This Is Why Australian Developers Head To PAX East

PAX Australia takes place in Melbourne from July 19 until the 21st, so I wondered why local developers like Tinman Games would head to PAX East, in Boston, when we had our own PAX at home in three or four months. I worked out the answer to my own stupid question pretty quickly, but I still thought it was worth asking all the Australian developers I spoke to during PAX East.

The answer is obvious, of course — different countries, different people, different audiences. Just because PAX is coming to Australia, it doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile for Australians to head to the US to pimp their wares.

For Tin Man Games, the US Audience is especially important.

"We make most of our sales in the states," explained Neil Rennison, Tin Man Games' Creative Director. "The states in massive when it comes to role playing games and that's kinda what we do. This is our third year, and there is a noticeable increase in sales when we comes to PAX East. It's not a massive spike, but the awareness grows from it as well."

The US market is a unique one, particularly for Tin Man Games, who specialise in modern game books for iOS. For Americans the work Tin Man Games does is actually quite unique. Neil finds that he has to really grab the attention of PAX attendees, but the second he explains what Game Books are and how they work, people get very excited indeed.

"We grew up with it, but Americans had Choose Your Own Adventure, which was a bit different. So when I stand here and talk to Americans and ask if they played Choose Your Own Adventure? They say yes, and then I ask if they like Dungeons and Dragons. When I tell them what we do brings those two things together, they lose their mind!

"So to the American audience what we do is really new, even though it's very old!"


    What are Game Books? First time I've ever heard that term. But Choose your own adventure - I read plenty as a kid

      Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy series are gamebooks.
      Basically a choose your own adventure with dice.

        fighting fantasy?! did that have the talking sword? FUCK they were some awesome books

    I'm sick to death of IOS games made in Australia. GameBooks???? Really?? This is the best we can do? What a disgcrace. I want to see more Developer + Australia + Next Gen. But guess what? I'll never see that any time soon because Australia has gone to shit when it comes to non IOS/Droid games development. We need AAA titles back in Aus.

    Last edited 24/03/13 12:52 pm

      yes, because Australia has such a huge gaming market. there is a reason why pretty much all of our AAA titles developers are nonexistant. Its not just because publishers killed them off but there isnt enough academic support, appropriate demographic and then theres our overpriced wholesale and retail markets that stifle the games markets from what I have seen. Why would people risk spending money on something thats proven to fall flat on its face in the past when you can release an app that has low demands, low overhead, and only one or two distributor charges(whether you decide to go outside of the apple market and expand into windows phone or even android). If I had the talent, I would go the cheaper and more profitable path myself. the gaming market is changing and not for the better, but you have to make sure you have some kind of income at the end of the day

        I understand people have to make a living but we as Australians are so much better than lowering ourselves to simple IOS design. I want our talented game designers up there with the likes of Blizzard, Irrational Games, Square, Naughty Dog etc. It's frustrating to see what is happening because I know we are better than this.

          Chances are we have *TONS* of talent... and chances are most of them have all gone overseas.

          The basic problem is just a lack of support. Design is one thing. Having the funding to create your concept is another. The reason why we're "stuck" on iOS (which IMHO isn't that bad) is becaus its cheap and easy to get done w/o having the need for a huge publisher/grant.

          Until the day we actually get real support for the industry here then chances are talent will just shift to more "affordable" projects like Apps/IOS or they move off shore.

      You're probably not going to be able to start a venture like that without any external backing, a AAA game takes years to make, and requires hundreds of people. The costs, in resources alone, are immense to say the least. Add in overheads and you can see how big the cheque that needs to be signed is.

      Android/iOS games on the other hand are still much smaller scale in terms of time frames and resourcing requirements (although not always the case). It's a lot lower barrier for a studio to get formed and develop some games in this area, there's no certification process to speak of (other than paying your $100 per year to be an app developer), so there's no need to worry about studio backing (try and get a XBLA game made without a studio behind you!).

      Yes, we most certainly should be in the AAA game space. But without funding, and major funding if that, it simply wont happen.

      Maybe the Government will set up some funds like they do for films in the near future. But that's a big maybe.

      Unfortunately, that kind of development is only possible with a massive development studio and a massive subsidy from the government, or a massive publisher. With Australia's dollar so strong, we're just not as worth investing in then a well established studio in U.S or Canada where they get all that, plus the experience. That said, what we do with what we have is still really excellent, and let us not forget one of the most expensive games ever is Australian - L.A Noire.

      To be fair, the Tinman game book apps are very well done and quite polished. I have one of them on Android and it is fairly fun (if a little light on replay value). So what if mobile games are not AAA PC/console titles, the success of them can lead to that (take a look at Madfinger games for instance).

      I was aware of the Jackson/Livingstone books as a kid but never quite got into them, I think it was the dice and necessity of keeping stats written down that proved tiresome. However, I read a lot of Choose Your Own Adventure and loved the general concept, so playing the gamebooks in app form and having the annoying stuff taken care of automatically is refreshing!

      Turns out you need money to make a AAA game. Like, a lot of money. If Activision, EA and Ubisoft aren't willing to pony up several hundered thousand dollars to fund an Australian big budget game, then where do you expect the devs to get this kind of cash?

    *insert obligatory insult to start any internet argument here*

    You sir are a tool, no seriously! Why do we need AAA games in Australia when the studios that normally pump them out either restructure all the time or go belly up. In our country there isn't the safety net of a giant local industry to help save you when it all goes to shit and the reality is that the kinds of things you want cost a tonne of money to even start R&D for which on mobile platforms is only half the battle.

    If you want AAA titles for mobile to be produced in Australia maybe you should pull your head out of your ass and do it yourself.

    Last edited 24/03/13 1:15 pm

      While I think jedikilla's argument is absurd myself, I will give merit to the idea that Australian devs may be shoehorning themselves into the mobile dev space. Is there any wrong with mobile games? Absolutely nothing. However, at the same time, aspiring to be a small dev team from Australia should not mean being relegated to only mobile games development. What we've seen over the last couple of years is a critical shift from the "AAA" and big publisher funded titles to consumption of exceptionally crafted grass roots games (I'm avoiding the use of indie because that term is losing meaning fast), which is why I think his argument about Australia needing to develop AAA is bollocks. Instead, the argument that Australian devs should try and extend their vision beyond the mobile game space and into the ongoing paradigm shift in game development would have more credence, in my opinion.

      Last edited 26/03/13 4:28 pm

    U.S. Population of 319 million, or focus on Australia's 21 million. If they didn't go the the U.S. their product is going to have a bad time.

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