PlayFirst is a casual game developer that’s come on strong with Mac support of late. The company, best known for its Diner Dash series of games, earlier this week introduced the PlayGround SDK, a new tool for game developers to build Mac and PC-compatible games. They’re also very pleased with how their games have been received by the Mac market.
“We have a much higher conversion rate on our Mac demos than we do our PC demos,” PlayFirst CTO Brad Edelman told Macworld . The conversion rate compares the number of people who download a game’s demo and then buy it. Edelman said that Mac conversion rates are two to three times what they are on the PC.
“I think Mac users are hungry for quality casual games,” Edelman said. “They’re also looking for something that works well on their system, and they may not have the latest and greatest hardware.”
Most of PlayFirst’s focus has been on electronic distribution — their games are available for download and purchase on their own site, as well as a number of “portal” sites that offer casual games. But PlayFirst has recently begun to make a push into retail stores.
“We’re just getting in to Apple stores now,” said Edelman. “Diner Dash should be showing up real soon.”
PlayFirst has published eleven Mac-compatible titles so far, and plans to increase that into the future. The company demonstrated two new games that will be out for the Mac shortly — Tasty Planet, which puts you in the role of an amuck bathroom cleaner that develops a taste for everything — including the Earth — and the Mystery of Shark Island, a “hunt and find” game that combines the exploration of “I Spy” games with a day at the beach.
The Mac is very important to Edelman, who uses one himself and recalls his love for the platform as far back as his days as an SE/30 owner. To that end, the company’s PlayGround SDK offers casual game developers tools to create a game that runs on both Mac OS X and Windows, with a very liberal licensing arrangement — no money up front, a simple mention of the SDK in the credits, and an e-mail to let PlayFirst know the game is shipping.
“We see this as a catalyst to meeting new people,” explained Edelman. “As a casual game publisher, we’re nothing without the talent.”
PlayFirst and other companies in the casual game space have released their own software development kits under liberal or, sometimes, totally open source licenses, to help generate the creation of new content and to feed a cottage industry of young, hungry game developers looking for a break in the business.
Edelman offers practical advice for anyone considering making games for a living.
“Making products is really hard,” he laughs. “A lot of it has nothing to do with games at all. It’s seeing things through to completion. The last ten percent of a project is usually the hardest. Learning how to do that and to work on a team can be very, very difficult for some software programmers.”
To that end, he doesn’t recommend that nascent developers work on games straight away.
“Get a solid foundation education in programming, first, before you become a game programmer. And be prepared to specialize. Every so often we’ll find the rare person who can work in multiple disciplines — be the programmer and artist for example — but you need to understand how to collaborate with people to be successful.”