Micro Forté was founded in 1985 by John De Margheriti with co-founders Steve Wang, Stephen Lewis and John Reidy, making the Sydney games company 25 years old this year. Other developers who've recently celebrated birthdays are Melbourne House with their 30th anniversary earlier this year, and Blue Tongue Entertainment who hit their 15th birthday just a few weeks ago. The company who has the oldest Australian games developer title is the Strategic Studies Group (SSG) who released their first game in 1983.
As the Micro Forté staff celebrate their incredible milestone with a sailing race in Sydney harbour today (a nod to their first game, America's Cup Challenge for the C64/128), Atomic PC have published an interview with co-founder, John De Margheriti on their 25 year journey of ups and downs, how they've been able to survive all this time, as well as the current state of the local games industry. From Atomic PC...
What do you think about the current state of the Australian Game industry and where do you see it headed?
(John) It's full circle basically. The Australian industry is back where it was. This is similar to what the US industry was in the mid 80s where game development projects were one hundred thousand to make and required one to two people to make the product. So it's moving very much to iPad/iPhone, eventually HTML 5; it's game development moving towards flash games
John has cited the lack of Government incentives and support as having a detrimental effect on the local games industry, so much so that it could have prevented the recent closure of studios like Krome Studios. Also insightful are some of the grants that Micro Forté have taken advantage of in the past (some of which are no longer available or have been heavily downsized), as well as some of the new grants planned by Labor which games companies should keep an eye out for.
So how has Micro Forté been able to survive all this time? John explains how the company was able to diversify their games related business from setting up an educational instituion (The Academy of Interactive Entertainment) to producing middleware for the MMOG market (Big World Tech) which has helped bring in a steady source of revenue to ride out the cashfall and contract problems that been affecting local games developers. In fact, they stopped depending on publishers seven years ago.
For those smaller studios or those who are looking into getting a start up off the ground, John predicts that the next two year period as a limited window for small independent developers to establish themselves as things will inevitably get more competitive in the emerging casual / app markets...
(John) The key thing now is there is a window of time, a year or two, for people to start their development studio. You know, start ups of one or two person teams struggling away, before things get bigger. The reason there is a small window of time is because as more people enter that market the price point... the quality of the games is going to get better and better and people are going to spend more money, therefore its harder to get in.
Something that you could do with a few friends in six months all of a sudden requires a full-time staff of three or four people, and you need money for that. That's what's going to happen in the next two or three years. The Academy is getting involved; we have a few announcements soon.
As for the future, Micro Forté are looking into ways into incorporating their Big World tech for the emerging spaces like the iPhone/iPad and Flash platforms (which could include Facebook etc), and the AIE will also be announcing stategies soon too.
Congratulations must be given to Micro Forté for reaching 25 years of existence, it's an incredible milestone to survive this long considering the industry events that have transpired in the past two years. Be sure to read the full interview with John at Atomic PC at the link, it's an incredible insight considering his long tenure in the local games industry of which he has undoubtley been a very influential part of.