4. Hotline Miami Sellout!
4. Hotline Miami Sells Out! (It Goes Downwell with Smitty)
The Special Reserve Games edition of Hotline Miami Collection for Nintendo Switch sold out fast, and Smitty is ecstatic about it. He talks to Erik and Producer Dan about how collectors who missed out can ensure they get a copy of a reserve game next time.
The conversation shifts to eBay resellers and their impact in the video game collectibles market. Then, Dan takes a deep dive into the mind of Downwell creator Ojiro Fumoto, and Erik collects all the golden rings FAST! in the Game of the Week.
Games You Deserve is a weekly podcast from Special Reserve Games that celebrates the digital art of video games. Join us for gaming industry interviews, insider perspectives, and interactive content. Production by Dan Vadeboncoeur. Music by Jesse Hamel. New episodes drop Sundays at 9:00 a.m. CST.
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Dan: Welcome to Games You Deserve, brought to you by Special Reserve Games. This week on the show, Hotline Miami sells out in 20 minutes and Smitty is over the moon, but the resellers pop up on eBay almost as fast. Plus, Erik takes us back to the golden rings of the '90s in the game of the week.
Congrats, guys, on a successful Hotline Miami launch. Went on sale April 21st, like you said so naturally in our first episode and it sold out. How long did it take to sell out?
Smitty: Well, less than 20 minutes total.
Smitty: Because we had a Limited Run Games cover variant. 4,000 units sold out in 12 minutes, and then our 7,500. We had enough orders in 17 minutes to sell out, but it seemed like the store got choked up or something. So, I think, realistically, if you wanted to really catch me, it probably took 42 full minutes for it to sell out for everything.
Smitty: But we had enough orders in 17 minutes to sell out.
Erik: Really, you say congratulations to us and we say congratulations to Dennaton.
Smitty: And Devolver.
Erik: And Devolver.
Smitty: Devolver too. Dennis at Dennaton who's been working with us on getting everything approved and providing the key art and all the different things that were involved in, creating all the packaging and of course, this was artwork that they commissioned or did, they're not the artist themselves all the time, but that felt best memorialized or honored and preserved the artwork of that game. So anyway, a big thanks to Dennis and Dennaton and everyone at Devolver for sure. Then all the fans.
Erik: Oh, huge thanks.
Smitty: Oh my Lord. Such an overwhelming response by an incredible number of people and one thing, on a boring business side for Special Reserve Games, we attracted quite a few first time ever customers on this one and that is exciting to us because we get to start sharing more and more not just what's coming up, but they get to see some of our products that still exist that is back catalog that they didn't know existed. So, it's fun that we're all growing this amazing world of physical game collecting and purchasing.
Dan: It seems to me like, it's almost like it's reinvigorating the brand of Hotline Miami. When you guys first told me that you were doing that, you were releasing that game and I remember when that game came out, I think we talked about it, episode one was 2012, is that when the game first came out?
Erik: Yes, that's correct.
Dan: So still, it's an eight year old game, right? It's been out for a long time, but it reinvigorates interest in that game now because it's still an amazing game, it's still so much fun to play and you guys have sparked that interest again with his physical release. Now people are going to be excited to get it and to actually play it on their Switch and play it in that format as well. It's really, really cool.
Smitty: Yeah. I think Hotline Miami is a timeless classic at this point.
Dan: It is. Yeah.
Smitty: For a lot of people, this will be the first time that they've played it on the Switch, if not the first time they've ever played it because the Switch itself brings such a different audience. There's a lot of gamers that maybe Switch is their only console at this point or they came from a Nintendo lineage.
Dan: Well, and talk about the mechanics of game play. If I play Hotline Miam 1 on my PC with my keyboard and mouse versus dual joysticks, very different. Also, me personally, I can just tell you straight up, I couldn't play Hotline Miami on a PC at all. I sucked at it. It's a hard game to learn. It's fast and you just get killed a lot, if you're not good. I found the dual stick, just the feel of the wheel, if you will, on the Switch to be a more comfortable way for me to play the game. So, I was maybe just 10% better, didn't die as fast. I was just saying, again, even game play mechanics can be a complete alteration based on platform, based on the controller, if you will.
Erik: Yeah. I totally agree. I did that extra run through I did of it and hundred percented again. I just had to, because it was so much fun.
Dan: Oh, look at Mr. Showoff here.
Erik: Yeah. I just had to. The game is just so much fun on the Switch. So, I kept playing and kept playing and picked up all the masks and all the little puzzle pieces and everything and went all the way through. It's just one of those things, like those games you revisit every once in a while and I had to. It really goes to show how many people just absolutely love Hotline Miami and we're super proud and happy to be able to bring that to people.
Smitty: I'm in. I am very excited that it sold out so fast. Some people were upset, wanted to get in on it. I understand anybody who misses out on an opportunity. I've missed out on a lot of concert tickets. I didn't get in. I've missed out on a lot of things myself too in life, but it was overwhelming the response. We didn't have a bunch of weird eBay, they're going to secondary market and make a million dollars coming in and buying 1,000 of these at a time either.
