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Surprise Attack

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Australian-based specialist video games industry marketing agency, Surprise Attack, is expanding their operations to cover PC games. Spearheading the strategy is Surprise Attack's new Product Manager for PC games, Lex Suurland, a Former Product and Digital Distribution Manager of Iceberg Interactive.

During his time at Iceberg, Lex worked on a number of titles including Endless Space, Killing Floor, APB Reloaded and the Wings of Prey series, as well as growing the digital distribution side of the company and managing relationships with Steam, EA Origin and Amazon. Lex will be developing and delivering important services to assist PC game developers for Surprise Attack who have already been assigned on a number of PC projects from local games developers including Melbourne’s Current Circus and Jigxor, and Membraine Studios in Sydney.

Managing Director, Chris Wright, comments on the timely move of Surprise Attack tackling the PC platform...

(Chris) We started Surprise Attack with a focus on mobile games as that was the platform most local developers were working on. However, we always felt expanding to PC was critical and we jumped at the chance to bring Lex and his wealth of experience on board.

We’re already working with several studios on PC projects and are hard at work developing some new PC-specific services beyond our general strategic and promotional activity.

If you're working on a PC game, Surprise Attack would love to see how they can help you out. Contact them at www.surpriseattack.com.au!

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Submitted by Endgame Studios on Wed, 05/09/12 - 2:37 PM Permalink

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?

Submitted by souri on Wed, 05/09/12 - 3:35 PM Permalink

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

Submitted by Endgame Studios on Wed, 05/09/12 - 5:32 PM Permalink

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.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on Fri, 07/09/12 - 2:25 PM Permalink

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.

Submitted by Stephen Knightly (not verified) on Thu, 06/09/12 - 11:13 AM Permalink

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.

Submitted by souri on Thu, 06/09/12 - 1:51 PM Permalink

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 ;)

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!

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Let's Make Games is proud to present the Second Part of our Indie Games Marketing Course:

First Part can be found at:
http://youtu.be/0HAgTyib3TE

Indie Games Positioning Workshop with Chris Wright, Chief Surprise Architect @ Surprise Attack

Surprise Attack was founded by Chris Wright, a veteran of video games marketing with more than 100 campaigns executed under his care for publishers including THQ, Microsoft, Sega, Capcom, Disney Interactive Studios and many more.

Chris will take you through his highly sought-after two hour interactive workshop on how to "position" your game. Using a variety of unique exercises, this Surprise Architect will get you thinking about your games' hooks and themes, and how to emphasise these unique features within the global game market. Prepare to be delighted and astounded as you learn things about your game that you never knew (or perhaps were too humble to admit!), and how this information can boost your marketing efforts.

This event was brought to you with the help of our amazing sponsors:
Screenwest
& City of Perth

Music is "Tea Bean Bags" by Miró Belle, courtesy of Free Music Archive

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Morgan Jaffit - Defiant Development, Paul Callaghan, Chris Wright - Surprise Attack

Submissions to any funding agency go through a process of assessment and evaluation that involves those administering the funds and outside experts who bring a range of experiences and lenses through which to view the applications.

This panel brings together assessors who have worked for state and federal agencies, including Film Victoria, Screen Australia, and Industry and Investment NSW to share what they look for in an application, what works and doesn't work, and how to make your submission stand out.

MORGAN JAFFIT

Morgan is a game developer with over a decades experience in Australia and North America. He's worked for Irrational Games, Relic Entertainment and Pandemic Studios before co-founding Defiant Development in 2010. Defiant are current hard at work on Warco (a game about journalism in warzones) and Quick Quest (an action RPG for mobiles and tablets).

PAUL CALLAGHAN

Paul is a freelance writer and independent game developer who has worked in the games industry since 1998 as a programmer, designer, writer, and teacher for companies as diverse as Atari, Infinite Interactive, AIE, 2K Marin, Chocolate Liberation front, the ABC, and The Project Factory. An active member of the development and education community, Paul has presented on topics including writing for games, play, what education can learn from game development, and the fundamentals of game design at the National Screenwriters' Conference, GCAP, VITTA, TEDxMelbourne, the Emerging Writers' Festival, the State Library of Victoria, Screen Australia, ACMI, CAE, and RMIT. Paul is the director of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival and currently sits on the board of the Game Developers Association of Australia and the advisory panel for if:Book Australia. His writing on games, play, and storytelling has appeared online at if:Book Australia, Kill Your Darlings, ibrary, The Edge, and The Australia Council for the Arts, and in print in the Emerging Writers' Festival Reader, Newswrite, Storyline, and Meanjin.

