Oz Developer Watch: Blue Tongue
GameSpot AU's Oz Developer Watch series is back again! In this edition, we check out THQ's Melbourne studio, Blue Tongue, whose most recent title was the well-received de Blob. We spoke to the company's creative director, Nick Hagger, to find out about Blue Tongue's history, his thoughts on the...
GameSpot AU's Oz Developer Watch series is back again! In this edition, we check out THQ's Melbourne studio, Blue Tongue, whose most recent title was the well-received de Blob. We spoke to the company's creative director, Nick Hagger, to find out about Blue Tongue's history, his thoughts on the Aussie game industry, and where the company plans to grow from here.
Blue Tongue was launched in 1995 by a handful of entrepreneurial graduates working out of the University of Melbourne's IT incubator program. The start-up studio grew slowly over the first few years, gathering key talent and strengthening the technical and creative ability of the team. In 2000, Blue Tongue developed its first big PC title, Starship Troopers.
Following this, the studio began to pursue a number of business initiatives that included games and technology development, as well as providing an online business development service. Blue Tongue's creative director Nick Hagger says the studio has changed significantly from its early days.
"None of the original founders work in the games industry anymore, and so Blue Tongue is a very different studio," Hagger said. "We are run by developers and making games is our primary focus."
Blue Tongue's popularity grew over the years, developing titles such as the successful Nicktoons series and working with major publishers such as Hasbro, Vivendi Universal, and Konami. Blue Tongue was acquired by publisher THQ in 2004, and now has more than 80 staff working on THQ-exclusive titles. Their biggest game to date has been this year's critically acclaimed de Blob. The game was awarded the top spot in five of the nine categories at this year's GDAA Industry Awards, winning Best Game, Best Console Title, Best Gameplay, Best Graphics and Best Audio.
"Up until de Blob we had the most success in North American and European territories," Hagger said. "But de Blob has been a hit worldwide."
"We have always focused on developing games for a global market. It's always a challenging environment for an Aussie studio, as we are so far away and must work hard to develop key relationships with both publishing and marketing teams. But if you make good games, and have a good publisher behind you, people will buy them. It's certainly become easier for Blue Tongue since we became part of THQ's studio network."
Blue Tongue's first successful PC title was Starship Troopers.
Hagger believes that one of the main challenges the Australian games development industry faces is keeping creative and technical talent in the country.
"It's a complex problem," he said. "Government-backed financial incentives are seen by some sectors of the gaming industry as the key to realising the dream of greater development independence. I tend to think the solution does not lie in just throwing lots of money at it.
"The industry is in a state of transition at the moment, and it's difficult to predict how this will affect home grown games development in the long term. At Blue Tongue we are very lucky in that we have an amazing team of people, and a high retention rate; many people who work here have been here for over seven years. It's always hard to find the right person with such a small population base, and being part of such a niche industry."
For their part, Blue Tongue has been working hard to keep local talent here; the studio has been liaising with video games specific educational courses and tertiary training providers who are keen to work more closely with industry.
Hagger says Blue Tongue has a long term plan for development, but the studio is in no rush to grow, at least not yet.
"We're going to keep on doing what we love: making games. Watch this space for more announcements soon."
Name: Blue Tongue
Company size: More than 80 employees
Starship Troopers, 2000, Hasbro Interactive (PC)
Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, 2003, VU Games (Xbox, PS2, PC)
Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island, 2006, THQ (PS2)
Barnyard, 2006, THQ (PS2, PC, Wii)
de Blob, 2008, THQ, (PC, Wii)
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