As we hinted on our Facebook page last week, we’ve got a special pre-con interview with Chris Ewington - founder, president, and lead programmer for Codito Development. Codito is a development studio, currently focused on bringing board game adaptations to iOS under the brand name “Sage Board Games”.
Codito will be joining us as a Vendor at FallCon so we thought we’d extend Chris a “get-to-know-you” opportunity prior to the convention. If you’re a fan of their iOS games, please stop by their booth and say hello!
JR: Chris thanks for taking the time to do this interview. We’re excited you’ll be joining us at FallCon again this year. First, I’m curious whether you’re a native Calgarian or a transplant like myself.
CE: I was born in Ontario, but I’ve lived in Calgary for over 20 years.
JR: How do you currently experience the game hobby, considering your family life and business commitments?
CE: Most often I am “play testing” Codito apps and updates in progress, but I do enjoy an “analog” (printed) board game or card game once in awhile too.
Most of my original gaming group has moved East, but there are a few friends still here in Calgary that I get together with a few times a year. And the old gang gets together in various configurations when people are back in town.
My wife plays games but we don’t often play games together outside of larger social gatherings. We have two young children, so our time and energy is pretty used up!
JR: How did you get into gaming?
CE: Games and puzzles have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I like solving problems of all kinds, but the “theme” and “trappings” of games is definitely one of my favorite ways to exercise my problem solving skills!
JR: Sounds similar to what draws me into boardgaming... I suspect we’d have a similar list of favorite games. What are some of your favorites?
CE: Too many to list, of course!
Risk has a special place on my shelf as the first “geek game” I played, but it has long been eclipsed by other games -- and if I’m going to play that kind of game, I’d much rather play Risk 2210 for a bit more depth.
Settlers of Catan was my introduction to Euro-style games, but now it’s more relegated to something I can play with my oldest son or friends that aren’t that into board games.
Puerto Rico has been a favorite for a long time. Le Havre I didn’t know as well before we acquired the license but it’s definitely in my top 5 now. RoboRally has to be in my top 5 too. I wish I had the time to complete more games of Twilight Imperium, and the same goes for Through the Ages.
JR: That’s a very diverse list of games. Does your particular taste in games influence the games Codito chooses to develop? How do you select the games in your portfolio of licenses beyond strict availability?
We looked at the top 100 on Board Game Geek and considered how they might or might not work on mobile devices, threw in our own lists of favorite games that weren’t in the top 100, and then started trying to contact people to acquire licenses. There are still some we’re working on acquiring, but on the whole I think the approach we took was extremely successful -- we have 12 great licenses already!
JR: And that includes the recently announced Princes of Florence license.
CE:That's right! We’re very excited to add another Kramer / Ulrich game to our list! This gem was recommend to me by a close friend who played it and thought it would work well on mobile devices. After looking at the game myself, and seeing how popular it was on BGG, I looked into getting the rights. It was easier to get the license this time around because Wolfgang Kramer already knows our work (we published his Tikal to iOS in April 2011).
JR: Codito is a relatively recent startup experimenting in the brave new world of iOS and tablet app development. I’m curious how you reflect back on the last few years. How have they exceeded expectations? What were the biggest lessons learned?
CE: Frankly, the last few years haven’t really exceeded expectations, except in the sense that we didn’t really know what to expect when we started! We’re staying afloat, but haven’t been able to grow very much yet. We’ve had some successes though, and certainly have enjoyed the work and the positive response to our games, along with growing a “community” of fans.
We’ve learned that the niche market of board game apps is a passionate one, and again it’s big enough to sustain us, but it’s a niche market nonetheless. Of course, development always takes longer than you expect and the expectations are high for the titles we are working on, so we’ve had to adjust our goals in terms of how often we can publish a new game. Staying on top of the endless stream of new devices and new iOS versions has had an impact there, too, so we need to be prepared for that to continue in the future.
JR: In your opinion, how has the iPad/tablet changed the world of gaming for the better? For worse?
CE: Being able to play your favorite board game anywhere, anytime, without having to coordinate schedules with at least 2 other friends and spending 30 minutes setting up is a huge positive. I know for a fact that this has also brought people back to old favorites and introduced new players to the games too. Being able to “try” a board game for $5 instead of buying it for $50 is very appealing too, I think.
Mobile adaptations have also opened the door to people being able to have the game experience they want: solo, pass-and-play, tabletop, or online multiplayer. It means more effort for us, but I really like that “play the way you want” choice instead of not being able to play a game because your friends are all busy. Personally, I like playing all different ways. I usually have a solo game and several online games on the go, and do my best to organize tabletop games too.
I don’t think that $5 has drastically reduced sales of the $50 print versions, but certainly that price point expectation makes it harder for developers to make “real” money, and there’s more and more pressure on designers to have an app version of their games. I hope none of that ever takes away from people being able to experience the joy of playing “analog” board games with a group of friends.
The wider iPad/tablet game market (beyond board games) has really pushed the $0.99 or freemium model and most board games just aren’t viable competitive products in that market (you can’t generate ongoing revenue through upgrades and add-ons). So, it’s a challenge to try to reach beyond the niche of people who are already board gamers.
JR: Finally, what does the future hold in store for Codito?
CE: I hope the future holds continued success and some accelerated growth. In terms of the details of what we have coming up, we’re looking at branching into some original game designs and possibly even moving into the larger game market beyond our first love of board games. Cross-platform gaming and building our “community” of customers factor into our list of goals as well. We also haven’t explored any expansions to our existing games yet either...
JR: Some of your games certainly have a lot of potential in terms of expansions. We’ll keep the scoop on the original game designs for a future interview installment.
Thanks again Chris! Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Thank you, Jasen! We’re really looking forward to another fun FallCon this year. It means a lot to us to be able to talk to local gamers and vendors, get feedback on our games, and meet people who are supporting us by buying those games!
Here’s to another 25 years!