Founded in 2011 by TV producer Mark Rowland and game designer Chris Etches, Utinni Games develops branded games and original IP for social gaming platforms such as Facebook.
The company previously partnered with Zodiak Media to develop a game based on supernatural drama Being Human, and is currently launching a Facebook game for All3Media based on Midsomer Murders.
Having started out as a self-confessed “bedroom games developer” Etches worked for a number of digital agencies where he specialised in creating interactive and gaming elements for clients. “Now I’ve taken that battle with me to the TV industry,” he says. For Chris, it’s important for production companies and broadcasters to adapt to a very different style of product development. “They all know they want to make good games,” he says, “but my battle is to get them to think like a games studio. TV is so stuck on the idea that you get a commission, you send all your cleverest people away for eight months and at the end you have a product. Of course, that couldn’t be further away from how you’re supposed to make games.”
Helping clients become comfortable with iterative design is the key, Chris believes. “With Midsomer and Being Human, all we knew was that we wanted to make a game,” he explains. “Let’s see what works. Midsomer Murders is in open beta right now and we’re still tweaking and rewiring as we see what players like. But I do understand that’s quite a scary concept. I totally understand that iterative design is utterly terrifying.”
As for the future, Chris is confident that the next big crossover hits will only come when TV and games producers collaborate from the start of a project. “We’re really in the infancy of it all,” he insists. “The next set of big IP will be made with the social gaming aspect at its core from day one. Angry Birds could go and sign a TV deal, anywhere in the world, on any terms they demand. They did that through iterative design. They built the brand, not knowing what the brand was when they launched it.”