We limited the cart sizes to no purchases more than 10 per order because believe it or not, some people do or on par retailer might order that much, but you couldn't order a big bulk from, and I will say I looked at the orders and most of them were one or two copies each. So those copies were sold one at a time basically to people as well, and we did notice that during the sale while it was going on for the hour that anybody who was coming to our site actually be able to buy it. It was already on eBay within the first 10 minutes.
It was on sale for like 180 bucks. We were selling ours for 40, Limited Run Games copy was 30 by the way, and then the minute it sold out, we started seeing $400 copies on eBay. So there's a good and a bad side to that rapid sellout is that somebody who wants it an hour or two their only choice is going to be eBay all of a sudden.
Dan: I did notice that as well and I was kind of surprised by it but as you say it's good that it's not people just buying for the sake of reselling it, it seems to me maybe the people would buy one for themselves then buy one or two to resell, and that was it. So it's not like they're going to trying to scam everybody.
Smitty: Well, you're also doing by one to open and play and buy one to leave sealed and stay on your shower. That's really the more common of people that buy two, just like they'll buy the retail version of Enter the Gungeon Switch, and then the special reserve games direct to consumer, Enter the Gungeon Switch because at two different covers, same game on the inside, absolutely the same game on the inside, but different covers, different art stuff.
Erik: Well I'm going to tell you right now I bought the retail version of that, I bought the retail version of My Friend Pedro. I have both of those here and the one I opened is the retail version. That's clearly going to be the one I open as a collector. I will say that there were a number of people in our Discord that they bought more than one copy because they are going to help out other collectors.
They're going to be buying one for themselves, and then one to help somebody else out and they're not going to scalp it. I know some of these people. I've been friends with some of these people for a few years, and absolutely, they bought that second copy so that later on, they can just give that to a friend and say, here, just pay me what I paid. I know you missed out on it, but let me help you out and that's great. Seeing that in the community is wonderful.
Smitty: I know, and I also see people in our Discord, in our Twitter, sometimes in Facebook too, but it's just more rampant on Discord and Twitter for these long threads. I see people answering questions posed by other fans and friends and community members as well. Answering questions that would technically be answered by the marketing person or something like that which doesn't exist. We don't have a marketing person.
Erik: I guess I'm the closest thing we have to that and I'm not even close to that. It's crazy.
Smitty: There is such a value of having fans that are evangelists.
Erik: They're in tune.
Smitty: They're only evangelist because they believe in the games themselves. They love the games at the core, and then they believe in what we're doing in a physical state to preserve the games or sell the games or what Limited Run Games is doing. It doesn't have to be elite to be a collector. It just has to be a physical version done well with the game on it.
Erik: We try to stay positive, we try to flip on the positive but there is this whole shady aspect of people that would do, sometimes grab some copies and throw, I mean you said it yourself, throw them up on eBay these, I guess what I would consider, a ridiculous price.
Smitty: But they are selling them at these ridiculous prices. So I thought about this too a lot. There's a win-win and a lose-lose in this situation for both parties. The win is, well, we sell a game, and help support the developer and all that. That process happens because the guy on eBay is not selling something to another person, a third party, unless he actually physically owns that game. So he had to buy it from us, because we're the only people that sell it.
We know what we sell it for, et cetera, et cetera. So the developer does get paid here, then that person has taken a risk that they are going to be able to resell that game, and even make their money back or make a profit, and if they do, good for them, and then the person who bought it is getting what they wanted. They're obviously paying a little bit more than it was at time of sale, even if that was an hour ago, but they're getting what they wanted too. So they all win.
The lose is, cost more money. There's an intermediary that wasn't necessarily necessary, and then back to us, do we lose a potential sale or a potential customer or community member from that third party because he was kind of pissed that, he got My Friend Pedro on Switch, but he had to pay $300 for it, and then when he got it, it's like, well come on this thing, it made a gold. What the hell. So that would be the negatives.
They're side by side, they're parallel to each other, the negatives and the positives in my mind and I don't know which one is bigger, better than the other. Each side has its own positives and its own negatives. They're equal, they kind of offset each other almost for now, but you can feel that, you and I have had conversations, Erik about how it's unfair, the valuation of some of these secondary, unopened games or unopened game. What's the value Erik, tell me the exact value right now of Enter the Gungeon Switch, opened an unopened price by, there is not—
Erik: Who's the authority for that?
Smitty: There's no place that you could even verify that even if I gave you an answer.
Dan: The value is what you will pay for it. That's what it is and the market dictates values.
Smitty: What is the market? Who is the market?
Dan: It's for people who missed out on the initial sale, and they want to get it. So basically, if they're willing to pay $300 for it, then that's the value of it but if they're not willing to pay that, then that person is going to need to drop their price, which also I'm sure that happens as well. People list it for too high and then have to drop it in order to sell it.
Erik: Yeah. Well, that goes back to the risk that Smitty was talking about, is that some person out there bought some extra sock, whether it was one, five, 100, whatever it was, right?
Smitty: No, it could only been 10.
