IT was sink or swim when Don Whiteford set up the aptly named Nomad Games.
In 2011 video games developer THQ announced it was to close its Warrington office in Centre Park, leaving 46 people out of work. So Don, who is best known for the racing game Juiced, had very little time to plan his next move. The Lymm resident’s team had just finished working on their first full game for THQ and Games Workshop – Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team.
And that became Don’s saving grace in a way as he signed a deal with Games Workshop on the day that THQ closed.
Nomad Games was born and the studio’s relationship with Games Workshop has continued to serve his team well.
The 57-year-old said: “There is nothing more terrifying than setting up a business. It’s also exciting but it’s terrifying because you don’t know if it’s going to work. You’re basically unemployed because you’re not earning anything. You have to invest your own time and your own money into it.”
Becs Bate, marketing manager for Nomad, added: “I think it’s even more challenging for those starting out in the games industry because of the length of time you spend making a product. Then when you release it you don’t know if it’s going to sell so it’s a huge gamble.”
Don’s gamble was with Talisman, a digital version of Game Workshop’s fantasy boardgame.
He added: “We spotted a growing sector and we immediately had a licence to work with and I think those are the things that worked for us. I have huge admiration for people who set up companies in the gaming sector. It’s a place for brave people.”
Six years on Don’s team has grown from four to 16 and Talisman keeps growing. Their latest coup is that the game is now on the world’s leading console, PlayStation 4. Before that it was only available to play on PC, mobiles and tablets and this is seen as a vital stepping stone in allowing Nomad to reach more players.
Don, dad to Sophie, 27, and Sam, 24, said: “What Sony likes about Talisman and the type of products we do is that it appeals to a different segment of their audience. So Sony funded it and they also found us a developer to work with – a company called Blit in Spain who have been absolutely fantastic – to bring it over to the console.
“It’s a fantastic validation of what we’re doing. It’s an incredible deal to get from a company of that size. The living room where the console sits is a great place to play because you’re in the room with friends and family. What is interesting for Sony is that sharing aspect. Talisman is a great game for playing with different generations as it came out in the 80s. So people of my age are fond of it but my children also enjoy it.”
Almost half a million people already play the game.
Don added: “There are maybe the equivalent of 10 football stadiums filled with people playing my game. That is an incredible thought.”
Nomad Games are also focused on the launch of Smash Up which will be released later this year following a publishing deal. The adaptation of AEG’s top selling and award-winning card game, featuring the likes of pirates, ninja, robots, zombies and dinosaurs, has already been downloaded by 30,000 people on Steam’s early access scheme.
Don also recently helped create a CBeebies game with video game developers the Pickford brothers for Red Nose Day called Hacker’s Nosey Adventure.
He said: “The Pickfords are brilliant developers and it was great to work with the BBC as well. It was a pleasant side project for a good cause and was a lot of fun. It’s been quite a journey. We’ve taken things a step at a time and have learnt a lot and we are at the point now where we’re going to see some interesting things happening.
“We’ve learnt our craft and this year marks the point where we really start to expand our capabilities, our markets and our audience.”