Last month, Australian Fruit Ninja developer Halfbrick detailed its plans to open a second development studio in Sydney, revealing that the new team would initially work on the Fruit Ninja franchise before possibly branching out and creating its own titles.
"The focus [of the new studio] remains to be seen," Halfbrick's marketing director, Phil Larsen, told GameSpot AU at the time. "At first, the new studio will just take on some Fruit Ninja work…different games we could be making, additions to current games, etc. We're also looking to get the new studio to branch out and start its own titles. We like to let all the teams have creative control."
The details of the new studio's projects still remain unconfirmed, despite the NSW government's announcement today that Halfbrick is planning a new instalment in the Fruit Ninja franchise to be developed by the Sydney branch.
The announcement was made by NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, who revealed that Halfbrick's new studio comes as part of the state's A$3 million Interactive Media Fund. In a press statement, Stoner described Halfbrick's new project as "the next evolution of the Fruit Ninja games franchise":
"The new Sydney team will develop the next evolution of the Fruit Ninja games franchise. The new game will involve players launching a series of fruit to knock ninjas off their towers in a 3D world, with each fruit having special powers. The game, due out in 2012, will initially be developed for Apple's iOS mobile operating system, but will later be provided for other platforms, including Android."
But according to Halfbrick, no such project yet exists. At the moment, all that is confirmed is that the Sydney branch will work on some aspect of the Fruit Ninja franchise.
"At this stage, we are beginning the prototyping phase of our Sydney-based Fruit Ninja project, and all gameplay details are still completely unconfirmed," Larsen told GameSpot AU today.
"We'll be making something new, and it will be a great addition to our Fruit Ninja franchise, but the game could definitely take many different directions--the team is just getting started, and game development is a long and complicated road! Very early days, so the only official word from Halfbrick is that it will be Fruit Ninja, and it will be awesome. We will have more to share in 2012."
The Interactive Media Fund--formerly the Digital Media Initiative--is a scheme that supports the creation of new digital content designed for commercially oriented projects with a renewed focus on interactive content. Stoner said the fund will support creative digital content, including games and transmedia projects, over the next two years.
"This fund will help NSW build its share of the high-value digital games sector, which will be increasingly important in developing serious business and education tools, as well as entertainment games, like the latest Fruit Ninja project."
Although Halfbrick has been around for 10 years, the critical and commercial success of Fruit Ninja--which was also launched on Microsoft's Kinect platform in August--put the studio in the spotlight, leading it to expand its operations.
Fruit Ninja recently surpassed over 100 million downloads across all mobile platforms; Fruit Ninja Kinect is currently sitting at 25,000 downloads.
UPDATE: Stoner's office has responded to GameSpot AU sister site ZDNet Australia in a statement, saying the information quoted by the Deputy Premier was sourced from Halfbrick during the negotiation phase of the Interactive Media Fund grant process.
"The Department of Trade and Investment is working with Halfbrick Studios through the Interactive Media Fund. It is the Department's understanding that next phase of the game may include the features mentioned, although the specific details of the final game will ultimately be determined by the company."