Mobile Games Help Resurrect Vancouver's Video Game Industry

Mobile Games Help Resurrect Vancouver's Video Game Industry

By Gillian Shaw for The Vancouver Sun

Go mobile or go home.

That could be the new mantra of Vancouver game studios trying to survive and even thrive in an increasingly tough market that is seeing studios flee to Eastern Canada in search of lucrative tax credits.

Slant Six Games, one of a handful of independent studios that relied on big console video games, has turned to the zombie world to keep its fortunes alive with a newly released mobile game, The Bowling Dead.

And so far, indications are the move to mobile is paying off for the Kitsilano-based game studio, which has seen the game picked up by major publisher Activision and highlighted in the “new and noteworthy” section of Apple’s app store.

In the first month of its release and with no marketing beyond word of mouth, The Bowling Dead has already chalked up more than 110,000 downloads.

“Currently there are a lot more opportunities in the mobile and social space than there have been for the past couple of years,” said Brian Thalken, executive director and founder of Slant Six Games.

“With the mobile platform, it’s easier for consumers to play the game anywhere. They don’t have to be sitting in their living room in front of their television.

“They can play it on the bus, they can play it in the bathroom.”

While mobile games take less time and less money to create than massive console games, which can be more like making a major movie, there’s also the issue of how to make money on mobile.

To make money, Slant Six is seeking advertising revenue in the game and with in-game sales — players can purchase items throughout the game to help them complete the various levels. It’s a widely used model and combines free play with premium pay options — think Angry Birds and the ability to purchase reinforcements like Mighty Eagle to chase down those pesky pigs.

“You have the opportunity within our game to purchase items that will help you complete the game,” said Thalken. “You can complete the game without that but to make it all the way through, you’re likely to have to spend a little bit of money.”

The funding model for mobile apps also varies widely from the console games. For a company like Slant Six, in developing a console game it would, as Thalken puts it, “work for hire.”

“What we would receive in a royalty typically is very, very small compared to what the publisher would make,” he said. “If a game is being sold for $40 we would only see a fraction of the money.”

By contrast, The Bowling Dead is a free app in Apple’s app store and soon to be available in an Android version, but it has a list of potential in-app purchases that range from 99 cents and up.

“With Bowling Dead, it is our own original IP (intellectual property); we funded this game internally so any rewards we see through in-game monetization or app revenue is likely to be more than we would see from a console game,” said Thalken.

So far the formula is working.

“We have been profitable every year since we have been around,” Thalken said.

Thalken and Tuomas Pirinen, game director at Slant Six and another industry veteran whose video game credits include Need for Speed and other major titles, have been working with the games division of the industry group DigiBC to help unify B.C.’s hard-hit gaming industry to lobby the federal and provincial government.

“We’re not looking for handouts, we’re just looking for a level playing field,” said Pirinen.

This is an excerpt from The Vancouver Sun. Click here to read the full article.