Erik: That doesn't necessarily mean through us, right? Somehow they have some number of extra games that they want to put out on the market. They are taking that risk, you are correct in that and the more you do, and the higher you put it, the bigger the risk that is that you're going to sit on that stock and not be able to sell it. So you are putting that in your own hands when you decide to do that. At the same time, this is a very conflicting subject for me, because I appreciate the capitalism behind that.
At the same time, looking behind me are boxes and boxes of games that I've bought, and none of the ones behind me came from an eBay seller because I really don't want to pay exorbitant prices. So I have to put the work in. I have to go and figure out how I can be available or how maybe I can ask my wife to do it or I can get a friend online to buy an extra copy if I'm not available, that kind of thing.
If you can't make it, if you're not in tune and it's really important to you, if it's so important that you're going to take a $40 game and pay $400 for it, maybe you should have got a friend to help you out or a family member or something so that they could have been there for the sale.
Smitty: How about you shouldn't have to even go to all that trouble to discover or purchase a game that you wanted blindly? That's what I'm just saying that I still feel like the market does dictate the price. The market can dictate a lot of things in real time, but the market is who. What if the market was somebody from some big publishing company, that was actually the guy buying their own stock, and then doing this and reselling it to try to artificially inflate the value—
Erik: Well, first off, screw that guy.
Dan: Well, he should be coming to you directly if he wants to do that.
Smitty: Yeah, but if you have a good idea like that, please call me. My number is 55555 but that's very possible that that situation could happen because there's not an authority. There's not an outside agency that you can verify this with at any point. You can't Google search, what I said, what's the value of Enter the Gungeon Switch open versus unopen. So I do think that until there's some sort of cohesive community driven, collective voice or a valuation, if you will.
A collective valuation based on sales, based on age, based on personal opinion, based on experts or whatever, a collective that I think one day would be probably a pretty good idea, just for this scenario where there wouldn't be a secondary market that was just out of control. In some ways it is out of control because there is no control, there is no ceiling.
Dan: No, you have some control. You're limiting the amount of units per transaction, you're also guarding against bots, I'm assuming you have all that CAPTCHA stuff going on when you buy it, so nobody can kind of write a program to buy up a bunch of stuff.
Erik: Yeah, that stuff is built into the system, right?
Dan: This kind of goes back to scalping tickets, this is kind of the biggest analogy I can come up with when all this online stuff first started and people would program kind of bots go in and buy up a bunch of tickets for whatever concert and then they would scalp them at huge prices. This system prevents that now. So there is some control. I wouldn't say it's out of control your system. I would just say it's just—
Smitty: Not my system, the system.
Dan: Okay, I got you.
Smitty: I'm just saying like eBay. Then forget even my games, let's just talk about sports memorabilia, or comic books, or vinyl records. Each one of those, they built their own free market on the secondary market, built itself. Then there became experts that would come in, there was a ratings organization, like earlier I was talking to Erik about Kelley Blue Book for used cars. If I go to buy a used car, I'll look up something on kbb.com or I'll go to Consumer Reports where I have a subscription where I can put a VIN of a car and it'll tell you a destination charge that the dealer got charged or that the dealer paid.
So it's not exactly what the dealer paid. It's not exactly how much I should be buying it for, but at least gives me a range or a recommendation based on what I consider trustworthy sources. So that's just to say, I just don't see that exist in the secondary market for physical video games yet. I hope somebody organizes some thoughts like that, just for the simple fact of protecting the 22 people that ended up buying Hotline Miami for $400 from some dude in Iowa or Ohio.
Erik: What's the difference?
Smitty: Well, to Erik, there's a big difference. So it is one of those things that we're talking about ideas and different things. It is bad news and negative on one side, but I think there's a lot of positive and good things that will come out of this because people are smart in the video game world.
They do have internet connections, and they do a fair amount of research, but just to Erik's point, I don't know that you're going to have a lot of people able to do the type of research necessary to know if you're really getting a good deal or how about if you're even really getting the real deal? How would you even know if you bought that $400 copy of Hotline Miami from eBay, it comes to you.
It looks just like it, maybe it's the cartridge, but maybe it's different packaging, maybe the instruction booklets removed out of it. How would you even know that you got what was sold originally? There's all these little small things that I get, but when we as artists put something together like our special reserves of a game, it has all these different items and they all go together to make that physical piece, and you take one out, you're kind of screwing up our art if you want. So, there's all levels that you can talk about, but nonetheless—
Erik: Don't mess with the art.
Smitty: Don't mess with our art. We will find you.
Dan: Like Erik said, if you really wanted, you guys have been advertising it for months. The data has been out there for a long time. If you really want that, bookmark that and make a note to yourself, remind yourself that it's going on sale this time, and then get on there and get it because it wasn't impossible. It was available for enough time that people were able to get on and get it, if they really wanted to.
Erik: That's just it. It's not like the thing sold out in a literal heartbeat. Yeah, it sold fast. It was great that it sold fast. It means that all that interest was there, but if you were there when it went on sale, you had plenty of opportunity when it went on.
