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Play Sketch Nation Studio, publish title you created in-game, profit


Making games is hard. Making games that make money is exponentially more difficult, but even that doomed opportunity isn't possible without first overcoming the initial problem -- making games is hard.

We've tracked the emotional and economic expense of making a game without a publisher, devoted backers or rich family members, and the personal sacrifice involved in devoting oneself to a passion of game creation is now in the glaring public light. Engineous Games wants to take some of the pain out of programming with its new app, Sketch Nation Studio, set to debut at the end of March for iOS devices, Engineous founder Nitzan Wilnai told Joystiq at GDC.

Studio is the follow-up to Sketch Nation Shooter, an app released in 2011 that allows users to draw their own creations and put them into a game instantly. Shooter sold 800,000 copies at $0.99 a pop, saw 100,000 games created and 10,000 available for sharing across the network. Studio takes the premise of Shooter one step further, and allows users to have their games published through Engineous on the App Store with a tap of a button.

Engineous will publish each applicable title for $0.99, and after Apple takes its standard 30 percent, Engineous and the Studio developer will split profits 50-50, each seeing $0.35 of every sale. Sell 1,000 copies and get $350; sell 10,000 and get $3,500. That's not a bad reward for simply playing a game, but it gets better -- Sketch Nation Studio is free.

Engineous plans to make money from Studio solely by publishing games created with its interface and engine, meaning it wants to put as many quality titles on the App Store as possible. That doesn't mean every game featuring a giant penis shooting lasers will make the cut. Actually, no games with penis mechanics will be published, Wilnai said, even though those particular titles make up 30 percent of the rejection rate at Engineous.

Some might argue that the complexity of game development is a good thing for this very reason; that without a barrier to entry, the market would be flooded with titles from every schmuck with a keyboard and five minutes. Some might argue that it's already happening.

The team at Engineous doesn't want to add to this argument, and will take the time to play every single game that is submitted for potential publishing on the App Store, first to make sure it won't be rejected by Apple and second because they don't want their name associated with "crap" games, Wilnai said.

Just because the tools are there doesn't mean every game will be gold -- anyone can paint, but only a few are allowed to call their paintings "art" (without being snickered at behind their backs, at least). With

Studio, anyone can create a game, but not everyone will have a published title.

That said, Apple adds 600 new apps to its lineup every day, and Engineous needs to make money by publishing user-generated games in this environment, so it plans to get a lot of new developers on the market.

Engineous has published three Studio titles on the App Store as a test run: Spooky Jump, Turkey Run and Draakon. Spooky Jump has been downloaded 20,000 times, and Turkey Run and Draakon 15,000 times each -- that would be $7,000 and $5,250 times two for both the developers and Engineous under the Studio model.

Studio also offers a way for kids younger than 13, Apple's age restriction on App Store use, to publish their own games, potentially breeding a generation of toddlers with more development experience than university game-design majors and a widespread influx of Yo Gabba Gabba titles. This is all perfectly legal, Wilnai said, although we think the toddler image is slightly terrifying.

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