Icon’s PSP Minis Explained

Our resident DJ, Agony Aunt and Spandex-donning time traveller Tuffcub already briefed you on Icon Games’ first batch of PSP Minis – the team is hard at work on ‘Arcade Darts’, ‘Arcade Pool & Snooker’ and ‘Arcade Air Hockey & Bowling’ with a fourth title, ‘Stunt Cars’ making up the powerful squadron of downloadable titles heading to a PlayStation Portable near you soon.  This is TheSixthAxis, though, where investigative journalism comes natural, especially on a Wednesday, so it’s with great delight that I can publish a brief interview we had with the man on the mic over at Icon, Rich.

Might be nice over your morning coffee, perhaps.

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TSA: Hi, Rich.  For starters, could you tell us a little bit about your company, number of employees and any previous games you’ve released?

ICON: Well, basically we’re an independent game development & digital publishing studio with a small core staff and a number of additional freelancers to assist. To date we have developed and released over 20 games for a variety of platforms – including Wii, PS2, PSP and PC.

TSA: So what made you decide to move onto PSP Minis? Were you approached by Sony or did you contact them?

ICON: Sony emailed us with information and it went from there.

TSA: Ah.  We’ve heard there’s a 100MB file size cap –  is this enforced, or are you free to create games of any file size?

ICON: Coming from developing 40MB WiiWare titles, 100MB is more than enough for us, so this isn’t an issue right now.

TSA: 2 of the games you’re releasing appear to be a double pack, with 3 of the releases being pub-themed games (Air hockey, Darts etc). What was the rationale behind that?

ICON: We want to make sure we pack as much content as possible into the releases; and didn’t necessarily feel that something like Air Hockey offered enough gameplay and variation just on its own, so we’ve tried to compliment it with a twin game of a similar theme.

TSA: Two for the price of one.  Do you have a price yet that you’ll be pitching these at?

ICON: No, as yet we haven’t really decided on this.

TSA: The game standing on its own, Stuntcars, appears to be the most ambitious project, with 24 tracks and plenty of modes – would you agree that this is your flagship title?

ICON: Yes, it is – there is a lot of content in there in terms of awards & game modes which should keep the player busy for a good few hours.

TSA: Speaking of awards, you’re keen to incorporate ‘Trophies’ and ‘Awards’ into your games. Obviously these aren’t actual XMB-based Trophies, but are you still planning to do little pop-up graphics?

ICON: We originally looked at the Xbox 360 achievements; so we have the pop-up graphics for each award and an icon based screen showing which awards you have won.

TSA: Will players be able to collaborate these awards between games and collect them?

ICON: No, you can’t share across games – nice idea though.

TSA: When will we be able to get our hands on the games?  Do you have a prospective release date for any of your games yet?

ICON: We are aiming for Q4 2009, but it will be tight.

TSA: What are your thoughts on the digital distribution method?

ICON: It is absolutely amazing – right now it is the most exciting time to be an indie developer I’ve known since I started 14 years ago; by a long way. I imagine it is similar to how it felt in the early days of C64 / Spectrum development.

TSA:  And the PSPgo in particular?  Is it now a platform worth developing for given Sony’s great efforts to court developers and ramp up first party games to up the profile of the machine?

ICON: It’s good that the PSP is now a viable platform again, which is ideal for us as we’ve already done PSP stuff in the past.

TSA: With Sony being so keen to push PSP titles, what are your reasons for self-publishing your games?

ICON: I’ve wanted to do something similar for a long time, but the opportunities just weren’t there.

TSA: With the only option being retail releases?

ICON: On consoles, yes.  The key factor is that we now have total control of the process from conception through to reaching the customer. The longer term goal is to build up a good set of titles, with plenty of slow burn revenue supplementing the initial sales for new releases.

TSA: Thanks for your time, Rich, and we wish you the best of luck.

Anyone looking for any more information on these new downloadable games for the PSP and PSPgo should check out the Icon Games website, where you’ll find lots of new information on all the games the guys are working on and especially the Stunt Cars page which has plenty of new (albeit Wii) screens of the game.  According to Rich the game is already with Nintendo and awaiting upload onto the WiiWare store, so any Wii owners will be able to sample the title before it lands as part of the PSP Minis system a little later in the year.

PS: Tuffcub doesn’t really wear Spandex.  He can time travel, though – you should see his photographs of Uncharted 3 – shame about that IGN review though.

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