Interview: Euclideon prepares to storm the arcade world with 3D hologram games
Remarkable Australian company Euclideon has invested the proceeds of its geospatial graphics software into a new hologram arcade game business that seems set to go gangbusters. But it's also built a new hyper-speed video game development process that it hopes will rejuvenate the Australian games industry.
There are CEOs that talk big, and then there is Bruce Dell, Chief Executive and supreme commander at Euclideon. Everything about this growing company is a reflection of Dell's personality – Euclideon is a wildly creative, fiercely independent and nakedly ambitious entity that outsources almost nothing to maintain complete control over its own destiny.
When we first spoke to Dell last year, we learned about the multi-user hologram tables he was beginning to roll out as high-end executive boardroom toys and ultra-fast geospatial presentation tools for city-scale infrastructure projects.
Things have moved on in the last 12 months, and at breakneck speed. The hologram tables, geospatial mapping business and Holoverse experience rooms are still happening, but the company has pivoted hard toward hologram arcade gaming to drive its next growth spurt.
With sales locked in for nearly all the major arcade centers in Australia, as well as a project in Oman that's over the line, Euclideon is aiming to put a hologram gaming section in every arcade it can find, globally – and to do so, it's furiously manufacturing its own hardware on Australia's Gold Coast.
That alone is a giant undertaking, but if you think it stops there, you've never spoken to Bruce Dell. To sell arcade game machines, you need games. So Euclideon has started making its own games. To make games, you need a graphics engine, which Euclideon has already built, in its controversial Unlimited Detail engine.
You also need a games development engine. So, true to form, Euclideon has developed its own games engine, which Dell says streamlines the process so effectively that a team of two or three artists can pump out complete arcade-style games, including graphics, in a matter of three weeks.
That's an absolutely extraordinary claim. It would undercut the timelines of major, established casual and arcade games studios by orders of magnitude. But Dell thinks even the three week figure could be improved on, and to test the theory, he had a team throw themselves at the task and build a game – minus graphics to be fair, but a working game – in 15 hours.
What's more, the resurgent arcade gaming phenomenon, says Dell, is largely prize-driven –so Euclideon is selling its hologram arcade table systems with their own built-in prize ecosystem, which has some pretty nifty bits and pieces in it.
If things go to plan, Euclideon stands to make a ton of money on the back of its arcade tables. And, having now visited Euclideon's offices and played a few quick rounds of a couple of different game titles on a buggy dev table, I can attest to the potential these things offer.
Hologram arcade tables
Euclideon's hologram arcade tables put a player at either end of a pair of slanted displays, wearing lightweight crystal frequency separation glasses that the table is able to motion-track to build an augmented-reality style hologram image and present it on the display. It sounds kind of lame when you put it like that, and it's literally impossible to show in photos or videos without faking up the effect. See a longer explanation of how it works in our original hologram table story.
But the experience itself does exactly what it says on the tin; you instantly lose your awareness that there's a slanted display in front of you at all. Instead, you're looking at a three-dimensional game space, in which all kinds of colorful 3D elements dance around. It's like being the god of a tiny universe, controlling what unfolds in front of you, like the video game sprites have acquired substance.
The control scheme, at least to begin with, is ultra-basic. You're tempted to reach out and touch the holograms and interact with them, but that's not possible – at least yet, Bruce is working on it. To keep things as basic and approachable as possible for casual arcade visitors, the initial control scheme just offers three buttons: a blue left arrow, a green right arrow and a red star. I don't particularly like it as a control scheme, but then I'm not your average arcade gamer. Dell says the control scheme is almost completely irrelevant to what they could produce for each game – joysticks will likely appear soon – and in reality each game could easily have its own control system to make it as intuitive as possible.
The floor you stand on, or put your seat on, is a vibrating soundboard that lets you feel the reverberations from actions and events in the game, which amplifies the experience nicely. And the whole thing, as it'll be sold to arcades, sits in a dark, curtained-off booth with video screens on the sides telling people how to play the games. It'll integrate with the card-based payment systems at most arcades, and while Euclideon only has around a dozen games right now, it built those in just six months, and is gushing out new titles at a furious rate.
