working with a traditional publisher on a milestone basis. That's why we came to mobile to get away from that as we got ripped off too many times through that horrible model.

What proportion of the game's overall budget are you hoping to source from Kickstarter?

In an ideal world we would have liked to have achieved $250,000 in funding but we know that's not very likely. We want to release a console version ourselves without having to bring a third party publisher in to help fund that SKU and that's what we would need to raise to publish that ourselves.

For now we are looking for $30,000 – about 25 percent of the games budget to finish the game.

This money would have been put into polishing and giving us some bandwidth to make everything perfect in the game as we need to do everything we can to get the game featured by Apple.

What's the plan B if the Kickstarter community doesn't come through with the cash?

Well, we never thought Kickstarter would be the answer to all our funding issues so we haven't gone in blindly with no contingency plan.

We have invested enough into the game to get it finished without the Kickstarter funding but it's going to take us much longer to finish as other paying work would have to come first and some of the content may not be as polished as we would want it to be.

We may also release a PC demo in the near future and then try and run the Kickstarter campaign again, we could even be one of the first on the new UK Kickstarter site so may get a lot more coverage through that.

One other route we're thinking about is trying to leverage our current deals and contracts to get some funding from an angel investor or one of the new creative funds that have launched in the North West.
Thanks to Gary for his time.

You can check out the Kickstarter for
Super Off-Road here

Staff Writer

PocketGamer.biz's news editor 2012-2013