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!


Endgame Studios's picture

Good luck to Chris, will be great if he can pull it off!

A few have tried and failed - some big names too. Others are trying now too - working on securing much OS funding. The issue has also seemed to be the massive amount of cash required to be a publisher. I haven't read the full article, does it say where he's managed to get the funding from?

souri's picture

Nah, there's no mention about funding, but I'd imagine that'd be the biggest challenge set for Surprise Attack.

Endgame Studios's picture

Yeh for sure. Oh well, maybe he found a few mil stuffed down between the couch cushions :)

Would be good to hear from the other Aussie companies that have had a crack in the past - maybe the timing is better now?

In any case, will definitely keep an ear out about this one. Should also open up many jobs for locals in this industry, which is also good.

anon's picture

THQ gave massive payouts when Bluetongue went under.
Being a Director/Manager, Chris received a much larger % and as such received enough cash to fund his venture.

Stephen Knightly's picture

PikPok in Wellington is already an iOS publisher, and NinjaKiwi have published some third-party online games too. I'm not sure that it took a truck load of money, just time. They got into digital distribution early and have built their audiences to the extent where they can share them with others.

souri's picture

Just as you mentioned it, Pik Pok released the trailer for a Twang the Fox which is another game they've published. I've known that Pik Pok were doing some publishing when they took care of one of my favourite iOS games, Monster Flip, by fellow kiwi devs, Launching Pad Games. Excellent, excellent game - Launching Pad did some really great work, but unfortunately they've had to go on hiatus. :(

It's interesting that Pik Pok are doing publishing, and I admire how they're trying a variety of areas outside of just games development. I know Mario's involved with games apparel and Sidhe's involved in the education sector too. Halfbrick have stayed mostly in games development (they're touching on plush toys and comics however), but they've gone into a bunch of new areas of monetization and have done pretty well (Chinese market, Xbox Live, Flash, free-to-play ad supported apps, in-app purchases). If there's one developer in Australia who could follow Pik Pok and do a great job at publishing, I would say Halfbrick would be it. They've got some serious brand recognition, know a whole bunch of stuff on marketing and monetization, and they also make $400,000 on Fruit Ninja free per month alone which is enough bank to take on a project or two ;)