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13AM Games Interview: CEO Talks Dawn of the Monsters, Runbow Sales, & More

13AM Games Interview: CEO Talks Dawn of the Monsters, Runbow Sales, & More - Article

by Evan Norris , posted on 30 March 2022 / 2,156 Views

13AM Games, an indie studio operating out of Toronto, first made a splash in 2015 with its colorful, addictive party platformer Runbow. Since then the company has experimented with several different genres and mechanics, developing action-adventure title Double Cross and beat-em-up Dawn of the Monsters, and porting and publishing retro-style arcade game Pirate Pop Plus.

The small but mighty team at 13AM comes from a variety of backgrounds, including creative advertising, civil engineering, film, writing, graphic design, and programming. According to the company's website, they "like building games that are as much fun to design as they are to play."

To commemorate the launch of 13AM's latest game, the co-op kaiju beat-'em-up Dawn of the Monsters, we reached out to studio CEO Alex Rushdy, who was kind enough to answer our questions.

Q1: So far, all your games have been one-offs, but there is certainly room for sequels. Indeed, both Double Cross and Dawn of the Monsters tease potential follow-ups. What is your philosophy on sequels? Can we expect any down the line?

Alex Rushdy (AR): We tend to prefer working on fresh new ideas, but I would personally love to work on a sequel to Dawn. At the end of the day, if there’s enough sales and demand for a sequel we are happy to do it!

Q2: I think it's safe to say Runbow is your flagship game (my personal favorite as well). How has that game's success influenced the trajectory of 13AM Games?

AR: Well, that’s the game that got this whole train rolling! If that game hadn’t been a success, we wouldn’t be here. We initially intended to finish that game just to put on our resumes and then find "real jobs" — but thankfully it did well enough that we could keep making games together!

Q3: As a follow-up, can you share total sales figures for Runbow, across PC, WiiU, 3DS, Switch, PS4, and XOne?

AR: Total downloads are at just under 2 million, with a significant number of those downloads coming from Xbox Live Games with Gold.

Runbow

Q4: Your latest game, Dawn of the Monsters, seems like a love letter to kaiju and mecha media. What games, movies, and stories inspired it?

AR: I’m a big fan of Godzilla, Ultraman, Power Rangers and Pacific Rim. I grew up watching kaiju movies and TV shows, so that was where the inspiration came from. Plus, who doesn’t want to take giant monsters in a co-op, city-smashing beat-'em-up? Seems like a solid combo to me!

Q5: Speaking of Dawn of the Monsters, it was published by fellow indie studio WayForward. How did that relationship get started?

AR: It started way back in the Runbow years when we collaborated to get Shantae in Runbow. A few years after that we did some support work for them on another title. We really enjoyed working together and our studios share a lot in common, so once that project wrapped up they asked us what we wanted to work on next. We showed them an early version of Dawn of the Monsters and they got pretty excited about it. Shortly after, we signed a contract to get published by them!

Ganira and Megadon

Q6: Tell me a little about being an indie game developer in 2022. What are the benefits? The challenges?

AR: Being indie is mainly beneficial in that you can develop what you want, when you want, how you want. There is freedom and creative control unlike the bigger guys.

The challenge, however, is always finances and competition. There are just too many games coming out all the time and too much soaking up people's time. It can be incredibly difficult to get someone to commit to a review of your game, or an article, or even host a trailer on YouTube. Lest we forget how crowded digital storefronts are. More than ever, it is difficult to stand out and to make a game that customers see long-term value in.

Q7: For Pirate Pop Plus, you assumed the role of publisher. How was that experience? Do you think you'll take on publishing duties in the future?

AR: We did! We also did some co-dev and porting for that title. It was an interesting experience! We made our money back pretty quickly and got to profit fast, but publishing ended up sucking too many resources out of our dev side, so I’m not sure we would do it again unless we had a much bigger team to handle it.

Pirate Pop Plus

Q8: Several of your games were made possible via partnership with the Canada Media Fund and the Ontario Media Development Corporation. What have those partnerships meant to 13AM Games?

AR: We wouldn’t be here without them. No one else would give money to a bunch of fresh graduates to make Runbow, and we’re all glad they did. We continue to work with them to get prototypes off the ground and they even helped make Dawn of the Monsters a reality!

Q9: Apart from your own titles, what are some games — indie or otherwise —that have stuck with you over the last few years?

AR: Well, I tend to play a lot of older games, myself. I’m a big fan of shmups with some of my favourites being Darius Gaiden, G-Darius, and Mushihimesama — which all got great ports to Switch recently.

But as for genuinely recent games, I’ve really enjoyed The Big Con, The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa, Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion, and the Yakuza games.

Q10: Finally, what can you tease about your next project?

AR: Haha, it’s too early to tease, but I can say that I’m personally very excited about it! Please follow us on social media (https://twitter.com/13amgames) to keep on top of updates and visit https://www.13amgames.com!

  

I'd like to thank Alex Rushdy of 13AM Games for his insightful answers, and Chris Hoffman at WayForward for arranging the interview.


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