Small Business: Game developers - Chris Blackbourn

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Chris Blackbourn, founder, Modka Games.
Chris Blackbourn, founder, Modka Games.

Chris Blackbourn, founder, Modka Games, based in Waipu.

How would you define what you do?

We believe that successful technology is fundamentally about people.
The purpose of Modka Games is to make games that bring people closer together.

How did you get into games?

I started in the game industry about 20 years ago with Acid Software on Auckland's Karangahape road. My first published game was called "Skidmarks" and was a number one title for a while in the UK.

Since then I've been overseas and worked for AAA developers such as Lionhead, Electronic Arts, BioWare and Ubisoft.

Over the way I worked on some amazing titles, like watch_dogs, Mass Effect, and Black&White2 with Peter Molyneux.

What success have you had so far with Modka Games?

Our debut title is called ScooterBoy. We launched on 7 November on the Apple App Store. We're getting a fantastic response from actual players, but we've been struggling with the marketing aspects. The biggest problem we face at the moment is that gamers who would love to play our game but simply don't know that we exist.
A point of particular frustration has been Apple NZ's refusal to include us in the "Made In New Zealand" category of the App Store.

What are your plans in the next year?

We're actually in the midst of planning for the next year right now. An Android port seems likely. We're also imagining what kind of gameplay the ScooterBoy characters and the ScooterBoy world might look like as a multiplayer experience.

How do you protect the IP of your games?

In the gaming industry, things move so fast, fighting to protect your IP, while flattering, can seem futile and a little antiquated. For example, our game was hacked multiple times by different groups within it's first week of launch, and remember this is a free-to-play game!

In this industry, the best way to protect your IP is to innovate faster than the competition.

Would you like any more support than you are getting from the industry or the Government?

Yes. The games industry in NZ is an almost perfect export industry. We take tiny resources in terms of land, raw materials, mostly coffee and turn them into digital software which is then sold electronically around the world. I'd love for the Government to recognise this and get behind us with grants, tax credits and other incentives, with a goal of enabling more Kiwi developers to bring their games to market.

Do you meet up with other game developers from time to time?

Yes, I try and get to the monthly Auckland Game Developers Meetups. It's a great way to stay connected with the energy and excitement of the indie game creation scene.

Why does developing games suit you?

I've been making video games since I was 13, I can't imagine doing anything else!

Anything else you would like to add?

Download ScooterBoy! It's free!!


Next week: Now is a key time for every retailer out there as well organised types are shopping for family overseas and at home. A recent news report said that retailers weren't going to be hiring more staff in the run up to Christmas, they would just be working harder. Is this true in your case? How do small businesses motivate and manage staff at this crucial time of year?

- NZ Herald

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