With the resurgence of retro games, thanks to the NES Classic, more gamers than ever have gone back to their pixel roots. But what if you’re looking for new games for your favorite retro consoles? While there are a plethora of homebrew developers out there, Pittsburgh-based Mega Cat Studios stands out of the crowd.
In this exclusive interview, Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Mega Cat Studios’ Zack Manko, fills us in on what makes this indie publisher special. From unique packaging to a growing list of titles on the NES, Sega Genesis and even the PC, Mega Cat Studios is worth keeping an eye on.
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Old School Gamer Magazine: How did you guys get into the gaming industry?
Zack Manko: We have a pretty varied background. Some of us have worked together on previous contract work, coworkers at other companies, or met at conventions.
OSGM: What makes you guys different from similar companies trying to bring these retro consoles and experiences back?
Manko: We try to think like a customer and make physical products that a collector will appreciate.
OSGM: Why are the Nintendo and Genesis still important?
Manko: We were all raised on pixels. The Nintendo and Sega Genesis brought full featured games into our homes with innovative characters that provided many of us with our first temporary escape. The first meaningful couch co-op. The introduction of deep, skill-based repetition that only the most tenacious players could achieve. They’re just amazing at what they did.
There is a bit of a retro renaissance. With the NES/SNES Mini, the re-release of the Mega Drive in Brazil from Tec Toy, and pixel art defining some of Indie Gaming’s top titles, it’s hard to imagine any of it being as impactful without what Nintendo and Sega gave to the world.
OSGM: What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
Manko: We distilled our banter to these three things:
Communication is more important than anything else.
Customer success and retention is a million times more valuable to us than finding new customers.
You’re only as good as your team. Shared gray matter and thought partnerships can benefit anyone when they find the right alignment. We’re really lucky to have the great team that we do.
OSGM: What are some of your standout games? Tell us about them.
Manko: Our best is yet to come, with Bite the Bullet on the horizon, but we’ve had great feedback from Coffee Crisis. Beat ’em ups are timeless and fun at any age. Crush alien overlords with Metal-fueled, caffeine aided combos to save Earth’s most precious resources. Feel their extra-terrestrial flesh rip to shreds and crank the alien cries to 11.
OSGM: Do your games work on the Retron family of consoles?
OSGM: How hard has this adventure been for you guys?
Manko: Incredibly challenging. Contract work is easy to get: Exceed expectations with quality work and fair prices, and you’ll get referral after referral. Creating your own games and building the infrastructure for manufacturing, infrastructure, and everything else that goes into running a business is a never-ending adventure. It’s a unique time to be in indie gaming. We could never do what we do if we didn’t genuinely love it. The platforms take 10x longer to create a game on, the marketplace is 100x smaller, and the hardware that you play these games on is a decade older than some of our customers.
Passion isn’t enough to run a business, and it’s not a plan by itself. It’s what brings us together.
OSGM: What’s on the agenda the rest of the year?
Manko: We have three NES games we’re ready to release: Creepy Brawlers, Little Medusa & Justice Duel. Log Jammers PC is long overdue to be released, and we’re incredibly excited about it.
OSGM: What do you think you need to do to get your games to more people?
Manko: We don’t want to make games as a business, we want to be a business that makes great games. With each release, new customers find us from their personal network. We all want to take the ethos of what makes retro gaming amazing and infuse our current generation games with that same, pixel-rich lifeblood. There’s nothing more fulfilling than doing something you love at a quality standard you can be proud of.
OSGM: Anything else you’d like to add?
Manko: Message us on Twitter. Email us. Some of the best insights we’ve had are from friends, fans, and strangers that share our passion.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the upcoming book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.