Interestingly enough, the listing shows this as being something that just began development in June 2012. Coincidentally, on the main page of their website, they’ve started recruiting for “an exciting Next-Gen AAA title” on June 1, 2012. The same month the Wii U port began development.
Here is a picture of the job’s listing:
It is very easy for gaming enthusiasts in higher age brackets to not be interested in any game from this independent company. They’ve developed many less than exciting games based on licensed brands mainly targeted at a younger market segment like Spongebob , Jimmy Neutron, Ben 10, and Cars. Then there are games like “Pony Friends” which have received middling reviews, sold little and hardly garnered purchase intent from enthusiasts. Nonetheless, High Voltage put out a lot of poorly received licensed games (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, anyone?) to help them fund bigger, more ambitious games like the “The Conduit” series. So maybe this developer can surprise us.
The only reason to care about this news is that both the employee’s LinkedIn account and the official website’s job description both use the term “AAA” in their description. This is a company that has gone public expressing how expensive and tough it is to make AAA games in Australia, which is why they prefer to make cheaper games. Also, every studio has their own definition of what projects are considered AAA depending on their overall budget and sales projections. However, the website mentions “expanding our team” specifically for this game so an increased budget is highly likely. Whether or not this next gen AAA title is the same project as the Wii U game is unknown, but the LinkedIn account does stress that it is a Wii U port of an unannounced AAA game.
With that said, Tantalus has worked on a few interesting games over the years according to their games page. Their best games were made in 2003 or earlier and their more recent releases are viewed as rather mediocre.
They worked on Top Gear Rally for the Game Boy Advance which ended up winning lots of awards from IGN and other sites for pushing the graphics on the GBA’s hardware. They were also involved on games like the original House of the Dead, Area 51 (1995), Wipeout (Saturn version), Wipeout 2097 (Saturn version). They also did the Xbox port for Unreal II: The Awakening (Xbox 1) which IGN gave a 7.8, and the Spyro the Dragon games on the Nintendo DS. Drift Street International for DSiware received an 8.0 from IGN.
Tantalus is partnered with companies like Ubisoft, Warner Bros, THQ, Sony, and Sega. One thing to consider is that if this listing turns out to be a licensed kids’ game, it likely won’t be from THQ.
THQ announced in January that it is “exiting traditional kids’ licensed video games and focusing on core video game franchises and digital initiatives for the future.“
On March 2012 (two months before they put up a job listing for an AAA next-gen title) Tantalus CEO Tom Crago was interviewed by PCWorld Australia about why there aren’t more big AAA games being made by in Australia like Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire.
March 2012 PC World Australia Interview
PCW: Where do you see the Australian gaming industry going?
Tom Crago: “There is this new part of the market, which is the Apple iOS. I’m talking about games that are like $1, $2 or free. That’s big business at present.
Yes, there are ultra low budget games that will be developed for all platforms even console platforms but we can’t really make those games in any competitive way in Australia anymore. They are being made in parts of Asia, Europe or elsewhere.
At the other end of the market, we have that very high end that is AAA games. We had one success story there in LA Noire (developed by the now defunct Team Bondi). But we don’t have a track record in Australia for developing AAA titles.
That may change and hopefully it does but there aren’t many, if any, AAA titles that are being commissioned by publishers for development in Australia.”
PCW: Will Tantalus be looking at developing AAA titles in the future?
Tom Craigo: “We would love to but it’s very, very challenging – more challenging than ever insofar as the Aussie dollar value is much higher than the US dollar.
So if your partner is American they’re going to be much more inclined to make that game closer to home.
This is another thing that happened of course when times got tough in the US.
Publishers there were much more inclined to work with local studios and they felt as though that minimised the risks associated with the development cycle in keeping it with the studios they can go visit rather than work with a company on the other side of the world.”
PCW: Moving onto the topic of gaming hardware, is there a particular platform Tantalus is most excited to develop for?
Tom Craigo: “Most exciting for us at the moment is the Nintendo Wii U.
You’re always inclined to be excited about what’s new or what’s around the corner but that’s absolutely a platform we are very optimistic and enthusiastic about.”
During that interview, Tom Craigo never announced any project in development for the Wii U. Hopefully whatever this “AAA Wii U/AAA Next Gen” game is, it’s as genuinely ambitious as their titles from over a decade ago. Moreover, being profitable could inspire more bigger budget game development in Australia.