Gamigo: Free-to-play on console key to UK resurgence
Decline of UK AAA industry was "borne out of hubris," smaller studios can lead the way back
Patrick Streppel, CEO of the free-to-play publisher Gamigo, believes that the arrival of free-to-play on consoles could be the catalyst for the UK industry's resurgence.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz at the company's Hamburg offices, Streppel claimed that the current strength of the German industry is inextricably tied to the fact that it "missed the console bandwagon."
"German developers didn't know about free-to-play, but they were not getting console deals because there is no big German console publisher," he said.
"American companies don't really like to work with us, we don't have the experience, we're not getting dev kits, and so on... And as single-platform PC projects were not in demand any more the developers were desperate. They were open to everything else, including free-to-play, and I think that's the important thing."
Streppel claims that the current wave of thriving German free-to-play companies was "borne out of desperation," but the British industry's "hubris" meant that it failed to spot its imminent decline as a stronghold for AAA development.
"A lot of console games, big productions, were done in the UK, and when we got started with free-to-play I talked to a lot of developers there - starting from Rebellion over to...well, a lot of companies that are out of business these days."
"And all of them said, 'we're not looking at free-to-play. It's not our quality standard. It's not where the money is. We don't believe in it.'"
However, a string of high-profile studio closures in the last few years - Realtime Worlds, Black Rock Studio and Bizarre Creations among them - has led to the foundation of a number of small mobile and social studios, many of which are working on free-to-play products.
Last year, Codemasters' Andy Wilson warned that the UK is in danger of becoming a nation of "iPhone developers," but according to Streppel that could be the key to its future success. These new developers already have console experience; this is an opportunity to learn new skills that will be important to consoles in the future.
"I do believe that free-to-play will make its way to consoles, just as its making its way to iPhone and iPad," Streppel says. "That's where the experience of these console teams will come back into play... so that's where the UK industry can have a second coming."