Indie City: Top Video Game Developers Setting up Offices in London
Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working together with London office specialist Stuart Neils.
When someone says ‘video games developers’, we normally think of the bigwig companies, such as Capcom, Blizzard Entertainment and Valve. However, countless smaller companies still work through the night, for months on end, in order to bring us their games. Many independent video game developers never make their fortune creating video games, and many others will only get one big hit out to the world before being bought out by a bigger company, but they are still there. Still striving to provide the video game market with fresh content to enjoy.
In the world of video games, you have four main types of game developers. First-party, second-party, third-party and independent developers. While first to third-party developers work either exclusively or partially with one particular publishing company, independent developers of video games – otherwise known as Indie Game Developers (Or Indie Game Devs) – are created without the financial support of an external video game publisher. These games are normally self-published out of pocket, or publicly funded via a campaign such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter.
Local Indie Game developers need your support, so why not take a look at five Indie developers with offices in London, a couple of which may surprise you!
Known for – The Stronghold Series
Firefly Studios was first established in August 1999 by Simon Bradbury, David Lester and Eric Ouellette, who had previously worked together on highly acclaimed strategy game releases such as Lords of the Realm and Caesar. The company focuses on Historic RTS (Real-Time Strategy) games for the PC and Macintosh systems, creating their first successful game series in Stronghold and its successors in 2001. Players of RTS games like Sid Meier’s Civilisation and Age of Empires will be familiar with the format of the Stronghold series.
The company was founded in London but now has other offices in Canton, Connecticut and a QA department in Aberdeen, Scotland. Firefly Studios released their first game for mobile devices earlier this year – Wonky Tower a physics based ‘tower-building’ game – a step away from their usual genre of games.
Known for – Plague Inc.
While Ndemic Creations only has one major game to its name, it has achieved highly acclaimed success with Plague Inc and its sequels (Plague Inc: Evolved – PC/Console, Plague Inc: The Board Game). Plague Inc was first created as a mobile game for Android and iOS in 2012, but was adapted into Plague Inc: Evolved which was better suited for the PC, Mac and Linux.
With over 10 million downloads on the original game and over 2 million reviews, the premise of Plague Inc is simple; you are a newly created virus, your goal is to infect and destroy the world. Collect DNA points in order to evolve the symptoms and abilities of your disease in your bid to take over the world. Ndemic Creations was initially founded as a hobby by James Vaughan in 2012. The company is self-funded and based in London.
Known for – Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Formed in 2001 by the creators of such mods as the Quake 3 Fortress, Splash Damage initially provided custom maps of the Quake games for companies such as Now TV and Gamer.tv. They then partnered with Games Domain in order to provide a number of multiplayer maps for their online gaming service, the most widely recognised being their map for the game Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Following the resounding success of these maps, game dev giants Activision and id Software actively sought out Splash Damage in order to get them to produce a number of additional multiplayer maps, which would eventually lead to the creation of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.
Splash Damage headquarters are based in Bromley in London although, in July this year, the sale of the company to the Chinese company Leyou was announced, for the sum of up to $150 million. It is not currently known whether or not the Bromley office will remain the base of operations for Splash Damage.
Known for –Plastiland
Zillion Whales is a game development and publishing company specialising mainly in mobile games for iOS, Android and other digital platforms. Their known releases are the Mushroom Wars series, Road Smash 2, Dungeons of Evilibrium and Plastiland. More recently they have been branching out into the PC market, with both Mushroom Wars and Plastiland having passed the Steam Greenlight process. Their head offices are in Kingston Upon Thames in Southwest London, and their distribution network spans the American, European, Asian and Russian markets.
Their game Plastiland was given the Indie Spotlight on Steam on January 14th this year, and has received positive reviews on Steam overall, with users calling it a ‘challenging puzzle game with beautiful artwork and graphics’. One user referred to Plastiland as the ‘present day Lemmings’, which is definitely high praise in the gaming world.
Known for – Fragoria
Datcroft games was originally founded in 2004 as Rusoftware, a Russian game development company, but later changed its name in 2005. In 2007, the company published its first game; Fragoria, a browser-based fantasy MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and in 2009 it began self-publishing games across Europe. The Fragoria game is still technically in development, with new versions planned and updates made to the game on a regular basis. The company’s headquarters are based in London, however currently there are also offices in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Voronezh, Barnaul, Bar and The Balearic Islands.
Indie games do not have any controlling interests or creative limitations as mainstream game developers usually do. They also do not require publisher approval, meaning that Indie games are free to ‘push the boat out’ and try new ideas when looking at innovative game design. Not everything works, but independent game developers are a crucial part of the video games industry, as without them, we would be stuck with the same (safe, but tired) game formula, never to strive for something different and potentially better than ever before. Some of the most successful games of today have been published by Indie developers; after all, how many people could have predicted the global success of Minecraft when it was first released?