The games I played featured crocodiles snapping at fish, co-operative Concentration-style pair matching, ninja warriors fighting off armies of demons, and sailboats making their way around clusters of Caribbean islands, trading resources. If there hadn't just been a frame rate update on the dev table, which required updates to the entire catalogue before they'd work on it, there'd have been others involving catapults, kitty cats and virtual claw machines. The team is only just beginning to explore what can be done with that lovely big 3D space in front of you.
The graphics, if you can call them that when they're floating in the air, look great, in a retro and family friendly way. They move well and the games run smoothly, although they're certainly not going to challenge today's incredible AAA titles for realism, dynamic lighting or the kinds of things hardcore PC gamers judge graphics by. It doesn't matter, the experience is unique, and cool enough to make it well worth a go. They'll be hard to resist in an arcade, and they certainly offer an experience you can't have at home, which is gold for arcade owners.
For Dell, the arcade tables, like the hologram tables, are just a means to an end. And the end he's targeting is no less than the rejuvenation of Australia as a video game development hub, with hyper-productive Euclideon game development studios in every city, firing out new titles and machines as fast as the market can handle them.
Ambitious? Damn right it's ambitious. But why not? Euclideon has an opportunity to be the first company to get hologram arcade games into the market, in an industry he says is raking in cash so fast that the big players can't open stores fast enough. There's no shortage of big ideas about what comes next, and Dell is so hell-bent on independence, control and doing things in-house that very little is being left to chance. Whether Euclideon rises or falls, it'll be by its own hand.
We sat down with Bruce Dell for an extensive interview during our visit to Euclideon's Brisbane head office. What follows is an edited transcript. See a video of the game tables at the bottom of the page.
Bruce Dell on moving into the arcade gaming space:
We've done well off the back of Unlimited Detail. About 20 percent of the world's geospatial software will be running off our technology, just off the licensing deals we've done. So that has done reasonably well.
We've taken a bit of a gamble. We took all the money we made and we did something that Australian companies don't normally get involved with. We put it all into our manufacturing of hardware. That's why we moved into hologram tables.
You'd think we'd just get the things made in China, but there are difficulties when you do that. I spoke to too many companies that went to make something in China, and found there were too many delays and problems, there was nothing they could do to move things along. They were sitting there with their hands tied hoping that things would work out over in China.
So we decided to keep all manufacturing here. On the Gold Coast, we've got quite a lot of workers soldering thousands of connections, building the controllers, we have the microchips designed and sent up. We build 20 different devices, quite complicated devices.
So we've converted the company into half hardware, and half software. And these devices we use in hologram tables, hologram rooms, and hologram arcade machines.
So the hologram tables are very nice, and everyone goes "ooh, I wanna play games on these," but the reality is it'll never work in a public place. It's too low – children would sit on it. It's too fragile – if you try to stand on it you'll fall right through, kicking it is going to be a problem. It'd never work in a public place.
The hologram arcade machine is two large, slanted screen surfaces and two lightweight sets of glasses. Essentially, the screen surfaces turn invisible. It looks like you're viewing something flat, but you're not. The objects float about 70 cm above the screen. There can be airplanes flying around in that space, whatever.
Arcades so far are buying them in groups of 6 to 20 each. It's not a machine you order in, it's a whole section. Like you'd have a laser tag section, or a bowling section, then you have a hologram table section. The general attitude is, whatever we've got, they will buy. At the moment we have three games in a box, and we have four boxes. They're also happy to pay a royalty if we keep rolling out new games.
New Atlas: Do the rooms have to be dark?
Regretfully, yes. The things are all based on laser light. If you turn on the light, it disappears, it all washes out. That's why they go in a box like that, with a curtain across the front. The curtain doesn't go all the way to the ground, it's like a sushi curtain. And on the front is a screen, showing you the games, and how to play them.
They go in, they swipe their card, and the first time they're like "oh, I didn't quite work this out until the end, what did I get wrong?" And they look at the screen and work it out. Some of the games are immediately easy and simple, like the crocodile game, and the catapult game and things like that. Others – unfortunately the ones that weren't functional on our dev table today – are a little bit more of a gamble towards a more interesting control scheme.
