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Interview - JV Games Inc.

A couple weeks ago, JV Games released Incoming, one of three planned family-friendly titles for the WiiWare service. Incoming! marked itself as JV Games' second WiiWare game preceded by Frat Party Games: Pong Toss/Beer Pong. We thought we'd take the opportunity to check up with them on their plans with these other two planned titles and discuss a bit about how the general response has been so far.

Wiiloveit: Would you care to introduce yourself? What's your role at JV Games?

JV Games Inc: Hello, my name is Jag Jaeger and i'm the VP of JV Games Inc.

How big is JV Games? How many people were part of the development team for your two games?

JV Games is a very scalable company. Typically we have about 10-15 people but we can grow 30-50 quickly. Everything depends on the size of the project we are doing. Frat Party Games: Pong Toss/Beer Pong consisted of around 11 people and Incoming! was 5.

What appeals to you most about WiiWare? Why did you start supporting it?

WiiWare is a great opportunity to create fun and small games. It really appealed to us by bringing back a time (80's & 90's) when teams were small and there was a lot of focus on game play. During the late 90's and 2000 everything was FMV. Huge teams and budgets were created just to focus on this one aspect. The industry so badly wanted to combine or merge with Hollywood that game play was always put in the back seat. We never agreed with the direction most gaming companies were taking on this. Fortunately Nintendo never got sucked into that wave and proved with the sales of the Wii that game play is still the most important aspect of gaming. 

WiiWare follows suit with that by allowing smaller developers to create the unique and fun games without the massive overhead that is needed for games being sold in stores. It also works as a great concept test bed for companies to take creative chances on unique concepts that they would never try in a typical publishing atmosphere. If the game does well on WiiWare it might allow for sequels or larger projects. If a game doesn't do well then there might not be a market for that style and a game failure probably won't collapse a company whereas a failure of a large project might.

Let's discuss the games you've developed for WiiWare thus far. Frat Party Games: Pong Toss met with fierce opposition from critics. How has this prepared you in developing future titles on the service?

That is kind of a tough question to answer. When developing a game, you first have to look at the market your creating the game for. As far as Pong Toss is concerned, we knew right from the start that reviewers were going to be tough on this game. It was intended to be for the very casual gamer. The people that don't want to invest hours of game play or have complicated controls. We knew this was going to be treated as a party game. I believe we absolutely hit our target market with Pong Toss and it shows because it's still selling very well.

Incoming! is kind of a test market title. It was intended for a casual / family market and it's a quirky little title so we're really not sure how it's going to be received in the long run. We feel it's a very fun game and hope that it finds it's place out in the world of WiiWare.

Did you have problems tied with the fact that the game was associated with a college drinking game?

Surprisingly (to us) we had a lot of problems. Pong Toss / Beer Pong was based off of a college drinking game but it was never about drinking. Beer Pong has grown into a national sport with huge prize money, sponsors, and people that are doing it as careers. We wanted to create a game that emulated this and the fun that we always had playing it.

We are in bars and clubs across the country, Pong Toss tournaments are constantly being held, and we have been featured at many Beer Festivals. We feel very fortunate that so many people have written in and love the game.  Most the people that gave Pong Toss an open minded chance have come to really enjoy the game. I have received many letters from parents on how much their kids enjoy playing Pong Toss. They just don't tell them what the game is based off of and the kids don't know the difference. It's just a fun competitive game to them.

Could you tell us why the game was renamed in North America but remained as "Beer Pong" in Europe? Why did the game take a while to release in Europe?

We renamed the game for several reasons. First, Europeans aren't as sensitive (as a whole) to the idea of alcohol and we knew that there wouldn't be any controversy over there about calling the game by it's true name.

Second, Beer Pong in Europe is still a growing sport and doesn't have nearly the popularity as it does here. We wanted to make sure that anyone interested in the sport of Beer Pong would be able to easily recognize it by name. Luckily here in the US, Beer Pong can go by many names so symbolism works just as well as the name. Thats why we weren't to concerned when we were asked to change the name to Pong Toss. Just by looking at a screen shot or video, everyone knows what it is.

Onto Incoming! What were some of the inspirations behind this game? How did the idea to create this game first sprout?

This is kind of funny, we got inspiration for Incoming! from 3 different sources. We all loved World of Goo but unanimously our favorite levels were when the goo world went retro pc and they changed the dynamics. You now had to pull the goo balls and shoot them across the screen. It reminded us of playing the game artillery on the Apple. That got us talking about some retro games that we used to play and an idea formed about combining elements of Missile Command and artillery in a real time frenzy environment with cute animated characters.

How has the response towards the game been so far? Now that Incoming has been released in North America, are you preparing for a release in Europe?

It seems to be very well recieved as a family friendly game. We have recieved several emails from parents, stating that they enjoy playing the game with their kids. The high speed action is fun but yet simple enough for them (parents) to pick up, also a lot of letters for hints on strategy. At this time we are not considering Europe for this game.

In your press release for "Incoming", you mentioned that it is "the first of three family friendly video games" coming to WiiWare. What will your future family games entail, and when can we expect them?

Unfortunately they are still to early in development to talk about but you'll be the first to know. We are aiming to have both out by Christmas.

Do you have any more plans for future games or franchises on WiiWare or other systems? What are you working on at the moment?

Currently we have 4 titles in development and 3 are guaranteed for WiiWare with the 4th being a potential. Unfortunately, I can't explain more than that at this time.

Do you see yourself implementing online capabilities in future titles?

Online for WiiWare and handhelds for that matter is a very awkward capability.  What I mean by that is it's a feature that everybody seems to want but very few people actually use. Adding networking capabilities can heavily increase the development costs which in the end will add to a higher cost for the game. Currently it's more important for us to keep the games cost down and potentially reach a greater audience.

This might be a fun poll for you to run and could be useful to developers out there that are on the fence about networking. "Using Bomberman as an example, still being on the top 20 NOA sales how many people are playing it over a network and is it more important to you to have a lower cost or incorporate networking in a title that could take advantage of it?"

What do you think about the DSiWare service? Do you see yourself pursuing that venue in the future?

We're not too sure about the DSiWare service yet. We are constantly thinking about it but currently have no plans to support it.

Thank you very much for your time. Do you have anything to add before signing off?

Thank you for the support you're giving the WiiWare service. These questions were fun and best of luck to you.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, guys! Being a small developer can prove to be rather challenging but clearly JV Games has a positive outlook towards the future with their upcoming releases. It's so gratifying to hear that the initial reception towards their first WiiWare game hasn't deterred them from continuing to support the service! All the best and we look forward to hearing more about your upcoming projects in the near future. We also appreciated how eager they were to answer our questions and that really made us feel more at ease so thank you for that as well!

Jag Jaeger was talking to KnucklesSonic8