GameSpot AU's Oz Developer Watch continues this month with Melbourne-based Wicked Witch Software. From its humble beginnings in founder Daniel Visser's bedroom to a decently-sized office space in outer suburbia, Wicked Witch continues to work on increasingly bigger projects. The team has recently developed AFL Challenge and Rugby League Challenge for Sony's PSP. We spoke to Visser about Wicked Witch's growing list of achievements.
Visser founded Wicked Witch in 1999 from his home in Melbourne with a team of people who, like him, were passionate about games (and still are). The company now employs around 20 staff, from programmers and artists as well as managers. Visser says the company has consistently grown over the last seven years.
"In the earlier years when there was a smaller group of us, we used to work all day and all night with some heavy gaming sessions in between," Visser said. "About 20- or 30-hour days were common, as was sleeping on the floor at the office! These days we play less of the games and don't sleep at the office as the teams and projects are bigger."
Visser believes working in the Australian market can be tricky; local developers must be clever about their approach and development times. Wicked Witch has worked for publishers such as THQ, Eidos, NBC Universal, IBM, and MTV. The studio's most successful titles to date have been Space Chimps for the PC and Coffee House Chaos.
"Coffee House Chaos and SpaceChimps were primarily successful in America while [we think] the NRL and AFL titles will be popular in Australia and New Zealand."
Visser says Australia has good potential in the worldwide industry because of the amount of talent we hold. The challenge is attracting government support.
"We will have to keep working hard in that area and see. Australian developers already develop and publish our own small titles. Digital distribution makes this a possibility and is expanding to other platforms.
Coffee House Chaos on the PC was one of Wicked Witch's most successful titles.
"I think Aussie gamers can be just as hardcore as any other country. A little like music, art or film, Australians appear to be harsh judges and quite critical; however, I feel that is just because Australians generally seem to have a good understanding of what is rubbish, what is good, and what is great."
Wicked Witch Software plans to expand its studio by the end of this year if all goes well. The studio will soon be releasing AFL Mascot Manor and NRL Mascot Mania on the Nintendo DS, followed by AFL Challenge and Rugby League Challenge on the PSP.
"We are always interested in expanding our network of clients and working on some larger projects and larger consoles in the future," Visser said. "We have a lot of experience and have collaborated with other Australian studios on Wii, Playstation and Xbox360 among others, and with a little luck and more hard work it won't be too long until we do some larger titles on our own for these platforms."
Name: Wicked Witch Software
Company size: 20 employees
Coffee House Chaos, 2007, ValuSoft (PC)
Space Chimps, 2008, Brash Entertainment (PC)
Jumper: Griffin's Story, 2008, Eidos Interactive (Xbox 360)
AFL Challenge, 2009, Sony Computer Entertainment Australia (PSP)
Rugby League Challenge, 2009, Sony Computer Entertainment Australia (PSP)