I’ve recently had the chance to do an interview with Kane Minkus, the Managing Partner of SomaTone Interactive Audio. SomaTone is a popular audio company that has done work for studios such as Electronic Arts, Mattel, Mercedes, PopCap and many more. However what makes them relevent to us flash developers is their work with the recently announced winners of Big Fish Games “Best Games of 2008″ awards. SomaTone developed audio for the top game in every category except for one, in which their audio was featured by a runner-up. You may find this hard to believe, until you visit their site and start hearing the type of high quality audio that made this possible. I feel like I could listen for hours without getting tired out it. Here’s what Kane had to say.
1. How and when did SomaTone Interactive Audio get started?
SomaTone got started in 2003 by myself and a friend from College – Berklee College of Music. We felt there was not a good resource for online music, sfx and VO. All the best resources where focused on the guys with BIG budgets, and therefore a whole section of media was being ignored. We looked to fill that gap and also we guessed it would grow and expand – which it did. And now we are one of the biggest audio production companies in the world by volume of projects, and we are still able to keep our focus, talent and rates appropriate for the smaller game projects and online media (downloadable games, flash games, flash websites, etc).
2. What type of audio work did SomaTone do when it first began?
We started completely with New Media – Film Websites, Corporate Marketing Projects and flash games. Quickly, we started getting asked to work on Films, TV shows, games, and other media. Now we do it all, but our favorite work is still games as they tend to allow for the most creativity and risks in the audio soundtrack.
3. I understand that you work for big companies such as Disney, Electronic Arts, Nike, Sony and many others. What caused you to branch out into other mediums such as flash games (assuming you didn’t start with flash games, if you did start with flash games.. then what flash game or games gave you the exposure you needed to start working with the big corporations)?
Funny enough all of these things started happening concurrently. We noticed that we could design our studios and help game groups of all sorts – large and small – providing them with great assets. The exciting part for smaller game groups is that they get awesome sfx that could be in Console products, and the allure for larger companies is that we keep our rates very reasonable. This has allowed us to service all sorts of size projects while everyone getting the value they are looking for.
4. I checked out the Big Fish Games ‘Best Games of 2008′ and your games are the winner in every category but one. Obviously audio is a very important part of a flash game. What does your company do that sets them apart from the competition?
We look at game audio as both and art and a business. We are always looking to do something creative and unique with branding the game. This could show up like sfx that have a lot of character to them, or music that has melodies specifically written for the game vibe. But we also approach it from a business & marketing viewpoint. It is important to us that the audio is accessible to the audience and has a charming edge that pulls together the art and vibe of the whole game. I is a very integrated experience and we work closely with our clients to ensure they feel the audio is giving the game a real lift and bringing it to life in just the right way.
5. On your portfolio, most of your online games currently are contracts from big sites or studios who have large budgets. Do you see your services being more widely used by independent flash developers in the future?
That is happening now. We have been working with Flash Game Groups like Flash Game License to offer smaller Flash Designers affordable packages of audio design for their games. This gives them an opportunity to have a nice suite of music and sfx to populate their game giving it a high quality production experience. Audio really is one of the best investments for a Game because, done well, by a professional team, it immediately gives the user a sense of higher quality production and experience. This has shown to raise sales numbers on games as well as reviews.
6. Your audio clearly is the best in the business, but is it out of the range of the average flash developers budget?
We have small audio packages for as little as a few hundred dollars and up for small flash game designers. I would say where we are most useful is when a Flash Game Designer is looking to stand out from the crowd, or going for raising the quality of their game production.
7. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Sure – we are happy to discuss any project and give creative direction free of charge, before we work on a game. So the Flash Game Designers reading this can feel free to contact our studios for a creative direction discussion. Happy Designing!