Interview

Why GameMaker Studio's YoYo Games is getting into indie publishing

Why GameMaker Studio's YoYo Games is getting into indie publishing

The word Indie certainly seems to be the buzzword over at Dundee-based games outfit YoYo Games right now.

May saw the engine developer kick-start a new indie games publishing division for developers using its tech, which is headed up by former Outplay Entertainment senior producer Chris Trewartha.

Following on, August saw the launch of an open beta for a Nintendo Switch edition of GameMaker Studio 2 with the full commercial launch coming in September.  

Providing some shine on the announcement was a slew of Switch ports for indie darlings Undertale, Minit and Hyper-Light Drifter.

As such, we took the opportunity to catch up with General Manager James Cox at Gamescom recently to find out more about it all and where things go from here. 

PocketGamer.Biz: How has 2018 been for YoYo Games so far?

James Cox: It’s been a good year so far. We’ve had the release of the Switch version, which is now in open beta for GameMaker Studio 2 and it’s been very well received.

We’ve also had a whole lot of GameMaker developer games coming to Switch, some of which are announced and some of them are not, like Undertale, Minit and Hyper-Light Drifter.

We’re now into our second year with the education version of the engine and we see some good retention, so plenty of happy schools, colleges and universities there.

We’ve also got more things coming for the second half of the year and next year, so it’s been a positive first half of the year for us.

What was the thinking behind the new publishing arm?

This comes from something that is an extension of what GameMaker has been trying to do for years, which is making the next generation of games developers.

It’s a more accessible entry point for programmers, artists and designers to come in and start making games and make 2D games very quickly.

Then, of course, as people come from education or a hobby, they start making and releasing their games. And so, the next logical step is to try and help some of them with publishing.

Minit, developed by Jan Willem Nijman, Kitty Calis, Jukio Kallio and Dominik Johann, was initially released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One before making the jump to Nintendo Switch

Helping them get the exposure for their games, get people to see their games on a wider stage, we have a large community who are not only interested in making games but playing them too.

There has to be a certain amount of dedication and professionalism from the point of view of finishing and polishing their game.
James Cox

So we can help people get that exposure for their games. So that was something that we had been thinking about for a while, but we needed to establish GameMaker Studio 2 and make sure we got a lot of things in there that we needed.

But now we’re at a good stage this year to put some of our attention into helping people publish their games.

What kinds of developers are you looking to work with?

GameMaker developers of course. Other than we’re very open.

We don’t really want to put heavy criteria on the types of games that we’re going to publish because indie developers and these early developers have all sorts of ideas, some of them amazing some of them, maybe, slightly crazy or strange.

But, there are a lot of interesting games made with GameMaker, so we’re trying to keep that fairly open.

That said, people need to be able to finish their game. There has to be a certain amount of dedication and professionalism from the point of view of finishing and polishing their game.

Not necessarily that they’ve been a professional developer before or any such criteria like that, but certainly as developers, we need to see a certain amount of dedication.

What was the inspiration behind adding Nintendo Switch functionality to GameMaker Studio 2?

That was completing the console feature for us, as we had PS4 and Xbox One and so Switch was the next logical step.

Being able to partner with Nintendo officially on that was great for us. It meant that we could work very closely with them and that we could make sure that GameMaker was the best it could be on the Switch.

Heart Machine's Hyper-Light Drifter

And it’s a natural place for indie games to be now. They’ve been welcome on Xbox and PS4, but now Nintendo has been very welcoming to the indie developers on Switch.

We have an ongoing ecosystem there that we think we can apply to the indie publishing model.
James Cox

There’s certainly been a push towards Nintendo Switch for indies, why do you think this is?

It’s a great machine. It marries that portable feature with a dock for the TV, so I think it has an aspirational value for indie developers.

And hey, we are cross-platform and we love all consoles, they’re all great and slightly better at different things.

The Switch, I think, especially with the eStore is now bigger. Digitally delivering your title fits well.

How do you see the publishing and developing landscape changing as we reach the end of 2018?

There are a lot of indie publishers out there and there are the big guys as well, some of which as dabbling in the triple-I type publishing.

It’s not for us to comment on everybody else, but I think for ourselves we have a big community of developers making games with GameMaker.

Toby Fox's Undertale

We have a successful tools business, and we certainly have lots we still want to do as GameMaker isn’t perfect, there’s plenty more we want to do with it and our community tells us so.

But we have an ongoing ecosystem there that we think we can apply to the indie publishing model and therefore have a stable tools business and a stable indie publishing business, so that the developers who use our tools can take advantage of that.

That’s something that is unique in the indie development scene. That stability of tool and publisher is going to be important to us and that’s where the instability that you often get with publishing and indies both big and small, we can help stabilise that a bit.

Staff Writer

Iain is a freelance writer based in Scotland with a penchant for indies and all things Nintendo. Alongside PocketGamer.Biz, he has also appeared in Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun, PCGamesN and VG24/7.

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