GameMaker and what’s happening with YoYo Games
I’m stuck at Southampton airport waiting on a flight to take me on my weekly trip to our office in Dundee. As usual it’s delayed, so I’m taking the chance to use my time effectively and write a bit about our strategy that has been long overdue.
3 symbiotic pieces.
YoYo is effectively 3 things. A web community, a publisher and a tools company. The three are inextricably linked by one thing, GameMaker. Our community and website is dedicated to GameMaker , we only publish games using GameMaker and the only tool we will ever sell or support is GameMaker.
We don’t consider these any of these three pieces as a separate entity. We firmly believe the success of one part breeds success in the other. The word that is used to describe this is “gestalt”… it’s a German word with no direct translation into English but most people explain “gestalt” as “The whole is more than the sum of the parts”.
A good example of this “Symbiosis” is to look at what’s happened recently. We set about creating a Publishing business. Almost every game that we have published so far has come from the community and the result of our (pretty successful) publishing efforts has resulted in us creating a lot of extra value in GameMaker. A lot of the changes we’ve made to GameMaker have only been available to the folks at YoYo in Dundee so far, but this is changing quickly so I want to use the rest of this post to talk about GameMaker and related developments.
GameMaker’s fundamental success lies in its elegant learning curve which allows people with no previous programming and/or game design experience to gradually acquire these skills. This is why GameMaker Lite is downloaded for free from the website more than a million times every year. Many of these downloads find their way into schools and colleges worldwide and although we have a heavily discounted price allowing these institutions to upgrade to GameMaker Standard many of them find that ‘Lite’ has all they need to teach games design and programming skills. Similarly many thousands of people every day download GameMaker Lite for personal use and find that it delivers everything they need to enjoy experimenting with game creation. This free and widespread use of ‘Lite’ almost certainly makes GameMaker the world’s most widely used Game Development engine. It’s something we’re very proud of and are dedicated to ensuring this not only continues, but becomes ever more popular.
When we launched YoYo Games in 2007 we made a fundamental mistake. We hadn’t found the right technical experts to support and develop GameMaker and it took us almost 3 years to get the right people on board. Those of you who have been using GameMaker for a few years now may remember that we launched GameMaker 7 in early 2007 and didn’t issue a single bug fix or update for almost two years when we released GameMaker 8.0. Even then we didn’t release many fixes or updates for the next 6 months. Now, with GameMaker Standard 8.1 we are issuing updates and fixes almost every week. We haven’t been able to do this for free and we subsequently increased the price of GameMaker Standard from $25 to $40. The reaction to this price change was mostly positive, sales have actually increased, not just in total revenue but unit sales have increased by about 50% since we increased the price!
For those of you who are concerned that we’re neglecting our roots I want to take this opportunity to reassure you that this is absolutely not the case. At the time of writing we are just stating on a complete rewrite of GameMaker that will be launched next year. I don’t now exactly when this will ship but you can be certain of lots of new features and capabilities in EVERY edition of GameMaker. There will definitely be a ‘Lite’ edition which will still be free and we have no plans to increase the price GameMaker Standard again. We’re not forgetting users of GameMaker Mac either as GameMaker 9 will also run on OSX. At that point, we OSX users (including most of us at YoYo Games), will have the same version of GameMaker as Windows users. We have no plans at this time to include a Linux GameMaker, though we ARE looking at the possibility of having a Linux version of our C++ runner sometime next year.
We have a lot of other things happening with GameMaker in the next few weeks and months. These are all designed to EXTEND the appeal of GameMaker to more of the “Indie” developers. The Indie sector is the most exciting and fastest growing area for games and we want to make GameMaker a tool that can be seriously considered by professional and semi-professional developers. In doing this WE ARE NOT DESERTING OUR ROOTS, in fact quite the opposite. By extending the reach and capabilities of GameMaker we’re saying that you can start with a free and powerful game development tool, and if you’re good, you can then pursue the opportunity to publish your games on Itunes, Android Market, Ovi Store, Playstation Network, Steam, Web Portals, etc. We think this is EXCITING for the community! We use GameMaker for all of our games and so far we’ve had a No1 free download on iPad (Simply Solitaire HD), Top 30 Metacritic ratings (Mr Karoshi) and a Top 5 game on Android Market, “They Need to Be Fed”. Living proof that GameMaker can be used to create successful, professional games.
With the launch of GameMaker: Studio later this year you’ll be able to publish your own games on iTunes and Android Market. Studio will also make it easier for you to work with other people on your game. We’ll also include better tech to allow you to publish Windows and Mac versions of your games in places like Steam and Apple’s Mac App Store.
With GameMaker:HTML5, which will ship later this month you will be able to target the huge opportunity for HTML5 games.
We’ll continue to publish some of your games too and share the revenues with you. We’re working on making it easier for you to contact us for publishing opportunities, but I’ll write about that in the next couple of weeks ina separate post.
In summary, GameMaker is the centre of everything we do at YoYo. We’re not deserting our basic principles that GameMaker should start as a free program and we’re not intending to keep increasing the price of GameMaker:Standard. We’re trying to extend the appeal of GameMaker to professional developers with GameMaker: HTML5 and GameMaker:Studio editions which will both be out in 2011. In 2012 EVERY version of GameMaker will get a complete rewrite (and many new features.