Securing new funding, Destineer promises more Mac games

At a time when many gamers are expressing uncertainty about the future of the Macintosh game business thanks to the recent introduction of Apple’s Boot Camp software and Intel Macs’ newfound ability to play Windows XP-compatible games, one company with its roots in Mac game publishing has announced a deal that its president hopes will yield many more high-visibility Mac games to come. Destineer has announced that it’s secured new venture capital to help grow its business, to the tune of $12 million.

Destineer is the parent company of MacSoft and Bold Games — two publishers of Macintosh games. Destineer President Peter Tamte said that money will help secure Destineer’s plans to continue offering Mac gamers new titles — including more originally developed games.

The $12 million is private venture capital, Tamte told Macworld . And what makes this noteworthy is that Destineer’s financial structure is markedly different from many other game developers.

“There are a couple of important differences in the way we run our business,” said Tamte. “There are few companies our size that both develop and publish games.

Destineer depends for its revenue on a combination of licensed titles, game conversions and original game development. Its MacSoft brand is responsible for bringing hits like Halo: Combat Evolved and Zoo Tycoon 2 to the Macintosh; under its Bold imprint, Destineer has also created Mac-compatible children’s games based on the popular John Deere line of agricultural and industrial machinery.

Destineer also developed Close Combat: First to Fight, a squad-based action game featuring (and created with the help of) the U.S. Marines — it was released simultaneously for Mac, PC and Xbox systems in 2005, and has led to Destineer acquiring government contracts to develop training software for the military.

In a traditional game industry setup, the developer creates the game and gives away a huge chunk of revenue to the publisher in order to get their game on store shelves — publishers often keep 80 percent of the revenue, said Tamte.

“Looking at our options to grow, it just wouldn’t make sense for us,” Tamte said. “Because we’re both a developer and a publisher we have the kind of economic model that allows an outside investor to make a profit.”

Innovation is key to future success

Going toe-to-toe with billion-dollar giants like Electronic Arts isn’t easy, but Tamte thinks his company is up for the challenge.

“Almost all of EA’s releases last year were sequels, or movies or sports licenses. With Destineer we don’t have a portfolio of brands on which we can rest. We have to go out and do something innovative. The new infusion of venture capital gives us the flexibility to do so,” Tamte added.

Destineer plans to continue to bring Macintosh conversions of leading PC games to market through its MacSoft business, but Tamte said that going forward gamers can expect to see more original titles emerge from the company.

With the $12 million in new capital, don’t expect to see Destineer’s executive staff racing around the streets near their Plymouth, Minn. headquarters in shiny new Ferraris. The notoriously spendthrifty Tamte said that money is being plowed back into new game development.

“This will help us execute the business plan we’ve had from the start,” said Tamte. “Our model is that we’re going to develop a variety of games in our internal studios using our own core technology. Games that are rooted in authenticity.”

Mac remains “pillar” of Destineer’s business

“The MacSoft business has been a pillar of our organization since we incorporated in 2001,” said Tamte. “It has provided us with stable and growing profits. And we’ve turned that cash into product development for our core technologies — that’s being used now to create games for a whole bunch of platforms, including simultaneous Mac releases.”

This doesn’t mean that MacSoft will stop porting high-profile Mac games, said Tamte, but he said that gamers will see a shift in Destineer’s portfolio from licensed titles to original titles. Tamte said that this is consistent with his vision of the company from the start.

“It’s always been our strategy to grow value for our investors by creating original games and publishing across several platforms. There’s no change in that strategy at all. But it takes a long time to develop those resources, so up to now we’ve been largely dependent on those licenses.”

Tamte said that Destineer is working now with third parties to develop games based on licenses they’ve recently acquired the rights to, as well. How many of those games will come to the Mac is an open question right now, as many of the titles Bold publishes are PC-only.

“We’ll continue to make products that we think are appropriate for the Mac market,” said Tamte.

“But Mac game players can expect to see some very high-profile games that we’re now creating on the Mac.”

But whither Boot Camp?

With Boot Camp’s introduction, Intel Macs — a small but growing number of the Mac systems in consumers’ hands — can now run Windows XP-compatible games at reasonable levels of performance. That’s great for Mac users who want to play the latest games, but it’s potentially devastating for Mac game publishers, who often take months to convert popular PC games to the Mac platform, sometimes with lower levels of performance, limited or non-existent cross-platform networking capabilities and other restrictions.

“Boot Camp may or may not affect us,” Tamte stated. “But we put this business plan a long time ago, long before Intel Macs or Boot Camp were a reality. There’s no connection between Boot Camp and the strategy I’m laying out now.”

Ultimately, said Tamte, that new influx of cash means that Mac gamers can rest a little easier in these uncertain times.

“This is good news for the Mac because Destineer remains committed to simultaneous game releases,” said Tamte.

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