Sarbakan has made more than 600 games since 1998. But nobody knows about the company because it mostly does work for hire.
But as the casual game landscape shifts, the Quebec-based company is moving into making its own original games to be published under the Sarbakan name. Today, it is announcing it is working on three new titles: the online fashion game Star Fever Agency; an unannounced game for Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade platform on the Xbox 360; and Little Noir Stories: The Case of the Missing Girl for the Big Fish Games game portal.
That’s quite a variety. But the company has to make big moves in order to survive. With a glut of casual games causing prices to fall, the work for hire business isn’t as lucrative as it once was. It needs to be more aggressive about finding new projects to keep its 100 employees busy. The evolving game market is what we wrote about at the recent Casual Connect casual games conference in Seattle.
“You need to be more flexible, since the work for hire business isn’t what it was three years ago,” said Sara Garneau, head of marketing at Sarbakan.
The company is still profitable and has plenty of work to do. It will continue to do a mix of original games and titles for other game publishers. The company has made games for lots of casual game companies: Nickelodeon, Real Networks, Hasbro, and Playfirst. Some of its hits include Wedding Dash 2, Fitness Dash, and the Game of Life. The company typically works on about 40 games a year.
The company is working together with a new developer Rabbit Hole, on Star Fever Agency. Over time, the company is also likely to move into Facebook and iPhone games. For Star Fever Agency, Sarbakan found an operating partner for the online game and that partner funded Rabbit Hole. Star Fever Agency will go into beta testing in mid-August and will likely launch at the end of September.
Little Noir Stories, a hidden object game (where you solve mysteries by finding hidden objects) will debut in September, while the Xbox Live Arcade title will be ready next year. Each one will likely use a different business model.
The company’s focus will be on PC and console games. In its early years, Sarbakan did work on titles such as Good Night, Mr. Snoozleberg, Arcane, FireChild, and Steppenwolf: The X-Creature Project, which was acquired by Warner Bros.