This has been a tough year so far for many in the games industry, so, like many groups, we have been watching our backs! Anecdotal comments back from GDC San Francisco 2009 suggested that there were less people, and more developers urgently looking for publishers. One of our publishers has gone under and caused an already started project to be cancelled.
However we seem to be in good shape. Our entry into the iPhone with our Aya Go has given us a foothold there. Clearly creating iPhone apps is a area that it is easy to get into and not encumbered with slow or difficult acceptance procedures. However everyone has jumped on this bandwagon, and even the forced re-submission imposed by the advent of a new Apple SDK caused only a limited cull of the many thousands of competing apps there. Apple need to do something about this overloaded competition, otherwise serious developers will shun this device while returns are so low. Sony are planning a device to compete directly with the iPhone and we watch this with interest, particularly as the bulk of our work goes to Japan. We currently have a major Japanese 3D simulation game under development, now near completion.
Our new venture this year is Poker, as described in our newsletter article. Texas Hold'em is a very popular game and has been our most requested game title, so it was inevitable that we would add this to the ranks of our existing game engines. Texas Hold'em is one of those games which might seem superficially relatively simple, when compared to Chess and Go, but actually has great hidden depths. This engine is still being improved but is already a strong engine that can be put into use right away.
We will be at Develop Brighton, mainly for existing planned meetings, and for the first time will be attending Casual Connect Seattle 2009, July 21st to 23rd. The latter conference is tailor-made for our business, so if you are attending, then this would be a good chance to meet up.
This issue also has an excellent and comprehensive article by Reijer Grimbergen on the World Computer Shogi Championship, which we competed in for the 11th time since 1997. These events are fun and tie in well with our visits to our Japanese publishers. This year we decided to only enter right as the last moment, 2 weeks before the competition, as we were very busy. This put our preparation on a somewhat limited footing and we were in danger of coming unstuck as we entered on a modest Celeron single core 1.86GHz laptop rather than the usual fast PC. However, even though we might well have been swept away, we actually managed to hold our previous years 4 wins and 5 losses record, although our ranking reduced.
The event this year had moved to the much more convenient Waseda University in Tokyo, rather than the more lavish, but remote, Kazusa Akademia Center in Kisarazu, Chiba, some 70 minutes away from Tokyo. This was a much better place to hold the championships and will be hosted by another University next year. The location must have also been more attractive for the teams that are based in Tokyo.
Right now AI Factory is also getting involved in a new adventure game which will take our embedded puzzle apps, for items such as complex locks. This is still under wraps. We are also developing new puzzle games in general, suited particularly for mobile devices. These will not only provide puzzles but also puzzle generators.