Smitty: Yeah, it's not like by the time I hit Enter, specialreservegames.com, Enter, it was sold out. Wasn't like that. If it was, wow, this podcast is going to have a lot better budget next year.
Dan: You're not there yet.
Dan: So you guys released 7,500, correct? Then there's another 5,000 from—
Dan: So 12,000 something games—
Dan: Thank you for doing the math. I can't math very well.
Smitty: It's a Canadian, US dollar conversion thing.
Dan: Oh, man. Don't even start with it. So the question is, do you think you should have released more or is that a good amount?
Smitty: It is always a question, and there's no correct answer. It's like a Monday morning quarterback situation. That's a very USA reference, but the answer is we released our exact number of units that were correct for the current market. We could have probably released 25,000 a year ago, just because of the newness Hotline Miami 2. There's a whole year after Hotline Miami 2 came out or whatever.
We could have waited another year, and it could have had no interest, whatever. So for right now, the answer was, it sold out and most of the people that I think really had to have it, got it, and I asked Doug over at Limited Run the same question, "Do you think we should have made more?" Because I mean, obviously, we didn't need to make less, and he said, "No, I think the same as you. It sold out. That's what these do." That is our business model.
Our business model isn't to have unlimited copies up forever and ever. Our tagline of my company is big games in small batches. You can look those words up in the dictionary, but that just means we don't make a lot of them. The valuation of them is higher for you, if you do get one. So anyway, that's the trade off with us. We don't make unlimited quantities, but if you do get one, the value of it is absolutely what you paid for it or more.
Erik: If somebody tries to zero in on a number, talk about what we put on our store, made available 7,500 of them. Is that the right number, you're asking. Well, beforehand, how exactly do you know? There's all kinds of ways to look at this, but do you make 8,000, do you make 9,000, do you make 6,000? There's all kinds of elements that go into that and is it really right or wrong? You don't really know until you've executed? Ultimately—
Smitty: We would have known if it was wrong.
Erik: No, but what I'm saying is you don't know ahead of time. I get what you're saying, but you don't know ahead of time, until you've actually executed if for sure that you were dead on.
Smitty: Well, and that we also have the benefit of having this be a physical version of a digital, a game that was a digital download first and that amassed big popularity through digital downloads, through Steam, through the Nintendo eShop, through our PlayStations store. So it had all of this kind of amazing, not valuation, but it had an audience already built in. So you can look at a percentage of sales that you might be able to expect from a physical version based on how many digital downloads it sold. Absolutely.
Erik: Although that's not necessarily one to one for every game. It's not like—
Smitty: Oh, it's not even one to 10.
Erik: What I mean is that between games, looking at game A and game B, the formula is not necessarily the same for every game, digital to physical. It varies. So I don't want anybody to kind of jump in and think oh hell, well if it's always this percentage of sales, it's not.
Smitty: Yeah. You have one like the Smitty's Crosstown bus ride simulator, versus—
Erik: I got to find that by the way.
Smitty: Versus Sonic the Hedgehog. Which do you think are going to sell more? Absolutely. It's just one of those things where value, what you pay, where you buy things from. Like you said, Dan, it's a free market system. The market does shape it and it does. I love capitalism. I do, I think it is absolutely the best way to sell video games.
Dan: I think what throws people off maybe who come at it without attitude is that they're used to having virtually unlimited quantities from Nintendo or Sony or other manufacturers. So they know that if they want to get a copy of Mario, whatever the latest Mario game is, chances are—
Erik: They're not going to have a problem.
Dan: They can go wherever they want and get it from multiple sources. Whereas you guys, it's one source, it's a finite number of games and you have one real one chance to get it, and that's it. So anybody who knows Special Reserve Games will know that that's the deal. So be ready.
Smitty: My advice would be for me or any other website like Limited Run or anything else, and Erik can probably speak to this, just small things, like create a user account. If you haven't purchased anything from me particularly, you have to have a user account and be logged in to purchase—
Dan: That always throws me off. I'm never ready for that—
Smitty: Age verification. Yeah, correct. Who's ever ready if you don't save all your stuff? Amazon, if I didn't have everything saved, if I had to log on to Amazon every time I purchased something, I'd probably purchase less from Amazon. So my advice would be create a user account if you've never purchased from us or another reseller ahead of time, ahead of your sell. Have the things that yes, remember my password or do a two factor authentication, whatever you want to do, and do that ahead of time.
So when a sale is going up, you're already logged in. Some of that already allows you to put in a PayPal express or your credit card or whatever. Do that, especially in situations like this where apparently you need time to be on your side to get in line to buy these things. So, just do some things that are smart ahead of time to prepare and I would just say those are some tips and tricks, very simple and common sense but, heck, I log into a website all the time, trying to buy Ticket master. I've gone to buy a concert ticket that's going on sale, and it says, oh log into complete purchase. I'm already in there, I've got my, complete purchase, what is my password? God dang it.
Erik: And it's too late.
Dan: And they got that countdown.
Smitty: Exactly. Sold out, sold out. No Neil Diamond tickets for me.
Erik: Well, you don't need to be coming to America at this point.