At the moment I think it's a case of, probably people will turn up because they're saying "what is this? I've heard about it, it's different." We've brought in lots of children – some of them find it absolutely magical when they're looking at animals and things. We've had some that just stop playing the game, because they're trying to touch things that aren't there. The jungle crane one, it picked up an animal. It was twirling around a giraffe. Who cares about the game? I'm moving my hand through a giraffe that's not really there!
When the vibrating floor is really turned up, and the music's pounding, you wonder how much the children are enjoying the game, and how much they're enjoying the vibration through the floor. They're screaming and yelling and throwing their hands around.
We tried the little kids to see how it'd work. But we are aiming at all ages. We know that, for example, Strike Bowling just opened up an arcade called B. Lucky and Sons, a new chain. One in Melbourne, one in Brisbane, all over the place.
This is where it's all chandeliers, and it's all made to look glamorous. It's an adult room, and yet all the games are designed for little kids. Ponies and frogs and all sorts of things. They're waiting for us to connect up with their system.
People ask "are your games aimed at children, or older people?" Well, there was a time when adults would only play Call of Duty and they shot people. But then League of Legends and World of Warcraft started getting a bit more colorful, and Panda bear expansion packs, and things like this, and now little kiddy, cute looking things are cool again. People who ride motorbikes and stuff like that, they'll still go and play very colorful games. So the sort of stuff we're making is really just sticking with the trend that's out there at the moment.
We'll get it right, in time, we'll just keep making stuff.
On the game development market:
On the whole games side, that looks like a flooded and shaky area. Trying to work with publishers, trying to work with console owners, there are too many stories of people having significant difficulty.
So games looked a bit unstable to us, and I think I like being free. It's really nice. I don't have anyone telling me what to do. And if I went into games, I'd have a lot of people telling me what to do. And I'd have to say "yes sir" to a lot of illogical decisions.
So we decided that we might eventually release our game engine, but for now, what we had worked on, we kept internal. And we kept working on it. I decided that game engines are at two extremes. One is Unity, which is literally a library of code, and you program your games. The other – there's always been a number of game maker-y kind of things –is a system where you sort of drag and drop and you answer questions. But they're very limited in what they've been able to produce. There are no professional, AAA titles made in such things.
On Euclideon's own in-house games engine:
I felt like this could've been done a lot better than it has been. So I went through every game, and isolated them to 270 simple questions regarding, well, everything that you could think of. And we made a game engine where the artists are able to easily understand what they're doing, press buttons, answer some questions, and it does the programming in 27 seconds. It collects the information, and then does the programming.
At first, you'd think that such a thing would be very limited in what it would be able to produce. But as you'll see from the variety of games we're making, so far we haven't found any limit to it.
We believe this thing would make Starcraft, we believe it would make Assassin's Creed. And slowly, we'll prove that, little bit by little bit. We're working on simple arcade games right now, but we'll keep going, and maybe we'll release the engine in a few years' time. Or maybe we'll keep it to ourselves.
Some interesting measurements: Halfbrick, who made Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride, is 36-56 people. That's what they were in the better days. Brisbane based, Australia's biggest games success story. They produce one and a half games a year. They're not slow; Gameloft is 400 people, and they make about a game and a half a year too. When you go through mobile phone games companies, that's about the average. Thirty people and nine months makes a game.
The arcade games we're producing are not that different to phone games. You can put the two together, they're round about the same sort of thing. We produce a game every three weeks here, and we've done so for the last six months. We've made 12 games in six months.
We've had Timezone, we've had Namco, a lot of people come in, Autodesk … they say "you've beaten all world records for production, not by a small amount, by a factor of 10 or 20." They thought they were coming in to see our large team, but the reality is, each game is produced by about two people.
I decided maybe we're a bit lazy here when we're making our games, what would happen if we worked very hard? So we tried to work as efficiently as possible, and we made one game in about 15 hours.
And when you have a look at it, when you have a 48-hour game jam, what you get at the end tends to be a bit questionable. Yet this looks like a pretty good thing for 15 hours' work. It was another three days for them to do the artwork, but the game itself, answering all the questions and generating all the code, was done in 15 hours.
