The video game business doesn't seem to promote longevity. Dozens of development and publishing companies have come and gone over the decades, and this is a reality that the Tonic Games Group wants to face directly. Tonic's co-founders, Dave Bailey and Paul Croft, know that it is difficult to build a video game company. For this reason, they founded the Tonic Games Group to monitor several existing sub-labels (including Mediatonic, which they founded in 2005) with a focus on reliability. I spoke to Bailey and Croft about the latest episode of How Games Make Money, and you can listen to it here:
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Development of the Tonic Games Group with a view to long-term success
The Tonic Games Group offers the company the opportunity to grow without disrupting Mediatonic's business. Mediatonic is known for publishing games like that Picross visual novel Murder by Numbers. It will also be published upcoming 60-player online party game Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Mediatonic will continue to carry out these types of projects in the future. And under the Tonic Games Group, sister labels like The Irregular Corporation will focus even more on simulation and strategy games. And everyone under the Tonic umbrella will learn from the expertise throughout the company.
Again, the idea is to build something that can last. And Tonic sees an opportunity to do this by relying on what it calls "large-scale multiplayer experiences." Fall Guys is a prime example of this. But why are such games important for a "developer publisher" (that's the term tonic) who prioritizes long-term success? Because these are the types of games in which the developer has played a role for years after the release date.
"There is a great opportunity to develop games that will take a long time because the developer is critical to the success of this game," said Bailey. “Ten years ago, a publisher may have picked up and released developers once a game was ready. But suddenly the developer is intertwined with long-term success. And that's really the key for us because we were able to take over games that we still run and grow two or three years later. "
And although this seems obvious, it's not exactly easy to do.
You have to be good
The value of games that last for years is that they are more stable. You don't have to hire and fire staff once a game has been delivered. Publishers can also more easily predict what their earnings will look like. It is also cheaper to create and support a game than to create one game and then abandon it to create another.
With publishers realizing the benefits of live service publishing over the past decade, they couldn't just switch overnight.
"It took ages to get good at it," said Bailey. “Both publishers and developers have been trying to figure out how to do this for a long time, and many games have failed. The design process for a game that will take so long is fundamentally different from a single-player cinema experience with beginning, middle and end. "
However, Mediatonic started as a developer of web games. It was a work-for-hire outfit that worked with companies like Adult Swim and Sega. So it had experience with networked technologies, but also publishers built incentives into their contracts with Mediatonic. And that was a separate experience.
"We have found that (service games) provide us with more predictable cash flows because we have known for months that we will run these games," said Bailey. “But even when we got good at it, the publishers wanted us to invest in the long-term outcome of the games. So you would say, "We'll pay you royalties or other performance incentives to motivate you to do a good job." And that really meant that, as developers, we could … act more like an IP owner. "
And it is precisely on this strategy that Bailey and Croft are now building the Tonic Games Group.
Prepared for the next change
Another thing the Tonic Games Group is preparing for is uncertainty. A lot has changed in creating and playing since 2005. Facebook games have come and gone. The prices for mobile games have changed to the current form. And now subscription models are appearing on mobile devices, consoles and PCs.
"Change is pretty much the only constant in the gaming industry," said Croft. “The industry is going through a pretty big change almost every 6 to 12 months. We have launched the new consoles shortly, subscription services – things are constantly changing. And that was really part of our design in terms of how we built the group. "
The Tonic Games Group wants their labels to vote and stay agile at the same time. At Mediatonic, the focus is on flexibility.
"Mediatonic is quite unusual in that we don't really specialize in any particular genre or type of game," said Croft. "And that's really part of our legacy. We switched between all of these different platforms and business models – even though there were common lines of passage. But I think that depends on our resilience and our long-term structure. We want the group in decades and to do this in the gaming industry, which is a very volatile area, you have to consider (the unexpected). "