Category Archives: Featured

Spicy Horse Gallops in a New Direction

Really Spicy Horse

Christian Nutt over at Gamasutra covered the initial announcement of Spicy Horse Games’ new business and development direction. From the article:

Today, the Shanghai-based studio Spicy Horse, which has completed work on Alice 2 for EA, is announcing that it has secured $3 million in investment from Singapore and Shanghai-based Vickers Venture Partners.

The company, from this point forward, will focus on developing 3D social, online games for a global audience. Spicy Horse is working on its first post-Alice 2 project alongside PopCap’s Shanghai studio — a 3D online version of one of the casual titan’s games, to be launched initially in the Asia/Pacific region.

There’s a tremendous amount of excitement around these studio these days. We’ve just finished “Alice: Madness Returns”, which has turned out beautifully and marks a historic occasion in game development, the first-ever AAA console game developed entirely in China. Having finished with Alice, we’re returning to our roots, online games (like “American McGee’s Grimm“, on which we founded the studio). Best yet, we’re joined in this adventure by two great partners, PopCap (who’ve given us a really cool development deal) and Vickers Capital Group (who’ve given us a really cool investment deal).

Going forward the focus is going to Free to Play, Online, Multi-player games built using high quality 3D assets and distributed via mobile platforms and F2P operating partners world-wide. This strategy effectively combines two things Spicy has proven it’s great at – casual online games (Grimm) and AAA console games (Alice). My belief is that this combination will be the next big wave in the casual online space. Where audiences have had their fun with great 2D Facebook games, the market demands evolution, and we hope we’ve got the secret formula.

Over the coming weeks and months we expect to announce more details about a range of exciting projects, including the collaboration with PopCap. For the “Alice” fans, we’ve got some twisted fairy tales being adapted into F2P format – very dark stuff. And the creative minds at the studio are also stretching out, building a diverse offering of IPs which we hope will capture audiences around the world.

Stay tuned here and via our other media feeds like Facebook and Twitter for more info.

Ebox – A Console for China

Lots of news these days about Lenovo’s announcement of the “Ebox” – a game console built in and for China (as well as the rest of Asia). It’s not the first time a Chinese console has been attempted – Shanda’s own homegrown console (EZ Station) of years past had similar aspirations towards the Chinese console market. Where Shanda stumbled hard on a variety of marketing, hardware and software issues – one hopes Lenovo’s experience in device manufacturing can see them through to a retail product.

But the real challenge isn’t going to be the hardware, games or interface (though those things need to be right) – it’s going to be penetrating a market which is already saturated in terms of digital content portals. China is, by in large, an online country. Games, TV, music, movies, shopping, eating – everything is faster and easier online. How do you supplant (or just supplement) an existing digital pipeline that’s functioning well enough to turn companies like Tencent into “juggernauts“?

Here are couple of things I think they’ll have to get right if they’re going to have a chance:

1. Make it online only.
2. Build an iTunes-like store interface (easy to navigate, uncluttered).
3. Enforce platform-wide interface and quality guidelines.
4. Enable quick, easy payments for purchases (link into existing payment 5. channels used in Internet Cafes).
6. Cross market titles on and off platform (with Tencent, for example).
7. Sell it for a loss and make the profits in software.
8. Don’t make it “too Chinese” (Chinese consumers love foreign brands).
9. Attract license content which already does well in China (Transformers, World of Warcraft, Hello Kitty).
10. Partner with big brands looking to fund advertainment (Coke, Nike, Audi, etc).

Further (and probably most importantly), successfully attracting an initial market will require killer apps. Without developers to create highly creative and attractive game offerings, the platform will go nowhere. And if China’s lacking one thing – it’s a large number of developers experienced in the creation of AAA console content. Never mind the global lack of experience in creating content for motion control enabled systems like Kinect – we’re all trying to find our footing there.

Personally, I wish them all the luck in the world. It’d be great to see the miraculous growth of the Chinese gaming market bolstered by a quality console offering with the requisite offering of great games. If we’re lucky, the entry of a Chinese made contender will eventually serve to open the market to an influx of foreign made consoles and games.

A few notes in the margins… There’s a lot of confusion in Western press about restrictions on gaming and gaming consoles in China. For a primer filled with useful facts, I highly recommend reading through China gaming legal expert Greg Pilarowski’s China Video Game Industry Legal Primer (July 2010)

An excerpt from the primer reads:

In many jurisdictions, including the United States and Europe, the video game market is dominated by console games. In mainland China, however, game consoles are prohibited. In addition, video game software for use with game consoles or PCs are subject to very high piracy rates. As a result, China’s video game market is primarily an online game market, with revenues from this segment not only constituting nearly all of video game revenues, but also representing a leading internet application in the market by revenue. In June 2000, the State Council issued the Notice on Launching a Campaign against Video Arcades, which prohibits the manufacture and sale of both coin operated arcade game machines and television console game machines.

