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Renegade Kid co-founder tells his story of going indie

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Renegade Kid, the studio behind 3DS indie titles such as Mutant Mudds, came to a turning point last year regarding the security of its future, and the company chose the path that fit with its name, said co-founder Jools Watsham on his blog this week.

The studio launched Mutant Mudds on the 3DS eShop last January. Watsham described the self-funded, self-published platformer as a "labor of love" and said its profitability wasn't a major concern for the company.

"When we published the game it felt like a perfect gamble and allowed us to be able to accept the possibility of no sales because our emotional bank accounts were filled by the completion of the game," explained Watsham. "We were proud of what we achieved."

After releasing Mutant Mudds, Renegade Kid returned to its typical strategy of pitching game concepts to publishers and seeking work-for-hire projects, the latter of which typically take the form of licensed games that "are not always the most fulfilling in terms of creative accomplishment," said Watsham.

Renegade Kid was given the chance to develop the 3DS version of a game based on a "very popular license," a project that could have put the studio on the map and set it up for a financially secure future making licensed games. The company set the budget at $500,000, spread evenly over its estimated development cycle of nine months. But the publisher offered only $125,000 — one-fourth of the desired budget — for the actual development period, and wanted to reserve the remaining $375,000 for the latter stages of the project: finishing and polishing the game, and getting it out the door. Watsham described it as a "self-serving turn of events" for the publisher.

"our emotional bank accounts were filled by the completion of Mutant Mudds"

According to Watsham, many small studios have no choice but to accept unfavorable deals like that, and that's why many of those that do end up going out of business while the publisher stays afloat. After "some serious soul-searching," Renegade Kid decided to reject the offer — not just because the deal itself was "crooked," according to Watsham, but because Mutant Mudds had shown the studio that it could succeed by making self-funded games.

"It certainly wasn't riskier than the licensed publishing deal sitting in front of us," Watsham added. "In fact, perhaps going indie was less risky!"

Renegade Kid self-published ATV Wild Ride 3D on the 3DS eShop last month.