Smitty: I am going to tell you. I was trying to get Neil Diamond tickets for my mother and that was—
Erik: For your mother—
Dan: I would go see Neil Diamond. That'd be awesome.
Smitty: It would be absolutely. Go see Neil Diamond, that guy is a national treasure.
Erik: Then why are you trying to say it was for your mom? Come on.
Smitty: It was for my mother. Because she calls me, because I was in the music business on and off for some of my career. So she thinks that I know how to get front row tickets and backstage passes to everything, which I love the fact that that's—
Erik: You don't? Come on.
Smitty: Only for 50% of the things now because I'm old.
Erik: Valve had a leak. You're talking about logging on online games, and it reminded me of the story that just popped up, I think it was yesterday, or the day before, where there was a leak from a few years ago of their source code for the source engine, and that's what games like Teamfight Tactics 2 run on and it kind of took Twitter by storm that a vulnerability was supposedly found and being exploited live. Now, ever since then, Valve has supposedly come out and said, no, this was a leak of old source code. It should be okay, giving good PR vibes, but everybody's home. You just said it yourself, games have thrived in this because so many people are home and able to play.
Dan: So have hackers.
Erik: Yeah, that's kind of the topic I was thinking of.
Dan: So are aim bots, freaking aim bots.
Erik: That type of thing, they know so many more people are home and you're playing. They could potentially take advantage of you. Even if this thing wasn't real, even if the Valve leak was not really a problem, even if there was no hack, socially, they've hacked everyone because it took Twitter by storm and they got people to stop playing and logged off of Teamfight Tactics 2 just because of this rumor that disrupted things.
Dan: I'm just laughing at the phrase leaky valve. I think that's—
Smitty: Watch out. Hello, Gabe. How are you? Gabe Newell. Then I hate anybody, well I don't I hate the phrase the new normal because that's—
Erik: I do.
Smitty: I hate it. That's what I'm saying. I don't hate people saying it, I just hate the phrase because it's stupid. Everything is an evolution, a transition, we're always progressing as a human race. Entertainment, styles are, look at how we consume entertainment and share video games now, as compared to 10 years ago, just 10. Not a lifetime ago. 10 years ago.
Dan: Yeah, it's different, totally different.
Smitty: Think of what didn't exist 10 years ago, think of how much slower your cell phone network was 10 years ago, think of how much faster your internet is now. The whole thing—
Erik: We couldn't do this 10 years ago, this podcast, the way we were doing now.
Dan: Not the way we're doing it now.
Smitty: Absolutely not, and plus, if we were going to it would have cost a lot of money to even execute with the same fidelity. I remember we used to have ISDN lines at studios, because we had to have high file transfer quickly to other studios. So when we'd have engineers mixing a record, that they could transfer parts back and forth. You might have the drum in Dallas where the horns might be in New York. So how do you transfer that file back and forth without sending a tape reel in FedEx or something.
So I remember just the expense of just being able to transfer 50 meg files, one thing. Now, I can transfer a 50 meg file on my phone in about, that quick. So anyway, it's just everything's an evolution and as long as, like you say the free market takes care of things, which it does in a lot of ways, especially the entertainment because it's a product that's made for consumption. Entertainment is to be consumed and in the manner that we discover our entertainment, how much we pay for it, and how much we value it, it's always evolving.
Erik: That's such a broad all over the place type of subject too when you talk about entertainment. There's entertainment in how many forms? It's countless, it's not just video games.
Erik: Well, holy crap, I didn't know that there was, science has evolved and zeroed in on that number.
Smitty: I'm a mathematician.
Erik: It's kind of in a league of its own when you talk about how things get consumed.
Smitty: Would you quit it with the Madonna references? I mean, really.
Erik: A League of Their Own?
Smitty: That's a deep cut right there.
Erik: Yeah, ouch.
Smitty: In the end, it's just an exciting time to be a gamer and it's an exciting time as a fan, and all the variety of different games that you can buy from a variety of different ways, digital downloads, physical, game stores, buy, sell trade, whatever. There's a lot of ways to get games, a lot of ways to get exposed to new games that are made by independent developers that aren't just the expensive ads you see on TV.
I think that's another side effect of a lot of people being inside right now is people that have been able to share and have a larger audience, if they're willing to get online and talk about their stuff and people dig in and discovering new things that they might not have ever found. I firmly believe our audience on the 21st for Hotline Miami, I would say a good 30% of those people were there at high noon on a Tuesday, because they went home because they were being told to be at home.
I do talk to Erik about this. Sometimes people buy our games overwhelmingly through their cell phones. They aren't people that sit on a PC all day down in the basement, with tinfoil hats on. The idea of people who just are PC game collectors and how do you find that? Man, they are my daughter, they're me. They're people like you, but what's crazy to me is they're buying through their cell phones.
It's still funny to me that you're buying a physical game for your Switch or a PC through yourself and not to your PC. That's how old I am that I still trust my PC at my desk that's plugged into the wall. I like to buy things on that. It's security for me or it's whatever, it's where all my passwords are safe, whatever. I'm old enough that I'm not the guy that has, I don't have an iPhone, I don't have Apple Pay.
