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)

Kuju Opens Two New UK Studios

4 12 2007

Nik Nak LogoKuju has added two brand new studios to it’s stable, doublesix and Nik Nak. Respectively from Gamasutra and Next Generation:

Officials from British developer Kuju have announced that the company has established a new studio named doublesix, which will be dedicated solely to developing downloadable games for Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network, WiiWare and the PC.

I’ll be interested to see the eventual headcount of doublesix: While, for instance, PopCap have become a casual leviathan with nearly 100 employees, some large developers anticipate scaling problems with management overheads for that many staff and such small teams, even staying out of the arena entirely as a result. It might be easier for a new studio to handle though.

On Nik Nak:

Currently working on a series of titles for a core audience of 6 – 12 year olds which will be announced early in 2008, NiK NaK will only make PEGI rated 7+ games or below (ESRB ‘E’ for everyone 10+ or below).

Maybe studio brands are part of the solution to issues surrounding game content and minors? For some years, Blitz have been running imprints that develop for specific age groups and markets.

Kuju: Chemistry

3 07 2007

Following on from the rebranding of Kuju Brighton as Zoe Mode, Kuju Sheffield has now been rebranded as Chemistry. The studio is set to be an Unreal Engine 3 specialist.

We blogged about Zoe Mode when it happened, indeed it’s such an unusual move that it often gets mentioned in in pieces about *other* rebranding exercises.

The approach has certainly paid off well for Blitz, who now have imprints working on everything from traditional videogames to simulation and heritage. At best, these kind of brands do communicate niche specialties rather than corporate blandness. It seems like a savvy approach to a new medium set amidst splintering tastes, and I hope it works for Kuju too.

£4.4m offer made for Kuju

18 12 2006

A German investment group has made a £4.4m offer to buy developer Kuju.

The offer by Catalis, which already owns QA company Testronic, looks set to go through, having been recommended by the Kuju boad. Irrevocable acceptances have been obtained representing approximately 54.6 per cent of the outstanding share capital.

The offer values the shares at a 50 per cent premium over the price at the close of business yesterday (16p).

Kuju is the UK’s only remaining market-listed developer, and has teams in London, Brighton, Godalming and Sheffield.