Monaco closes in on a million downloads as work begins on Pocketwatch’s next project, Armada

Monaco Characters

Monaco: What’s Your Is Mine was well received by players and critics alike when it was released in April 2013.

Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine has been downloaded over 750,000 times since its release in April 2013, with developer Pocketwatch Games confident it’ll break the one million downloads barrier later this year.

The studio told us that Monaco had exceeded all sales expectations, though its protracted development left its creators feeling that they had not properly taken advantage of the game’s dual IGF win. It scooped the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and the Excellence In Design award at the 2010 event, but Monaco wasn’t released to the public for another three years.

“We do feel that we should have released the game sooner, yeah,” Pocketwatch Games producer and designer Andy Nguyen tells us. “I think a lot of the early press was very strong and during development we were very quiet about the game. Then a few other games came out and beat us to market that had similar themes – Payday has a heist theme for example, and often Hotline Miami is compared to Monaco because it’s a top-down game. I think if we had come out earlier we would have been able to stand out a little bit more.”

Despite its protracted development, it has still been a huge seller for the small studio. “It’s at over three quarters of a million copies at this point,” says Pocketwatch owner and designer Andy Schatz. “We’re closing in on a million, hopefully we’ll hit that this year.”

We awarded Pocketwatch’s top-down heist game an 8 in our Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine review.

Despite its success the studio doesn’t plan on expanding in any significant way, and currently it is still essentially just the two Andys working at the studio – Schatz is doing some early work on their next project, currently codenamed Armada, while Nguyen continues to finish the last of Monaco’s DLC.

The developer’s objective with its next game, currently codenamed Armada, is simple: to make the first great gamepad RTS. “People have tried and it hasn’t quite satisfied our itch,” says Nguyen. “So the way other gamepad RTSes like Brutal Legend and AirMech have addressed this is by hybridising them with genres that work more naturally with pads. So with AirMech you have a topdown shooter brawler mechanic and with Brutal Legend you have the hack and slash mechanic – by doing that they are able to mitigate the problems with RTS games.

“The problem is that by doing that they’re sacrificed what we really want,” continues Nguyen. “What we want is the emotional feeling of playing an RTS game. Whether it be Starcraft II or Command & Conquer, there’s this specific feeling of strategy that we feel has been lost. We’re hoping that we can create a game which uses the gamepad but feels like a realtime strategy game – that doesn’t feel like half of one game and half of something else.”

It is tackling that problem by giving the player control of a single character who can move around the gameworld, build factories and direct attacking and defensive units, which can follow the player into battle or stay and defend their base. It is around six months into what the studio calls ‘open development’ right now, which means that Pocketwatch’s product roadmap is completely public and browsable on its website, right down to Andy Schatz’s to do list.

“We’re taking a lot of this community interaction that Andy [Nguyen] has really run with on Monaco and we’re trying to do that from the very beginning on this game,” says Schatz, who goes on to describe the community-driven Races in the game, built in the same way you’d construct a deck in Magic The Gathering. “So rather than having races you build your own upgrade tree,” he says. “What we’re hoping is that the community essentially builds the races themselves, and at the same time we’re allowing people to build a deck around their particular play style.”

The new game’s gamepad-native controls make it a natural fit for an eventual PS4 and Xbox One release, but for now the Pocketwatch duo are concentrating on the PC release. “Obviously it’ll work well on a console, it’s a gamepad RTS, but we really believe in the communities we’ve built on PC,” says Schatz. “We want to build a game for them first and then hopefully we’ll end up on the consoles after that.”

Schatz adds that he has talked to Sony about the game, but hasn’t opened dialogue with Microsoft around a potential Xbox One release, describing the process through which the studio released Monaco on XBLA as ‘tricky’. “As I understand it it’s certainly much easier this time around,” he adds.