I don't have whatever and I'm not used to buying things through my cell phone very much but overwhelming more than half of our audience if not 50, 60, 70% sometimes are buying, executing themselves through cell phones. I just thought that was an interesting evolution of how video games are even being purchased. A physical version of a video game is being purchased through a cell phone.
If I told you that was my business model 10 years ago, you would have told me, where's the crack? You would have not believed my business model and half of what I said wouldn't even have made sense because those technologies didn't even exist yet. So anyway, that's how fast everything's evolving. So just be part of positive change. That's all I'd ask anybody out there that's a collector or gamer or a reseller or a freaking hacker, man. Just be part of a positive change. Just don't be out there to cause chaos and make other people's days worse. Try to make people's day just a little bit better and let's all be good.
Dan: So I want to get into a new segment here on the podcast. It's going to be called the exact same thing you call it on the websites, Developer Spotlight. You work with a lot of great indie developers at Special Reserve Games, and we want to take the time to recognize them and the hard work they do and celebrate their art, which is what this is, right?
Smitty: Absolutely. There's so many great developers, both independent and working for the big major studios that are just comprised of so many different individuals that have talents that are evolving and great. So when you ever get the opportunity to sit one on one with any of these developers, ask questions, be a fanboy, learn something new about technology, understand their process and their creative process. All these different things are incredibly interesting, and they do all show how piece of art is developed.
Dan: So today we're taking a look at Moppin Entertainment. Tell us a little bit about that company.
Smitty: Moppin is essentially a wonderful guy named Ojiro. I know he did have a few other people that helped with the game and he will be the first to tell you because Ojiro is one of the most humble, wonderful, giving, sharing developers I've had the opportunity to work with. He's a sweetheart, also extraordinarily talented. He has multiple talents, as you will learn from the interview that do not just involve video game development.
Dan: Of course, the game we're talking about here is Downwell, which is available on almost every platform out there, where you play video games and you still have some copies available, some reserved copies for the PlayStation 4, correct?
Smitty: We do. We purposely overrun copies sometimes so we will have a few things to sell on the website. We don't always just try to sell everything out in 17 minutes, but sometimes that happens. So Downwell for PlayStation 4 and it also comes in the special reserve box and has a hardcover instruction manual and a couple other things that come with it as well. So it is a collector's version still, as well as a great physical edition of a great game.
Dan: All right, let's take a listen to the interview with Ojiro Fumoto. Like many of us, Ojiro Fumoto grew up loving video games, but the award-winning indie developer almost wasn't. He actually went to school to pursue a different career path.
Ojiro Fumoto: I used to study opera singing, starting from my high school days, about seven years of opera singing practice. I've always wanted to be making games ever since I was little, but I just gave up very early on in my life because programming seemed like a super hard thing to do that only like the geniuses of the world can do. I had no idea then, but I kind of just gave up.
Around the time when I was about to graduate from college, I kind of realized I didn't really have any passion for this opera singing stuff and then I kind of started wondering what I really wanted to do in my life. Around that time, the indie games stuff was really taking off with more or less smartphone games. So I started thinking about if it might be possible for me also to just start being a developer for this smartphone platform, and then I thought, what the hell, you only live once, so I might as well just go at it really, even though I had no knowledge of programming or anything like that.
I felt like I should follow my passion instead of doing something that I wasn't really interested in. From that realization, I just really started getting into studying programming and everything related to game development.
Dan: After university, Fumoto taught himself programming and game development by creating multiple game projects.
Fumoto: I was really into this one game called Spelunky at the time. As I was getting into game development, and I was making a bunch of smaller sized games just for practice, really. When it came time to make another small project for my personal studies, I had the idea to make something that would feel like Spelunky, but that was playable on smartphone screens. So what I set to achieve was a Spelunky like game that we played on a vertically oriented screen of smartphones.
Dan: Working alone on Downwell meant that Fumoto had to be both efficient and innovative. It was mainly time restrictions that led to him incorporating random level generation into the game.
Fumoto: It was just natural that the maps should be randomly generated to enhance the replayability of the game. Since I was only working by myself at the time, I didn't really have time to be hand designing the individual levels. So random map generation meant that I didn't need to make all these levels for the game to warrant content enough to keep the player coming back to it.
Dan: As for the characters’ infamous gunboots, Fumoto says the mechanic didn't pop into his head until midway through development.
Fumoto: I'd love to be able to say that I had thought of everything from the get go, but that was definitely not the case. Even the gunboots itself was really like an accidental find. It started off as a very basic platformer game with no distinctive mechanics. It was just a guy that was jumping up and down, down this like really long cave. Even though I had no idea what the game was going to be like, I did know that I wasn't very satisfied with this really basic platformer that I had.
So I knew that I needed to add some stuff to it. So I kept on adding and trying these different mechanics like something very typical, like double jump. Eventually as I was just throwing everything I can add to the game, I came up with the idea to shoot bullets downwards from your feet, and that was when everything clicked, really. I realized it was a strong enough mechanic that I could base the entire game on.