Another game was eight days, but when you look at it, it looks like a lot of people worked on it for quite some time.
On the 270 questions from which Euclideon builds all its games:
I'll give an idea. If I were to have, in a game, a person going onto a platform. Or if, say, I want to blow all the enemies away. Or if I suck you in with a vacuum cleaner. Or if I'm scrolling through a level ... what you don't realize is that the basis of all of those things is two questions.
Originally when I looked at games, I realized there's core elements here that people aren't realizing. They're using them in 10 different ways, but they're core elements! If you say "I am putting an object in the level, and the object, whatever movement it does, I want to transfer that movement to any other object that I have so marked." That's one question.
I've marked the player, as he is affected by the platform. The next question is, does he get affected all the time, or just when he's touching? So using just those two things, I can take the thing marked "player," and say "only while it's touching" – so if the player's on the platform, it'll carry him. It transfers its movements to the player. If the player jumps off, they're fine.
Now if I want to suck in Catherine with my vacuum cleaner, then I can make these invisible objects appear over there and come towards the vacuum cleaner like so, and I can say each transfers 50 percent of its movement to her, and only while it's touching. So she's getting pulled in.
If I want to blow you all away, I send out a bunch of invisible bullets, so to speak, in all directions, and I might say while they're touching you that 80 percent of their movement is transferred to you. So they'll go through you and eventually you'll be free.
If I want to scroll in a level, then I'm saying "here's a little object, and without touching, wherever it goes, it's transferring its movements to the camera."
So you can see, from two, or three simple questions if you include the percentage – we call it Magnet Move – you can make all sorts of things. I have seen game engines that when I look at their equivalent, they have a sucking things in part, they have a blowing things away part, a scrolling part and a platform part, et cetera. They didn't realize that in the same way as computer programming is broken down to very core elements, everything that you see in games can be broken down into 270 core elements.
I believe so clearly in this, that if another person was very, very smart, and they went down the same road – and it takes a while, we originally started with 600 questions, we just eventually purified them right down, and maybe we'll do a bit more purification before we release – but if another person was to do the same task, and they're very, very smart, we should be able to sit down and compare notes, and in its purest form, we should end up with exactly the same elements.
Those elements can be used in any simulation, not just games. This is the core elements of producing any 3-dimensional world type simulation.
On the speed of Euclideon's game development:
It's not hard to pick up. We find that there's a few main questions and a bunch of more advanced ones. The ones we just spoke about, most people wouldn't come straight in and start using those. You don't need those in Space Invaders, for example, so that's a more advanced feature.
So breaking things down into these core elements, we find it normally takes about three days for a person to watch some videos, do some training, and then … I forget which one of the Greek philosophers said "what I cannot make, I do not understand." Once you've been given your training, you go off and have a play, and once you've played with it for a little bit, you pick it up very quickly.
When I ask a games company "what takes you so long?" They say "well, there's a lot of meetings. Our people come in at 8, there's meetings until about 2 where they work out what characters should look like, do a lot of prototyping, they then tell the programmers 'I need this to work this way' and the artists 'I need this to look this way.' And there's miscommunication, and misunderstandings, and a lot of going back and forth."
Lots and lots of communication. When humans go to talk to other humans, that's a slow process. You've lost, what, half your day, maybe more, in communication?
But when artists are sitting down and doing their thing, click click click, a one person team? I don't have to tell a programmer what to go and make for me. Because the same process of me trying to tell the programmer how to make it work, is me telling the computer. Click click click.
The way one notable company put it, we can't name names, but they said "the difference between Euclideon's game production and any other games company in the world is that not one line of code has been written by a human being in any of these games."
The content we're producing is of reasonable quality. We can certainly see the difference between our first game and our twelfth game. We're learning quickly, but I'll let you be a judge of what you think regarding the quality.
Loz: I like the fact that you're letting a pure vision go through with each game. A dev or two going and making something they want to play, it gets a lot of cooks out of the kitchen.
When I compare it to other games studios, I see them write up a plan, two months of planning, draw up the sketches, storyboard the thing … In our case, people will draw up two pieces of paper, this is the game, this is how it works. We all sit down, we adjust it, we say "it's not fun yet, it's not fun yet, it's not fun yet … now it's fun."
