Money doesn't tend to jangle in our pockets nowadays. It tends to thud against the sides of cloth before falling through a hole and down a grid. Which is bad news for games designers. Although gaming is still a relatively booming industry, there is only so much money to go round. Smaller designers are struggling to make an impact and they're looking for new ways to generate cash.
Jon Hare, owner of developer-cum-publisher Tower Studios, believes he may have an answer. He launches Shoot to Kill today and brings with it a different type of payment system. It is called Free for Freaks and it harks back to the old days of the arcade machines. Gamers can download Shoot to Kill for free but some game modes will offer you an option to continue. And this is where you'll have to start stumping up.
“What we're doing is giving gamers three lives for free every time you restart a game so the game plays like a coin-op where we put in the first coin for you,” says Hare. “But if you lose those lives, you'll be offered a Continue option and if you want to carry on, you need to pay. You could, of course, not pay and just restart the game and I'm sure some guys will get all the way to the end of Campaign mode without needing to buy extra lives. But hopefully not everybody.”
A wealth of games are due to be released for Tower Studios over the coming years and all with run under the same model. It is necessary, says Hare, because of the way younger players are approaching games.
“Most people under the age of 24 only play things online if they are for free - the market is changing rapidly,” he explains. “We live in a disposable culture where even if something is valued it will still often be discarded within six months. This is a way of getting people playing our games and hopefully making money along the line once they're into it.”
This only works if the game itself is any good and Hare certainly believes he has this part nailed. Shoot to Kill has been developed by Vivid Games as an arcade style shooter requiring a quick eye and quicker fingers. “It has some of the best graphics and sound ever witnessed in an iPhone/iPad game,” gushes Hare. “The controls system is simple, it's touch screen based and it's horrifically addictive. It appeals to some long forgotten primitive instinct buried deep within your brain.”
It has been produced for the Apple iPhone but other versions – for the Samsung Bada, Android, browser and iPad – are set to follow soon. Hare wants other developers to see it and contact him. He's on the lookout for fresh talent and he feels his model means a designer can get their own original games released as they want without having to deal with the politics of a traditional developer/publisher relationship.
“I've not been able to avoid politics since 1998,” he laments. “And as I get older I'd like to move into a position where I can mentor young, talented companies and help them to grow their businesses and make better games without all the politics usually attached.
“I have met a number of excellent up an coming development companies in the past year or so. We're living in a new era – for the first time in 20 years – where you can make and grow your own games intellectual property without risking too much money. You just have to be good at making original games.”
Tower Studios is not new. It was formed in 2004 with Hare and the legendary Bitmap Brothers. The company's main achievements between 2004 and 2006 were the ports of Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder on mobile phones. But will the new company be looking to revamp those games for the current crop of handsets?
“We will be doing classic licensed products on all of the platforms we support and we are in regular contact with Codemasters [which owns the publishing rights to the games],” he says. “I cannot say any more than that at present.” Yet Hare is looking at a remake of a classic game. “All I will tell you for now is that one of the other games in development at the moment is a sports game,” he teases.
He hopes the new company will release a new game on five formats every two months and the idea is to extend the reach to involve Sony's PlayStation Network and other consoles. “We would love to hear from smaller development companies with great projects that they want to get out, or that need kicking into shape for launch, or maybe they fancy working with us on a classic old license,” says Hare. “We think we're on to something very exciting here.”Reuse content