Develop: Studio Sales

6 08 2008

(The quotes in this post are paraphrased from my notes on this session)

One of the sessions I went to at Develop last week was “Why We Sold Our Studio and Why We Didn’t: A Candid Discussion About Selling Up or Staying Free”, which had a panel comprised of Ian Baverstock of Kuju, Paul Wedgewood from Splash Damage, and Sarah Chudley from Bizarre Creations.

I made it as a sensible and work relevant choice over potentially more entertaining sessions, but actually it was one of the best sessions I saw, with studio owners heckling from the audience. Some of it has been reported on already (Though Paul did an okay job of presenting Splash Damage, I don’t think the press are being entirely fair to him), but here are a few extra tidbits I got from it:

Sarah Chudley:

You’re only as good as your last game, whether internal or external. If PGR5 had flopped, noone would have wanted PGR6 (publisher or fan), and we’d have ended up doing Barbie Racing

Paul was extremely sceptical of studios that do make games like Barbie Racing, and even came off as a bit of an idealist; very passionate about what games should be and what studios should be doing. In response, Ian had some words to the effect of

That’s fine, as long as you keep rolling sixes. Roll a one and you’ll be thinking “Shit, I wish I’d sold”

and also pointed out that for every independent like Valve or Epic, there are probably another 100 studios that have taken the same high risk approach to IP and failed. Andrew Oliver also weighed in from the audience with “When there’s only one offer on the table you’ve got to take it, and if that’s Barbie Racing, so be it”.

An interesting dichotomy emerged during the panel, with Ian and Sarah both telling Paul he’d probably feel different if he had kids. Some studios are suited to young, single people, whereas Bizarre have found that the more people they have with families, the more flexible they’ve had to become, with some odd shift patterns designed to accommodate parents.

Overall there was a lot of pragmatism there, though it may have been a bit stacked to have 2/3 of the panel from studios that have sold. Overall, the consensus was that selling a studio grants a certain amount of financial security to the organisation itself rather than just the owners. Of course, though, that’s not necessarily the case when a global publisher needs to trim down and starts shutting studios.

(Image: Enemy Territory, Quake Wars, by Splash Damage)

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