Microsoft forms European Xbox publishing team
Crytek's Warface to be its first title, John Needham leading the team
Microsoft has created a small but growing European publishing team that will be lead by Lionhead studio head John Needham. Its first deal will be publishing Crytek's free-to-play shooter Warface.
"What we're trying to do with this team, it's a first party publishing group, is across Europe find AAA quality games that we can publish," he told GamesIndustry International.
"Find games that incorporate innovative business models like free-to-play and freemium and other models that are floating around out there. Finding games that are mostly online focused and games as a service and that's why I'm leading the group, because I have a lot of experience in that. Also finding games and developers that really resonate with the gamer community across Europe but also have a broader worldwide appeal."
"What we're trying to accomplish with the group is to contribute to a bigger goal with the EMEA organisation, to double our share in France and Germany from a market perspective"
Needham will lead the group while continuing his work at Lionhead, and is excited about the role and the team's first deal, Warface. He said the game "ticked all the boxes" for Microsoft, was a good example of the type of game that resonated with a European audience, and wanted to emphasise it was the first of many deals that would be announced soon.
"What we're trying to accomplish with the group is to contribute to a bigger goal with the EMEA organisation within Microsoft, to double our share in France and Germany from a market perspective."
The team will be looking at a whole range of games, but he expects with the arrival of the ID@Xbox scheme and self publishing for indie developers that it will end up focusing on the bigger titles.
"But certainly we're looking for a lot of smaller games too for other platform features that we haven't spoken about yet but that are coming for Xbox One."
He added that while they are looking a games with a worldwide appeal, also important will be titles that resonate with key European markets like France, Germany and the UK.
"That's the key reason why we're here and we're forming this group, we think we need an on the ground group in Europe to do that. Obviously I'm not European, but most of the guys in the group are and have that sensibility."
The Xbox 360 hadn't been forgotten either, and the team will be focused on finding titles for that platform as well as the Xbox One, with Needham citing the "breadth of audience" as a key factor in that decision. It was also looking to successful free-to-play developers already working with Xbox, like Wargaming's World Of Tanks, for a guide to finding success with that particular type of title.
"The big thing about games as a service is just speed right? Being able to react to analytics and to what you're doing marketing-wise, testing different aspects of your game and tracking all that stuff through analytics, it's a discipline that is not easily learned and not something that I would say is natural to individuals who are used to box products," he admitted.
"So we're hiring me into the organisation, others like me with a lot of experience with games as a service, that's a way to accelerate that. It's part of why I'm here and why this job is so exciting to me, to see this transformation within Microsoft to services and devices."
While there are no formal targets he hoped to launch a couple of games a year, not including smaller, XBLA titles.