‘90s indie publisher confirms place as big hitter in British gaming business.
Team17, best known for their 1995 game Worms and its many spinoffs, is proving itself as a major player in the video game publishing industry. Recently released sales figures for British gaming in 2017 show the independent company, based in Yorkshire in the North of England, is competing favourably with the likes of industry giants such as Sega and Konami in the number of physical units it sold last year. The company has come a long way since its early days, having now released over 70 games with total sales of more than 65 million units.
The studio, which describes itself as: “One of the longest running privately owned independent games companies in the world,” started out nearly 30 years ago as a small game studio, mostly taking game builds from freelance developers then adapting and publishing them. They originally made games for the Amiga platform, a personal computer operating system which today is a tricky trivia question for IT geeks, but was then a serious competitor to Microsoft and Apple. They had limited success until 1995, when they published Worms, which went on to outsell FIFA 96 and the first Tomb Raider.
From then on, Team17 published games on a variety of platforms, some of which were produced in-house such as Alien Breed: Evolution. They have a history of churning out games that are commercially successful if not always well-received by critics. Often they are continuations of franchises, either Team17’s own or those of other companies. More recently they have published games like retro 3D platformer Yooka-Laylee, and The Escapists, a prison-escape strategy game made by fellow northern English setup Mouldy Toof Studios, which got a lot of praise from critics.
Team 17 are a big success story, coming from a time when the term ‘indie game’ was barely in use, but still a reminder that it’s possible to fend off the giant multinational publishers and maintain corporate independence. Team17, which will celebrate its 30th birthday in two years, is playing them at their own game and keeping up just fine, probably thanks to their CEO Debbie Bestwick’s calm leadership. Bestwick made her mistakes early on and learned from them, saying in a recent interview:
“If I can pass advice onto any studio, person, or team that has a massive hit game today, it’s this: don’t take it for granted, keep your feet on the ground, and don’t act like a bunch of rock stars.”
Who knows which of today’s indie studios has the mettle and the winning formula to be around in 2050?