The staff of Soulfire Software Show Off Their Games And Themselves At the OGDE Photo by J.J. Ulm
Unless you’re a game developer yourself you probably didn’t know that Central Ohio is home to several independent game studios. At the Ohio Game Developer Expo, held December 7th at the Ohio Union building on the Ohio State University campus, these developers got to show off established, new and upcoming games made right here at home. The popularity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad and devices running Google’s Android operating system has opened up an entirely new realm of opportunities for people looking to publish games without the backing of a major company like Activision or EA Games. Online distribution through the Steam platform has also made publishing accessible to those who never could have gotten their games out to a wider audience even a decade ago. It also means developers don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to get attention. The Ohio natives at Soulfire Software have chosen to stay right here at home. They were at the Expo with an iPad and an early build of their iOS game Thieves’ Plummet, a 3D action game where you guide your character on a controlled descent through a cavern lined with jewels. Most of the group are recent OSU graduates, though they founded the studio in high school. Their name, said company president Scott McPherson, was chosen as a statement of their ambition in the face of those who said they were too young and inexperienced to create games. At the Expo, surrounded by dozens of others taking advantage of all the new opportunities to create independent games, what once was teenage audacity seems more like foresight. But the big name in Columbus is FreshGames. Founded in 2002, FreshGames creates colorful casual puzzle games for PC and iOS. These sorts of games are notorious for generating social noise from your friends, but according to David, a Seattle native who came to Columbus to work for the studio, they have to be. “The reason you get spammed with social requests is it’s so expensive to get new people to play your game.” Small publishers don’t have the marketing dollars to get noticed unless they encourage this kind of word-of-mouth. Offering a free game with in-game purchases – say, to unlock all the hints in a puzzle game – is the best way for these publishers to thrive. “It’s just not really possible to make money off of paid games,” David explained. “Thirteen people will download a free game for every one person who will download a paid game, even if it’s only 99 cents. (In-game purchases) are the only way we can make money anymore. We always want to make our games free to play, we try to make as much of the game free to play as possible.” So look a little more kindly on prompts to share and purchase in games – without them, these small studios and their games wouldn’t exist. And remember that even something as shiny as a new game app for your iPhone can have local roots.

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