Some game companies, I find they hate their games by the time they're finished. They've been doing it for so long that they hate it once it's launched. No-one hates these games, we're only working on them for three weeks.
On getting holograms into the arcade gaming market:
We released the hologram arcade machines a month ago, and to our surprise we sold 20 in the first month at AU$50,000 each, which was good, since we poured every cent the company made into setting ourselves up as a big manufacturer.
After that, two of the the three big groups – iPlay, Strike Bowling and Timezone (Timezone isn't signed up yet) – want to roll it out at the moment. We're working on integrating them with their swipe card systems. There'll be some trials in some places soon, and after that they'll be rolling out all over the country.
So the three big ones here in Australia are all on board. Our 20 sales, most of it was to the Middle East. So there's some Holoverse centers – the first one will be in Oman in December, just before Christmas. That should get things started in the Middle East, normally as soon as they're in once place, it's an easy business.
When I sell a business table, I am taking your money. It's like a male Gucci bag, some of them have good uses for it, others just think it looks pretty. But when I sell an arcade machine, it's different. On weekends and holidays and after school, it's bringing in 60 dollars in an hour. Games go for about five minutes, people pay 21 dollars and get a card thing that gets them seven games, and that'll probably last them maybe an hour, maybe a bit more. It's much easier for me to sell somebody the opportunity to make money.
The head of worldwide business development in Namco, the world's largest arcade company, he came out to see the early versions of the hologram technology, and after seeing it, he resigned from Namco to join us as a distributor last year. That put a bit of a surprise through the industry. They said "this is the top person, and he's said this thing is going to be the next wave of technology."
On the death and resurgence of arcade gaming:
So to look at the arcade industry in general, in the 80s and 90s, arcades were making more money than all music, all movies and all sport combined according to Wikipedia. It was a very big industry. The head of Timezone, as I understand, was the tenth richest person in Australia, strange as that might sound. They were making so much money.
Then when Segas and Nintendos started coming out in homes, they started to die. But what killed them was actually the betrayal of Sega and Nintendo. They said the games that we're making arcade machines on, we will now release on the home machines. So if you were an arcade owner and you'd just bought Donkey Kong, and suddenly they release that to the home, well, that's the end of your Donkey Kong machine.
It was a bit of a stab from the games companies. They did the calculations and said "when we sell an arcade machine, you make a ton of money, and we don't get any commission in that. If we sell games to anyone who wants them, we're a bit more directly connected with the customer."
Games arcades died so significantly that it reached a point where arcades had closed in every shopping center. It was down to one in each capital city, and even there it was like an antique: "I remember arcades, I had fun in them when I was a child." It was dead, completely dead between 2005 and 2010.
In recent times however, things have changed again. Shopping centers are getting very concerned with how many people are buying things online. So they're changing their policy to bring in a lot more entertainment, both restaurants and entertainment. Build-a Bears, trampoline centers, bowling alleys … Worldwide, malls took the view that they were trying to create new entertainments, trying to get you into the shopping center and out of the house.
So there was a lot of subsidies. Shopping centers were saying "come and open an arcade, we'll give you free rent."
And arcades realized they had to redesign themselves. They couldn't be machines you put money into any more, it didn't make any sense. So they moved into other things. What can we give you that you can't get at home? Maybe you sit on a motorbike. Maybe you throw a basketball through a hoop.
And oddly enough, little by little they've been climbing back. Climbing back to the point where it's very hard to find anyone who has just one arcade. Everyone's got 4, 5, 10, 50. Because anyone who's had arcades has made so much money in the last four years that they keep opening them. Iplay, Tons of Fun, Funhouse, all of these, every arcade they have is making so much money that they just keep opening more.
Arcades have increased, I forget what the official numbers are, but it's something like 4 times more in the last three years. It's gone from one per capital city, to every shopping center in every capital city has opened up an arcade or is in the process of opening one.