CHRIS WRIGHT
Chief Surprise Architect at Surprise Attack - www.surpriseattack.com.au

Chris Wright is a veteran of video games marketing with more than 100 campaigns executed under his care for publishers including THQ, Microsoft, Sega, Capcom, Disney Interactive Studios and many more. He was the Marketing Director for THQ's Australian studios (Blue Tongue Entertainment and THQ Studio Australia) when they were closed in August 2011 and recently launched Surprise Attack, a marketing agency focused on helping independent developers promote their games. Chris has been a member of Film Victoria's Digital Media Assessment Panel since 2009. The panel assesses applications in respect of Film Victoria's Digital Media funding programs, providing recommendations to the Board for final approval.

http://surpriseattack.com.au/2011/11/23/top-tips-when-applying-for-gran…

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Chris Wright, the former Marketing Director for THQ's Australian studios, has submitted a piece for Screen Play's 'Your Turn' segment which describes the moment he decided to go independent and establish Surprise Attack, a consulting agency focused on providing a full suite of marketing services to independent game developers.

The day after he received the news that his work place of the last seven years was to be shuttered, and whilst suffering a hangover from the resulting staff drinks afterwards, Chris decided to say “F**k it, let's do it” and go ahead with his plan with Surprise Attack. Chris has provided some thoughts on why he made the decision to go this way instead of picking up a different position at THQ or work at another publisher, and gives his vision for Surprise Attack in the indie games development space. From Screen Play...

(Chris Wright) Traditional publishing tends to take a significant chunk of the revenue and control away from the developer. That bargain makes perfect sense in the console market.... In the digital world, particularly in mobile, that model doesn't really work so well.

My vision is an industry where studios bring in the publishing services they need – marketing, external production and quality assurance guidance, customer service, legal, finance and so on – but keep control over their IP and the direction of their games. The services bring the necessary scale – with multiple clients they have more clout, experience and presence – but the developer has the power to retain their creative freedom and the agility to adapt as the market changes. Surprise Attack is a step towards that vision in the marketing space.

Read more of Chris's 'Your Turn' submission at Screen Play at the following link...

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Independent games developers have come to the realisation that, apart from trying to do as much as possible in their particular area of expertise on their games, they need to wear many additional hats in unfamiliar areas like business, marketing, and sales. It's a sad reality that most simply do not have the time or even the necessary skills needed for these crucial areas.

Marketing has been an increasingly important factor for indie games developers, particularly in the crowded markets that many are trying to break in to, and one only needs to look at local devs like Firemint and Halfbrick Studios to notice how important it is for them when they have dedicated full-time staff to handle this particular job. When you're an indie and you're limited by funds or by what you can personally do, you cannot afford to have someone full-time with the expertise to successfully market your games and you'll simply try to fit in as much as you can in between your already substantial work requirements and more than likely won't do a good job of it.

Wouldn't it be convenient if there was a service that took care of marketing for you? Well, wish no more, because now it is available. Surprise Attack is a new consulting agency focused on providing a full suite of marketing services to independent game developers. It is established by games developer veteran and former Marketing Director at THQ's Australian studios, Chris Wright. Chris has executed more than 100 campaigns for publishers including THQ, Microsoft, Sega, Capcom, Disney Interactive Studios and many more...

(Chris Wright) As someone about to enter their fourth decade of gaming, I'm incredibly inspired by the current surge of independent development...

With this new breed of developers, comes the need for a new breed of publishing services. Our job is to make their games a success and let the developers focus on making fantastic and fun experiences, secure in the knowledge their output will receive the marketing support it so deserves."

One of the first developers to get onboard Surprise Attack's services is Melbourne based indie developer, The Voxel Agents. I've personally discussed the issue of marketing with a few Voxel Agent devs in the past, and it's definitely one area they knew they could do a lot more help with...

"We continue to grow and learn as creative game developers, but we still don't know marketing," said Simon Joslin, Creative Director at The Voxel Agents. "Chris will fill the void with research, strategy and product launch experience. It looks like a perfect match."

As part of the Surprise Attack launch, a beta trial is open for developers to apply and try out the service from October to December, 2011, at no cost. Select developers will be given guidance and help on: game positioning; competitive analysis and pricing strategy; brand and communications strategy; PR and publicity; co-marketing deals and partnerships; advertising; assistance with funding grant applications.

You can apply to be part of the beta trial at www.surpriseattack.com.au. Developers already signed up to participate in Surprise Attack's beta trial include:

The Voxel Agents (Melbourne), creators of the smash hit Train Conductor series
Bane Games (Brisbane), the team behind upcoming naval combat game Battle Group
Pixel Elephant (Melbourne), developers of recently released 'sokoban' title, Puzzled Rabbit
Small Green Hill (Melbourne), developers of upcoming platform puzzler, Ball on a Wall

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