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Dec. 21, 2012 9:30 am

Pure Bang Games: indie game studio in Highlandtown looks to Barnes & Noble Nook, Kindle Fire

It would be nice for mobile game developers if every game they produced mirrored the financial success of Rovio’s Angry Birds, a game that took $140,000 to make but pulled in $70 million in revenue. Because Ben Walsh knows that isn’t the case, he’s more realistic about the capabilities of Pure Bang Games, the independent […]

It would be nice for mobile game developers if every game they produced mirrored the financial success of Rovio’s Angry Birds, a game that took $140,000 to make but pulled in $70 million in revenue.

Because Ben Walsh knows that isn’t the case, he’s more realistic about the capabilities of Pure Bang Games, the independent game development studio based in Highlandtown that he founded in 2010.

After a temporary foray into the world of Facebook gaming, Pure Bang made a switch to producing mobile games just over a year ago. But where Walsh and his seven-person, full-time team see an opportunity is in making games for the Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook tablets, as he explained at the Baltimore Mobile Meetup on Tuesday.

The advantage is on two fronts: competition in both the Fire’s and Nook’s smaller, siloed app stores (relative to the iTunes and Google Play stores) is less fierce, and each plays to a niche, somewhat captive audience. That, and if game developers can time game releases right, they can take advantage of boom periods in the sales of tablets.

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Founder Ben Walsh inside Pure Bang Games’ studio in Highlandtown.

It was last year when Amazon reported Kindle Fire sales of one million per week during the holiday season, and that was also the time when Pure Bang released Zombie Chess for the Fire. Zombie Chess was written in Java, which Walsh said became a “nightmare,” but his team finished the game in three weeks and got it into Amazon’s app store before December.

As for the Nook, Pure Bang has produced a series of jigsaw puzzle games for kids, something Walsh said grabbed the attention of both children and parents at this year’s Gamescape. Barnes & Noble, Walsh said, pushes apps for children, and therefore offers developers incentives—such as free marketing—to produce children’s apps.

Of course, developing for the Nook and Fire isn’t an answer to Angry Birds-like success in the mobile market.

Sales of the Kindle Fire this year are projected to be dismally low compared to how many iPads are expected to sell. And while Pure Bang Games continues to develop mobile games for the Nook and Fire, as well as iOS and Android devices, the money that keeps Walsh’s business profitable comes from their work-for-hire model, producing mobile games and websites for clients.

But a focus on where mobile games might make developers some money is a start. The reason? Investors in the Baltimore area aren’t keen on putting money into game development.

“In Baltimore, you have to prove you can monetize, then worry about audience,” said Walsh of investors here. “Games aren’t something they’re comfortable investing in.”

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Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist in Philadelphia and the former lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. Before moving to Philadelphia in June 2014, he was a contributing writer to Baltimore City Paper and a Tech Check commentator for WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore city’s National Public Radio affiliate. He has written for The Atlantic, Outside, Richmond magazine, Washington City Paper, Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Style magazine, Next City, Grist.org, The Atlantic Cities, and elsewhere.

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