Dan: After just over a year of development, Downwell was released on Android and iOS in October 2015. It was later ported to Nintendo Switch and PS4 before Special Reserve Games approached Fumoto about releasing a physical collector's edition for both those consoles last fall.
Fumoto: It's just neat, right? Every game developer's dream to have something physical of the game, and whether it be a merchandise or be just a package of the game and even though I had a few merch like the stickers and the soundtrack and stuff released, I have always wanted the package of the game itself. So I'm really excited to be able to just own that.
Game packaging is a special thing for any game I think, that it's just a special thing that when you get it you're really excited about what's in the package and you can't wait to open the package and just like boot up the game. I don't know. It's a special item for any gamer I think, this package thing and for me to have my own game be in that format is kind of, I don't know, super neat.
Dan: Copies of the PlayStation 4 Downwell reserve are still available at specialreservegames.com. You can use promo code deservedownwell all one word at checkout to save 50% off shipping while supplies last. For Games You Deserve, I'm Dan Vadeboncoeur.
Erik: The Game of the Week is Sonic the Hedgehog. The reason I wanted to bring Sonic the Hedgehog as one of the topics into the discussion here is not just because of the little blue hedgehog. I mean, arguably outside of Mario, and there's a whole aspect to that, Sonic may be the second best well known video game mascot out there. I mean, he just had a giant Hollywood blockbuster film come out.
Smitty: I love how you refer to he.
Erik: He's Sonic, and Sonic's a male.
Smitty: That is why Sonic is so iconic.
Erik: Yeah, it was his movie.
Smitty: It wasn't the movie’s studio, it wasn't Sega, it was Sonic.
Erik: Well, that's how everybody looks at it, right?
Erik: It's Sonic the Hedgehog. Who doesn't know Sonic the Hedgehog.
Dan: It's interesting to me though, despite, and you can do all the comparisons to Mario because that was a big part of Sega's marketing. When they first launched Sonic the Hedgehog as a title, it was an anti-Mario kind of thing. Like Mario was fun and safe and family friendly, whereas Sonic was a little bit edgier, had an attitude.
Dan: Faster. Yes, of course, that was the big thing. Genesis does what nintendon't, I believe was the tagline. So it’s like this kind of thing where it's better than Mario, but the thing is, Mario has existed in one form or another over the decades all the way through and its company has, well, Nintendo still exists as a company that produces video game systems and video games. Whereas Sega, it still exists as a publisher but not as a console maker. It with the Dreamcast rather, so stop making consoles, but its character, its iconic character still lives on other systems now.
Smitty: It's clearly their best work overall. Yes, the Genesis itself was great and I love the Dreamcast, and I love some of the other Sega properties that have been out there, but clearly, they touched on something with the creation of Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic the Hedgehog was made in 19, well, it was probably made before this, but its first actual published work that they put out with that character was 1991, on the Genesis. That's a long time ago when you think about it now. We're almost to the 30 year—
Smitty: It's almost 30 years ago.
Dan: There'll be a big thing next year.
Smitty: Yeah. Next year, they'll do something big. Sonic the Hedgehog has seen all kinds of transformations but I think the most interesting thing to me is, of course, it started off on the Genesis as this 2D platformer game, as you said, really fast, running collecting rings, that type of thing, and it's a great game. Absolutely amazing. It went through a lot of metamorphosis. Had an anime cartoon, or an animated cartoon, had a movie, its comic books that my son has a bunch of, a bunch of the graphic novels for Sonic the Hedgehog, and yet on the Switch and other platforms recently, it's come full circle.
There was a fan made game, 2D, for Sonic the Hedgehog that basically was the seeds of what ended up being Sonic Mania and Sonic Mania Plus, which is a return to the classic 2D style after a long time without that. It's essentially what you might call Sonic 4 of 2D. It picks right back up that great familiar feel and style.
Dan: Are you doing math right now?
Erik: No, he's trying to say that it's like—
Dan: Sonic 4 of 2D. I was like, that's a mind bender.
Erik: No, it's like how they did that latest Halloween film and forgot all the other Halloween films happened in the middle. Remember that? They just said it was a sequel to the first one and that's it. This is a sequel to the third Sonic the Hedgehog, there were three Sonic the Hedgehog games on the Genesis and then after that, they went off course.
It was the world of 3D gaming with the 64 and all the other system's PlayStation, were all going 3D. So they came up with all these 3D versions of Sonic the Hedgehog, which just didn't play as well. I mean, they were fun, but in my mind, not as good as the original kind of side scrolling, 2D game. So that's kind of where some would say it went off the rails a bit and that's kind of what Sonic Mania was meant to be, is a return to that. I think it's a great game. I didn't know it started with a fan game. I didn't know that was how that began.
Smitty: Yeah, me neither. It's kind of amazing to see when you look at something like that, I picked it up and put it in and played and immediately, with zero delay, I felt immersed right back where I left off with Sonic Three. There's zero difference in the look and feel of that versus something that came out 25 years ago almost at this point.