Timezone is back up to 240 stores from … I don't know how bad it was at the worst moments, but they're back up to 240 stores, and they're all across South-East Asia now. Dave 'n' Busters in the US is up to 150 stores, Chuck E Cheese is up to 500 stores. So the thing is on its way back.
Part of the reason arcades are on the way back is the prize element. When people win prizes, they feel like it's a lot more fun. They get something. Humans are like little bower birds, we want physical possessions. Getting stuff is nice. Gambling by law, worldwide, is defined as money or winning more than you put in. If I put in $20 and get something worth $50, it starts to look like gambling.
Timezone and the like do rubber snakes and bouncy balls and Optimus Prime with Bumblebee's head. You know, with Super Force Mega Robot Pro written on the front. We have looked at the prize element and the way that people do it.
The way the Americans do it, they have decided to give people things they actually want. Transformer toys, Barbie dolls, headphones, watches for older people, things like this. The difficulty with that model is that when you put $100 into the machines, and you win a Transformer toy worth $15, surely you do the maths in your head and say "that doesn't work." Mind you, it still seems to be working for them, even though people could go buy these things cheaper. I think there's that hope that a person might win a thousand tickets and get a Gameboy after only putting $20 in. Without thinking of the odds.
We have taken a different approach. We've been working directly with factories to custom build things you can't buy in shopping centers. But maybe they're perceived as having a lot of value, when in reality they don't.
New Atlas: You guys are doing everything yourselves!
The joke I've heard is that Euclideon is more independent than North Korea. People are surprised. They say "how are you making the games, doing the toys, franchising the business, making the hardware?" Yes. We're doing it all ourselves. 110 people now, Euclideon is. We did well out of the Unlimited Detail engine, and we're using that to do even better. And that does mean that Australia could be a major force in entertainment in the near future.
What we're looking at here is ... We make this for not much, and they'll all be Holoverse branded. And if a child spends $21, and they play 7 games, and they realize they're good at a game, so they keep playing it, we put these up with a sign saying "this costs $30, or 2,000 points." If they pay $20, and they win that for their 2,000 points, then they feel like they did well and got something quite nice.
We've found adults have different opinions on these things, but we've had them on trial now, and there are people who are absolutely addicted to these. Because they're building them themselves. We're doing great buildings of the world next, the Taj Mahal, that sort of thing. Even just among my own family, my sister is like "I need all eight of these, I've become addicted to them." But there's a ton of different ones. Strawberry houses, robots, buildings of the world.
The next one is glow cuddly toys. I won't tell you how much we purchase these for, but if you tell someone $60 or 5,000 points, and then two kids play together, they give us $42 and then they win a dolphin, they're pretty happy.
We really feel like the industry isn't just the technology. The industry is getting the prizes right. And these are pretty good. People will want to come back and collect them.
On Euclideon's plans to develop touch-sensitive holograms:
Traditionally, people try to do it with an XBOX Kinect. But we use up a lot of infra-red signal for our tracking. So in the beginning it could be like a laser that's aimed at the menu, and when you put the finger there, the beam is broken, that sort of thing.
We're trying to get to the point where you can grab the holograms and move them around with both hands. We have a tremendous amount of R&D going on here. What you've seen is just a small fraction of what's on the way. I think over the next few years … obviously one of the things is to be able to reach out and touch these things with my hands. But there are so many interesting things we can do with this stuff. I think we'll just be, like, bringing out two interesting products a year. It'll be good!
The gloves that track finger movements have been around for a long time, and are generally rejected. There's an idea in technology that if you make something good, then everyone will buy it. But it's just not true. The media often has no idea – if you look back to media articles in early 2010, you should all have 3D printers in your home by now. You shouldn't be buying dolls or Transformer toys, you should be downloading them and 3D printing them. It didn't happen. Virtual reality, every school was supposed to have children with the little helmets on their heads most of the day by now. Didn't happen. Sometimes you have to look at technology and ask "what are humans responding to, and what aren't they responding to, and why?"
The gloves, for some reason, have never really taken off. New companies keep appearing, and they can't sell enough and they vanish. Is it because you can't put them into a public place and expect people to use a sweaty glove? I don't know.
So we have to be a lot more clever. We have to get to the point where we're properly working out where your hands are for interaction.
