PomPom Games is possibly the most platform agnostic of all developers. Since the launch of Space Tripper as a downloadable PC title, the mostly two-man design team (Michael Michael does the art, Miles Visman handles the programming, while audio specialist James Drabble is also a regular collaborator) has spent the best part of a decade working on everything from the original Xbox's fledgling Live Arcade service to the iPhone. PomPom's games have even been ported to exercise machines - not a device with a particularly vocal fan-base.
With Alien Zombie Death, a typically frantic new shoot-'em-up, blasting its way onto the PSP Minis roster this month, we caught up with Michael to discuss the evolving face of the indie market, why PomPom rarely has much of a say in which platform it designs for, and what he thinks about Match 3 games (um, not a fan).
From the beginning right up to nowadays, it's always been tough for independents really. Everyone's always looking for that magic formula: everyone looks at games which have done really well, and then we try to dissect them, figure out what makes the market flow. God knows, frankly. It's been difficult the whole time.
There seems to be a misconception that we choose the platforms that we work on, too. It's absolutely not the case. We couldn't make an Xbox Live Arcade game now if we wanted to, most likely. A lot of these channels probably wouldn't take our games any more.
It's because the channels have matured, I think. They've become monsters. Some of the games that are on there now are way above our level of production. So, no, we don't choose. It's basically if there's any channel that will let us put a game on there, we'll go for it.
We could get a game on the iPhone easily, so we did Poppi ["wetly charismatic", we said - Ed]. With Alien Zombie Death, we could get a game on the PSP Minis, because we asked and they said we could and we did it. That's the reason we're switching around a lot: because we're forced to.
Things have changed, in other words. Originally, you made a game on PC, you put it out there, you contacted a few websites and then you started selling games. It was definitely simpler back then.
That's right. We got Mutant Storm out on the original Xbox, and that kept us under Microsoft's nose, so when the 360 came out, that was the idea for Xbox Live Arcade: indie games that were small, fun, different. That's how it was for a while. It was really cool being there at release.
The last few big Arcade games that have come out, though? When I look at the level of content in those games, it's amazing, really. The production values and the content is just amazing. After Mutant Storm, we presented Astro Tripper to Microsoft, and they didn't want it because the scope of the platform was changing, so we went to PSN.
But now as of our latest conversations with Sony, it seems like they're having the same kind of process. On PSN now, the bar is rising, so it's going to be harder and harder to get those kind of arcade games onto consoles.
What can you do? It makes sense, really, because the markets for these consoles are now so gigantic - tens of millions of online players - that the product has to reflect that.