HB Studios, the team behind some of EA’s sports games in the PS2 era, and more recently Rugby World Cup 2011 on Xbox 360 and PS3, have just released The Golf Club – a next-gen sports game that contending against the big shots without any official licenses.
The Canadian studios has placed its emphasis on creating sports titles with solid gameplay customisation and great social features to offer something with more substance beyond a bunch of licenses.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out: How, as a smaller independent developer, can you make sports games in a more accessible way?” said HB Studios executive producer Peter Garcin in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.
“We’re finding a way to do those well, even though they can’t support the budgets that FIFA and Madden have. That’s really important to us. As a creative studio, as a business, how do develop titles of that scale effectively, sustainably, and in a way that’s still compelling to players as well.”
“We didn’t need licenses,” added HB Studios producer Anthony Kyne. “I remember putting George Courtney, the [football] referee, on the front of a box, and nobody said a word. We had Andy Gray on Kick Off 2. I mean, it was wrong, and it’s better now that people are earning some money out of it, but it’s just become stupid in terms of the expense.
“Look at a sport like Formula One. I had a friend who worked at Sony on that franchise, and Formula One basically owns the game. They [Sony] couldn’t do anything to it without them having final say. You’re restricted in development and it’s costing you millions, so even breaking even is really hard.”
Neither Kyne or Garcin argue the impossibility of official licensing as a good thing, exactly, but they do believe it can be turned to the studio’s advantage.
“What’s the actual game? What do people really like to do? How do we make that the core loop, and make that as good as possible?”
HB Studios is currently hard at work at the long-anticipated Rugby 15, the first rugby games since the 2011 release which tied into the World Cup.