Although the stated purpose of the notice was to strike against video arcades in order to protect the youth and ensure public order, the notice was drafted broadly and is now the primary legal barrier to the importation, manufacture or sale of game consoles such as the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii.

Notwithstanding the prohibition on game consoles, there is a substantial black market for their sale in China.

And finally – many industry articles seem to take pleasure in labeling the Ebox a “copy” of the Kinect while neglecting to mention (as they once did) that Move and Kinect are themselves reactionary moves (copies) of the successful paradigm shift initiated by the Wii.

Alice as a cover girl

GamePro is going all-out and featuring our very own Alice on the cover of their September 2010 issue.  According to the article on their website, Will Herring will be discussing the early previews of the game during his 14-page feature.  Will visited with us in China recently to get the scoop straight from the Horse’s mouth.

In addition to the overview of Alice: Madness Returns, Will also delved into the complex world of tracking the evolution and permutations of the intellectual property of Lewis Carroll’s slightly-addled heroine from the original stories penned in 1865 on through the movie treatment at the hands of Tim Burton.

For us, it’s excellent to be able to talk about the game finally, and even better to listen to everyone else talking about it, too.  If you missed the original announcement this past Tuesday, EA released the first teaser – and we’re all in agreement that it does tease!  If there was any question about it’s impending rating, we’re hoping that clears it up.

Get ready to snatch up your copy at the end of July.

Spicy Horse Art Store Launched

Mistaken Identity

Mistaken Identity by Ken Wong

Spicy Horse is proud to announce the launch of its online art store. Now you can purchase original illustrations by the talented artists who power the studio – the same people driving the imagery for projects like “Alice 2”. The store currently features artwork by Ken Wong and Luis Melo. In the future we’ll include artwork from “Alice 2” and other studio projects.

Details from the store:

From the trusty band of artists at Spicy Horse comes the chance to own authentic pieces of art produced by our video game artists. Each image is specially licensed and produced on canvas for a lifetime of viewing pleasure, and each piece is licensed, numbered and signed.

Head over to the store and grab your own signed print today!

Spicy Horse Online Art Store

“Crooked House” Review @ iPhone Life

American McGee's Crooked App

Crooked House Screen

Nate Adcock over at iPhone Life Magazine was kind enough to post a review of “American McGee’s Crooked House“. Though admittedly not a typical fan of puzzle game apps, Nate still manages to find some compelling elements inside our wicked little house. From the review:

“Bottom line, the crooked little mouse is caught in the weird crooked house, and your job is to help it escape the various crooked rooms without dying. The death is typically a shredding by cat claws, smashed into pulp, or similar gory ending. The puzzles amount to sliding objects around until your mouse can run unmolested through to the goal.”

Read the full review here.

Nate makes a few suggestions for improvements, like more randomized death events (cool!) and a visible cat paw when the mouse is killed after running out of time (yay!) – both of these I think are great, so we’ll add them into the next release, which will hit the streets alongside the iPad version. Keep your eyes open for that – I’ll alert you here.

Driven by recent reviews and customer word-of-mouth both “Crooked House” and our previously released IQ challenger “DexIQ” have both been selling like hotcakes. If this keeps up we might just have to release another game app – question is… what should it be? Another fairytale-inspired title, IQ challenge, or ??? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Crooked House on the App Store
DexIQ on the App Store
Spicy Pony Home

148apps Reviews Crooked House

Spicy Pony Poster

Spicy Pony Poster

Spicy Pony‘s latest iPhone game “Crooked House” has, since launch, received praise and attention beyond expectation – but the just-posted review over at cements for me the success of the concept with gamers and critics alike. From the review:

I’m always impressed when a game can really make good use of the unique functionality available to the iDevice lineup. American McGee’s Crooked House does just that. This puzzle based game uses an Aurora Feint approach to moving items around by shifting the orientation of the iDevice.

Read the entire review:

I’m really happy to read that Spicy Pony has impressed with their latest game. The team put a lot of creativity and love into “Crooked” and their previous title “DexIQ“. Both apps are now selling at a volume that convinces us of the validity of the iPhone development and distribution model. Rapid development, small teams, digital distribution and a closeness with critics and audiences all feel *right* – and capture so much of what’s been lost with “big” game development, titanic publishers and overblown marketing campaigns.

If you’ve not done so already, maybe now’s the time to join the fun?

Spicy Pony Home
Crooked House on App Store
DexIQ on App Store