Remedy CEO Sees New Golden Age for Indie Studios
Matias Myllyrinne on his studio's "just right" size, adding Mike Capps and Christian Fredriksson to board of directors
Remedy Entertainment has added some new faces to its board of directors, as the Quantum Break developer today announced the appointments of former Epic Games president Mike Capps and F-Secure president and CEO Christian Fredrikson. Capps' gaming pedigree is unquestioned, having run the company responsible for the Unreal Engine and the Gears of War franchise (among other things), while Fredrikson's experience working for the Finnish digital security firm is clearly relevant, if not quite game-focused.
"Like any team, I think a good board is a combination of different kinds of skill sets, and different kinds of strengths that really come together," Remedy CEO Matias Myllyrinne told GamesIndustry International. "That's the way, in my experience, the best teams work. Obviously Mike has a tremendous track record in the games industry. He's been very successful and has proven himself over and over again. On the other hand, I think it's also good to get Christian's outside perspective, challenging many of the conventions that we hold to, whether it's about building an organization, how you do your planning, or how you build your studio as a whole."
That mix of skill sets and perspectives is key given the amount of upheaval in the market right now. Myllyrinne has been clear that the industry is going through a period of unusually high uncertainty and risk. But with that turbulence comes plenty of opportunity for an outfit like Remedy.
"For me at least, it feels like it is a golden age of gaming where the cards are being dealt again, and there's great opportunity to be a very successful independent studio once again," Myllyrinne said. "And I think it's about embracing some of that confluence of factors."
Some of the trends Myllyrinne points out are the increasingly overlapping ways people consume media, from game-TV hybrids like Remedy's own Quantum Break to media consumption on mobile and tablet devices to the Xbox One's TV features. On top of that, the barriers to entry for independent developers have come down dramatically, and are continuing to evaporate. And while many of the biggest publishers have spent years doing AAA sequels to AAA sequels, the rise of digital distribution and this holiday season's new consoles has made the market a little more welcoming for new intellectual property. And for Myllyrinne, Remedy's size and experience has it ideally positioned to take advantage.
"I think we're in that kind of sweet spot where maybe we can be more aggressive and slightly quicker than some of the larger players out there who are protecting an established business, and then on the other hand we still have the resources and know-how and core competencies that maybe two guys and their dog in a garage don't have," Myllyrinne said.
When it shipped Max Payne in 2001, Remedy had a staff of 22 people. That grew to 55 developers by the launch of Alan Wake in 2010, and headcount currently stands at over 100. Helping to manage this growth is just one of the reasons Remedy brought its new directors on board. As Myllyrinne explained, the studio's internal complexity needs to match the complexity of its environment. Remedy's recent move into mobile with Death Rally and the ramp-up of its self-publishing efforts last year with Alan Wake and Alan Wake's American Nightmare on PC has increased the complexity of its business, so experienced input on managing the company's growth and strategy is becoming that much more crucial.
However, not every change needs to be adapted to. Myllyrinne said Microsoft's Xbox One policy reversals since E3 have had no impact on development of Quantum Break.
"Everybody realizes the industry's in a time of profound change and a few missteps one way or the other can turn out to be very painful."
"For us it's about creating something new and innovative and cool, and Microsoft is a great partner for that," Myllyrinne said. "They can allow us to punch above our weight; they have the resources at their disposal to help us create the vision the team wants to build."
While the system has caught flack from some gamers for a perceived focus on multimedia features like integrated TV and fantasy football, Myllyrinne isn't worried about that backlash extending to Quantum Break and its merging of TV and video game elements. He noted that Remedy has always dabbled in mixed media, whether it was using a graphic novel format to tell the story in Max Payne, or incorporating manuscript pages and bits of the Twilight Zone-like TV series Night Springs into Alan Wake.
"We've always been playing around with those elements and for us that seems like a logical step forward, and this is like the ultimate Remedy game," Myllyrinne said. "I think our fans will like it. I know they're excited about it and I hope the audience as a whole will appreciate it. But it's on us to explain what we're doing and we'll certainly show more once we get the opportunity to do that and explain to people what makes it unique and how it works."
Myllyrinne believes Remedy is well situated to thrive in the industry as it continues to change, but he isn't expecting the path forward to be easy.
"Everybody realizes the industry's in a time of profound change and a few missteps one way or the other can turn out to be very painful," Myllyrinne said. "I think the biggest mistake we can make is not to move aggressively enough in this time of change when there are opportunity windows open. If you look at any industry going through profound change, the winners are usually those who learn the quickest, not those who know the most."