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Extended play for game boys

TWO brothers who have taken on the giants of the computer gaming industry are on the verge of success, with their game nearly complete for the Sony Playstation 2 platform and a route to market secured.

Rene and Andrew Seeberger, the directors of Fremantle-based Bungarra Software, have been building their company for the past five years and been working on their game Smokin’ Barrels – a three-dimensional surf, ski board and skateboard melange aimed at the extreme sports market – for the past two years.

The game is 70 per cent complete and the company has a publisher lined up that believes it can sell 500,000 copies worldwide. It is expected to take a further nine months to finish the game, which means it should be on the streets in either quarter two or three of 2004.

Bungarra is one of only six developers in Australia registered with Sony.

Rene Seeberger said converting the game to the Microsoft X-Box, which is one of the other main game console platforms, was relatively simple because the prototype had been created on a PC.

He said the company was keen for an investor to come in and “boost our capital” and help ensure the game’s completion.

Mr Seeberger said that by funding the development of the game itself, the company would be entitled to a between 25 per cent and 40 per cent royalty on wholesale sales.

While Bungarra is close to cracking the lucrative game console market – where software revenue topped more than $10 billion in 2000-01 and 20 per cent growth is expected for 2002 to 2004 – the path is not an easy one.

To get into the industry a company has to secure a publisher. To do this the company must have a prototype of the game to show the publisher, but most publishers will only look at games that are created for the specific platform.

For the Playstation 2 that means acquiring development kits. However, to gain access to the kit a game developer has to have a publisher.

To develop a game to the proto-type stage costs about $300,000, which also involves building a lot of the ‘tools’ that will set the company up to create more games.

In Bungarra’s case one of those tools was a wave engine to deliver realistic water effects.

Developing a game to the market-ready stage costs, on average, about $2.5 million.

Mr Seeberger said securing a publisher in 2003, with all of the consolidation that had been happening within the computer game market, was akin to landing a movie deal with a Hollywood studio.

With their first offering nearly completed, the brothers are keen to try and build the gaming and three-dimensional imaging industry in WA.

Andrew Seeberger said WA had plenty of raw talent.

“The only thing we’re lacking are the experienced project leaders who know what is needed to complete the product,” he told WA Business News.

“We have a real opportunity to steal a march on the east coast.”

The computer game market has become a sophisticated one, with most players demanding Holly-wood-quality graphics and sound effects.

One recent game had a sound track supplied by the Budapest orchestra.

Andrew Seeberger said game developers needed to understand their audience.

“Some of the games have to be pick-up-and-play or you lose the audience,” he said.

“It’s actually hard to make an easy game.

“We grew up playing these things. We were probably the first generation of kids that grew up playing computer games.”

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