Australia needs local game publishers, and Surprise Attack aims to be one
Kotaku Australia's Mark Serrels has a written a fantastic article on Chris Wright and Surprise Attack, beginning with how and why Chris decided to start up a new company that offers his marketing expertise to indie games developers. When THQ closed their Australian studios, Blue Tongue and THQ Studio Australia, in August last year, and in the morning after a big night out of drinks with his retrenched workmates and thinking of what to do next, the former Marketing Director for THQ's Australian studios uttered his now immortalised words "F**k it, let's do it" and decided to go out on his own and start a new consulting agency for indie developers. A year later, Surprise Attack is now nine people and is the fastest growing new games agency in Australia.
What's most interesting about the Kotaku article is that it reveals an exciting direction that Chris is steering Surprise Attack in - that of being a publisher. The lack of publishers in Australia has been a notable weakness for the local games industry. Traditionally, publishers preferred to work with developers that were fairly close in location. As a developer, you were at a great advantage if you had publishers in near proximity to you since it was much easier for communication, for them to keep an eye out on you, and to keep publisher relationships alive, especially when the next contract was for consideration. And since many of the big publishers resided in the U.S, it was a hard task for local developers to sustain important ties to publishers offshore.
The amount of games publishers in Australia has always been dismally small, with the notable ones including N3V games and Tru Blu Entertainment. They're far from the digitally distributed and online focussed big names like Chillingo, but Surprise Attack believes it has a realistic goal of being something like that for Aussie games developers. From the Kotaku AU article...
(Chris) We’ve helped games get in touch with the bigger publishers when we think it’s in their best interests, but it’s not the same as having a local publisher that exists to drive the Australian industry. That is one of our end goals. We want to be doing this a year from now, and have it be our primary business in two or three years...
I think Australian gamers want to see a publisher in this country... And I think the devs need it. It’s our goal to be in this position
If Surprise Attack can achieve this goal of becoming a publisher and steer the direction of locally developed games, it would be a highly important and a much needed step for the local industry. We wish Chris and his team the absolute best of luck!