Anyone remember Slidatron? It was a highly innovative cartoony dual-screen platformer for The Nintendo DS by the then-new indie studio startup, Endgame Studios. While many of the unique aspects of the original Slidatron may look fairly common now, it certainly wasn't back then.
Slidatron received a runner up placing for the 2006 Game Connect: Asia Pacific conference for Best Unsigned Game (Professional) award which went to another small indie startup at that time, Ironmonkey Studios, for Darkenlight. Don't feel too sorry for Endgame for this, however, since they snagged the 2006 Adam Lancman Award for Best New Start Up at the same conference. You should feel sorry for what they've had to go through to get their platformer on shelves instead.
From what I can recall, Slidatron was a title that Endgame simply couldn't snag a publisher for, despite many, many efforts to shop it around. Endgame have written a highly insightful blog entry which lifts the veil on why their platformer game has taken an incredible seven years to finally get published. If you're an indie studio that aims to ship game titles to retail stores through publishers, you may want to brace yourselves.
The story behind Endgame Studios and Slidatron includes dodgy solicitors, non-paying clients, disappearing representatives, some ill-fated decisions, and a whole lot of roller-coaster publisher interaction. While Endgame admits to making some mistakes on Slidatron, including ramping up the difficulty level of a promotional demo too high, it's the torturous efforts they've had to shop this title around to publishers via various trade shows that make this read highly insightful. Some big lessons they've learnt include:
Never let the publisher play your game unless they specifically demand it (preferably, just show a video, and give the code after the show for formal evaluation), and
Only ever show the bare minimum required to sign a deal at any stage. Showing or saying too much and can only expose reasons for the customer to reject the proposal.
Slidatron underwent a major change in mid-2008 to become the sci-fi themed Fractured Soul and finally, a Nintendo DS version is planned for release later this year with a 3DS version for early 2012. You've gotta admire the guys at Endgame for sticking through with this title for so long, despite all the hardships. Read the history behind Slidatron at the Endgame Studios blog!!