So that kind of feeling, you see the retro aspect of that and how much Sonic the Hedgehog is actually loved by people and not just like Sonic in general, the original, going back to that style. Sonic's been super popular. I have not watched the movie. I happened to be sick when it came out but my wife and son went to go see it and of course my son loved it. My wife loved it. They both thought it was a great movie. Have you guys seen it?
Dan: Yeah, I saw it in the theater. Took my kids to see the theater and it was fun. It was, you can't get too hung up on the details of these things. It's not like the video game, duh, duh, duh. It's not but it's still a fun movie, and I would say one of these days we'll get around to talking about our favorite and least favorite video game adaptations, but this is up there as far as video game movies go. It was pretty good. It was entertaining.
They certainly got, after that big snafu with the look of Sonic that they screwed up. Originally they redid the look of him so he looked like a normal Sonic the Hedgehog. He didn't have weird teeth and whatever, eyes. Remember that? It was so stupid.
Erik: I forgot about those teeth, man.
Dan: They're people they think that was a deliberate marketing ploy to get people talking about it. I'm like, I don't think they're going to deliberately make something look that bad just to try and get people talking about it, but it was a fun movie, I would say. Certainly, good to see Jim Carrey back in his Jim Carrey-ness is what he used to do so well, which is the wacky over the top performance.
Smitty: Like The Mask, the movie The Mask.
Dan: Yeah, that's exactly what he does in this and he's a lot of fun and it's James Marsden doing what he does best, which is acting alongside CGI characters. So it was fun, and I think it's coming out on demand pretty soon too. So if you haven't seen it, you can get a chance to watch it soon.
Erik: Yeah, and there's all kinds of physical merchandise out there for Sonic the Hedgehog. You could go to any major retailer and probably walk out to a toy shelf and find something Sonic the Hedgehog related at this point. So its got a big draw.
Smitty: Of course, we're speaking at everything, or speaking to everything from a North American perspective where I'm sure that, not the UK but in Asia, on the island of Japan, I'm sure that Sonic the Hedgehog and that whole world of Sonic the Hedgehog is probably displayed and seen and enjoyed much differently than we enjoy too, just based on their cultural differences between each other and how they consume their entertainment.
I've seen the cosplay movement did not really start in America, in my opinion, and I may be completely wrong. The real cosplay stuff kind of started in the Asian countries where they just honored the characters of video games differently. I also think Americans were way more apt to make fun of people who got behind video games and saw a character like Sonic or Mario and wanted to wear a T shirt that said, I love, excuse me, they made a Sonic the Hedgehog T shirt.
I wouldn't have worn that because I would have gotten beat up, I'm saying at one point but now a Sonic the Hedgehog shirt will find you friends because of yeah, yeah, yeah. So there's, once again, a cool evolution in the way we consume this type of entertainment to be able to bring an icon delight that, like we just said, we refer to Sonic as an entity. He released a movie. It's amazing.
Erik: It is amazing. I just think that Sonic itself is one of those properties that's probably going to last forever. That's going to keep Sega alive.
Dan: It’s outlived, again, as I say Sega still exists but not in the same form. So it has outlived its creator in that sense in that it still continues, when they added him to, was it Smash? I remember that announcement, that was a huge deal. People were so excited to have a playable character and to be able to fight with him in Smash Brothers. They were excited.
Smitty: Well, guess who's coming over for dinner tonight? Sonic. Okay, that's not real. I was just trying to show off with you guys.
Dan: You know what Sonic the Hedgehog, you're going to come over—
Smitty: I am in the video game business and I might have a phone number.
Erik: Sonic the Hedgehog is going to come full circle on a gaming aspect too. We talk about Game of the Week, this is a bit of a broad topic for Sonic the Hedgehog because there's so many games, but in '06, it had maybe the worst release of Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic '06. It was not well received, I'll say. The game play is kind of rough, and that's 15 years after its creation, which now, like you said, we're coming up on that 30 year anniversary and now it's come full circle.
So 15 years, they have arguably the worst Sonic the Hedgehog game. 15 years after that, here we are approaching the anniversary. We just had Sonic Mania, and it's a great game. It's an absolute blast to play. So Sonic the Hedgehog himself as a game character inside the video games, those games have come full circle, and we're back to 2D and we're back to amazing gameplay.
Dan: I'm wondering if they're going to release Sonic the Movie The Video Game, like they did with Street Fighter. I think that would be hilarious if they made it all look like the characters from the movie and—
Erik: It's a paradox right there. You just open that back up.
Dan: You have to drive in the truck from wherever the hell they are, and I think they're in Oregon when they started in that movie then they had to get to San Francisco. For some reasons, Sonic just can't run there. Not sure why that is. He doesn't know how to get there. You can't look too hard at the premise of the movie because it will fall apart, but it is fun along the way. I think that there certainly will be a sequel to that film. It was successful enough and it made enough money and they left it very open ended. So, absolutely, there will be a sequel, and that will renew the interest and renew the popularity of Sonic the Hedgehog as well.
Erik: I think so. I think so. Well, it seems like we've ran out of rings, and I've just stepped on a spike. So we're out of time. I am Erik.
Smitty: I'm Smitty.
Dan: And I'm Dan.
Erik: And until the next time...