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The Retro Studios rumor mill; and betting on games at Gambitious

By James Renovitch, Fri., June 22, 2012

Retro Studios: Trying for the Tri-Force?
Retro Studios: Trying for the Tri-Force?

Since local developer Retro Studios released the stellar Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii back in 2010, solidifying itself as one of the premier developers for Nintendo, the public has been wondering what's next. That they "assisted" with Mario Kart for the handheld 3DS system did little to satiate this curiosity. Surely they've been working on something bigger – a launch title for the upcoming Wii U console, perhaps? Long story short, we still don't know what Retro is working on. But Nintendo's jefe Shigeru Miyamoto hinted that Retro would be a good fit to help develop a Zelda game in an interview with Wired last December, causing local minds to explode at the prospect.

Miyamoto shattered those dreams in a June 12 interview with IGN saying that Retro is too busy to work on a Zelda game right now. Busy is good though, even if no other specifics were given. (Just to keep things interesting we're going to conjecture – based neither on facts nor even logic – that Retro is working on a Metroid vs Kid Icarus first-person shooter. Finally, that grudge match will be settled!) Still, the enigmatic Miyamoto didn't completely rule out the possibility that Retro might someday develop a new installment of Legend of Zelda. Were that to happen, he said he would want to be closely involved in the process; he even went so far as to joke about moving to Texas. (Eeeeeee!)

Another update pulled from the "What have they been up to?" file regards Mike Wilson and Harry Miller, formerly of Gamecock Media. The well-intentioned indie game publisher (see "Betting the Farm," Dec 14, 2007, for more on their history) fell victim to a disintegrating American economy back in 2008 as their anonymous backer backed out. Wilson kept busy producing and starring in local film Austin High, but the duo recently resurfaced as the American contingent of a partnership with some European folk to start Gambitious.

Taking cues from the success of Kickstarter, Gambitious adds another layer to crowdfunding video-game projects. Not only can you give a project money – usually in return for a T-shirt, poster, or perhaps the finished product – but you can invest your cash in the hopes that the game succeeds, in which case you would stand to profit. They call it "a professional crowdfunding platform exclusively dedicated to the games industry." If the thought of agreeing to some sort of online business arrangement with some of the more slapdash pitches on Kickstarter raises a few mental warning flags, that's a good instinct. However, this isn't going to be the Wild West crowdfunding that allows any schmo to put a project on the site and hope people give him money. Gambitious will be vetting the projects to ensure that would-be developers understand how the business of making a game works before opening up the project to investment.

The site isn't expected to go live until later this summer. Even then, the site won't be fully accessible to the U.S., since Gambitious' business model isn't technically legal in the States ... yet. According to the press release, "Currently, equity-based crowd investing is only legal in the European Union, but with the JOBS Acts recently signed into law, US citizens are expected to be able to participate in early 2013." Until then, Americans will be able to give, in the same vein as Kickstarter, purely selfless dollars to worthy games when the site is opened.

The mind boggles at the kind of high-level arithmetic necessary to divvy up profits to a crowd-invested project, but the idea of getting in on the ground floor of something that could be the next Minecraft does put dollar-signs in one's eyes.

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