There are already companies that do that sort of thing, but I don't like using what other people made. We wouldn't be where we are today if I did. It seems a bit of a craziness, always re-inventing the wheel, but that's how I do things here. I say, if we're going to use it, we'll make it ourselves, and then we can make it better, and we can upgrade it, and if it goes wrong, we can fix it!
When people say "do you want to use my game engine, or technology ... or whatever?" No. We'll make our own.
On resurrecting Australia's games industry:
Games are fun, and lots of people now are doing games degrees, but the truth is, the games industry in Australia is virtually dead. All the major studios died. Sega, THQ, the whole lot. We are a fraction of the size, in this country, of what we were five years ago. For people who go to university and they want to be in graphics, or programming, or games, there isn't much left for them in this country.
At the same time, the government had me talk with Steve Wozniak, as the keynote speakers at their big technology conference, because the government realizes that mining is over. China has made deals with Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan was always saying "no, we'll never deal with you," but they've changed their mind.
Kazakhstan is right next door to China, and right next door to Europe, and it has just as much in terms of resources as Australia has. Mining is in a bit of bad weather. Plainly, it isn't coming back. Australia also, as a big farm, we're going down each year as the main part of the world is finding ways to grow wheat and so forth at prices that we can't match if we're shipping it.
Australia's had a good time of being a good farm and a big mine, but that time is over now. And the government takes the view that we should reinvent Australia as the new Tokyo. Everyone laughs at that, that's madness. But the reality is, the Tokyo Traffic Authority is already running on Australian technology, from here. And things seem to be going very much according to plan. The government couldn't be happier.
We seem to be creating something here that could turn into a big global brand, and may even be able to take on, like, Nintendos and Microsofts and others around the world. When we look at the amount of money that is made – 35,000 arcades in the US ... 45,000 in Europe, and no one knows how many in Asia. The money in that alone would allow me to expand this to offices in every capital city, and every minor city as well. My goal is to try and get Australia on track. Try and get it strong. Try and get it so that anybody who learns in university how to make games, or how to be a technology professional, isn't stuck having to go overseas and beg. Or end up in Kmart.
The number of people who come in here looking for jobs, who are amazing programmers in graphics but they work at Kmart, or they work at Hungry Jack's … because there isn't anywhere. When they look overseas, it's a case of "what do I do, do I apply long-distance?" Canada and the US just say "we'll take our locals thank you." If you actually go over there, you can spend six months hoping somebody will employ you. That's not a future.
Australia is in a really difficult situation right now, and we can either pretend everything will be fine – and then we'll end up in a situation where things aren't so great … or we can kind of take fear into our hearts of the way things are going, and try to set it right.
To me, I have very big plans for expansion. I need lots of money to do that, and we have a product that can make lots of money.
Once we've got the whole country making them … once we've got offices in all the cities full of people making games … this is the question that's being asked. They say "other arcade companies, Sega, Namco, things like that, they're producing about three titles a year. But at the rate at which you're producing now, with such a small team, what happens when you open up offices all over the country, with people making games in every office?"
It's like Australia becomes the new leader in arcades. Now, arcades is a safer industry than normal games. Normal games is 99c or free on your phone, and you never know what'll work and what won't work. If the arcade industry is stronger right now than ever before, and looks like it's going to get stronger very soon, it's the right market at the right time with the right product.
Very good for the country, and with that amount of content, we could rival … well, Disney's the wrong analogy, but we're one of the biggest content producers in the world. And all based in this one country.
New Atlas: Do you think the hologram thing, in and of itself, will be big enough to support a Disney sized company? I mean, it's a very cool experience, but today's kids adapt to technology so quickly that it won't remain special for long.
I agree. We have a limited window to get on top, and then we have to keep innovating to stay ahead. But we're OK at the innovation side. (grins) I think we'll be OK.
Thanks to Bruce Dell, Louis Valenti, Catherine Booth, Janine Weldon and Tamaryn Osborne at Euclideon. Loz Blain travelled to Brisbane as a guest of Euclideon. See a video about the tech below - yes, the images of the games in use are faked up, but in our experience they're a fairly accurate representation of what it looks like to play them.
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