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Dastardly plan to extend Scots games firm

Dundee-based Cobra pioneers omni-platform titles for global market

A SCOTTISH software company has unveiled a new approach to games development that promises to revolutionise the way small firms reach global audiences.

Dundee-based Cobra revealed it has signed a Tokyo licensing deal that will give it an inroad to the lucrative Japanese mobile market early next year with a game based on the classic Dastardly & Muttley cartoon series.

Cobra claims the move will help slash production costs and increase speed to market of its games. It already has two titles selling across the globe.

"We've implemented a fundamental change in the games publishing process that begins at the planning stage and continues right through to the way we reach the customer. It's a bold strategy, but one we believe will allow us to make the leap from small development house to international player," said Cobra founder Mark E.

"A lot of major companies with multi-million pound budgets have been working on developing this sort of approach, but we've beaten them to the punch."

Following months of market testing, Cobra will this week launch two new games - Numba's and Cobi Treasure Deluxe - on the global market. Designed to appeal to all age groups and function across all territories, the release will spearhead a pioneering approach to game design and distribution.

Dubbed "omni-gaming", the development house has designed the games to work across all current technologies, meaning its titles can be made available on a multitude of platforms ranging from PCs, Macs and PS3s to hand-held consoles, mobile phones and iPods. Focusing on themes such as number puzzles which have few problems with language barriers, Cobra's plan is based on a premise of not limiting its markets in any way.

"We're developing simple games that can be replicated on any device quickly at a fraction of the normal costs, which are not limited in their appeal by the customer's age, nationality or choice of equipment," added Mark E.

The vast majority of firms in the games sector develop titles with a relatively limited range of platforms in mind, constructing games for specific formats such as the Xbox 360 and then re-engineering them to play on other computers and consoles. Once built, the complexity of their background code and the controls required to play them almost always means that it is impossible to produce versions for simpler devices such as mobiles.

Cobra's strategy is based on the premise that its products should be transferable to any device. The process has been in development for the past year and has been supported by Cobra's established success in the mobile games market.

Founded in 2005 as a purely mobile developer, Cobra has already worked extensively with some of the industry's biggest names, clinching contracts with Codemasters, Player X, Hands On Mobile and Turner Broadcasting. It has also released popular hits including Sensible Soccer Skillz, Lego Bricks and Carol Vorderman's Mind Aerobics.

COBRA now plans an assault on the international market, but intends to sidestep publishing middlemen and market its omni-platform range direct to consumers via e-commerce sites, games portals and service providers.

This broad brush approach to business will be mirrored by the vast gaming audience Cobra intends to target. Whereas the vast bulk of titles published each year are aimed at particular age groups and interests, the company intends to concentrate solely on games that operate across such divisions.

"We're targeting the biggest niche market there is, by which I mean everyone. Our games will all be based on the broad-appeal required by the emerging casual gaming market, and we intend them to be the sort of thing that mothers will play when they've got 10-minutes free and that kids will use on the school bus," Mark E said.

"Rather than limiting ourselves, every production will be designed to play across the traditional demographic and geographical boundaries."

With the newly launched games already generating excitement in the games press, several new omni-platform titles are in development. "It is an ambitious plan, but one we're quite capable of carrying out," said Mark E. "We are only a small company, but I believe we have the skills and flexibility necessary to punch well above our weight."

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