"What we're doing is quite remarkable; let's not forget that"
How Eutechnyx sees game dev skills transferring to new markets
"I guess one of the first points that we're hoping to really get across is that we've all become accustomed to these fantastic things that we do every day," enthuses Eutechnyx's Jason Collins, Senior Marketing Manager within ZeroLight. "Outside of the industry, ZeroLight is absolutely cutting-edge - it's sci-fi as far as most people are concerned. The fact that this is real actually blows people's minds, so there's a bit of a rally for the games industry: that actually what we're doing is quite remarkable - let's not forget that."
It's a nice little motivational quote for the first day back after a long weekend, but Collins' fervour isn't just intended to shrug off the cocoa-induced torpor of the Easter holiday; he's summarising the main thrust behind ZeroLight for Newcastle based Eutechnyx. Doug Wolff, Executive Producer for ZeroLight, explains more.
"Games being mainstream is not an interesting talk; that was the talk you'd do five years ago," says Wolff, in reference to his forthcoming presentation at GamesIndustry International's May event, GameHorizon. "It's beyond mainstream now, this is actually the point where you might want to consider taking your core offering and going to the creative industries at large, rather than just sticking to your segment of games."
"Games being mainstream is not an interesting talk; that was the talk you'd do five years ago"
Wolff's presentation, which will try and impart some of the teachings which ZeroLight has learned from dealing with external industries with its real-time 3D virtual showroom technology, is in many ways an embodiment of the ethos of GameHorizon as a whole: new perspectives on an industry which offers a constant stream of new opportunities.
"By and large, it's to try and inspire people to say some of the stuff that Jason mentioned, some of the stuff you take for granted, that you do every day. The traditional sort of stakeholder that you have in the industry, whether it be another developer or a publisher, or even a distributor who has knowledge of the sector, they are way more specialist than the people you'll meet from outside the industry. How do you bring people from outside of the industry in, and have an inclusive process? Initially the sci-fi aspect that Jason mentioned is very cool but because it's new they might not feel like they're a part of it."
The presentation will focus on Eutechnyx's decision to take its highly specialised racing sim skills to new partners in new industries who might not have games on the marketing agenda, companies more used to dealing with ad agencies and static creative products. It's a market which has proven to be a lucrative one if you're willing, like Eutechnyx, to persevere after some high initial hurdles.
"You're essentially fighting against incumbent agencies and companies who are very well ingrained in these large corporates, and have been for the last 15 years," says Wolff. "It is actually a change of mindset as well, and that you have to try and explain the benefits of your technology to these very busy and very well informed people. That's an enormous challenge.
"The avenues that we try and explore don't want games...they want to enrich their retail experience"
"ZeroLight is a combination of skills, it's a combination of our existing tools set with new technology and expertise. Our production, over the last six plus years, has been building cars for our video games in our China studio. We have created a process by which we have a team of trained artists who can take car data - the same data as anybody else - make a visualisation model of it, then we drop it into an engine. That process alone is immense work. Most car companies don't have that expertise in house. That tool chain and that knowledge, that expertise, that process, is incredibly valuable to somebody. Every games company has done something similar to that at some point, and if you can find an industry that has a tight match, that could open up a whole new frontier for your business."
So what differentiates ZeroLight from the odes to 'gamification' which have sporadically populated the speaker schedules of shows for the last five years or so? Collins believes that games are the last thing his clients are looking for. "The avenues that we try and explore don't want games. In the discussions we have with clients about virtual showrooms, it's very much the case that games aren't what they want; they want to enrich their retail experience. I think, because we're a games company, there is a temptation to view it purely as gamification, but I think it's much more an enrichment of an existing experience such as retail."
"We've all seen a few talks about gamification: achievement points for brushing your teeth and all that kind of stuff," laughs Wolff. "That was all very linear thinking; it was the next step on. I guess the overall inspiration for us to put this talk together was that games are quite an insular industry. Its very craft driven; we're focused on making our product and making it really, really good for a particular audience. The margins are tight. The creativity is high. There's a lot of effort that goes in, and maybe we should consider that actually, we have all these traits and expertise here that may be applicable to some other industry."
But Wolff and Collins aren't telling you to give up the day job. Eutechnyx is still a game company, and Wolff says it'll remain so for the foreseeable future, even if, as they hope, the 'ZeroLight' tech which it's shipping to non-industry clients becomes as big as the games part of its business.
"Don't give up on your core industry," Wolff clarifies. "We're not giving up on games at all, but the idea is that you can actually secure a really cool and interesting revenue stream around the skills that you've developed by being experts of your craft in another industry. Those skills you learned almost by accident, other people might value those skills - maybe you can find a way to leverage that."
"We're not giving up on games at all, but the idea is that you can actually secure a really cool and interesting revenue stream around the skills that you've developed by being such a set of experts that are crafting this beautiful object"
"We do see ZeroLight as its own division, because we sell to very different people," adds Collins. "Obviously, we're selling very much business to business, a few hundred contacts, as opposed to, for example, our mobile team, who are selling a small app to millions of people - we're selling a very big app to one large corporation."
Talking about Eutechnyx's virtual reality technology which they showcased at GDC in San Francisco, Wolff says, "At some point, there could be a massive vacuum in a whole bunch of industries that want to tap into this idea of virtual reality, and there is a games company that is the perfect team to work with. People that create really compelling environments that are well lit and you can really explore. All of a sudden, you're teaming up with an architectural firm and you're using your skills and expertise to give them something that absolutely leaves the competition standing. Somebody else is doing that little paper model with the tiny little doors. You just put an Oculus on their face, and say, 'Well, here you are, this is what the building is going to look like for real, our architectural vision is now something that you can walk around.'"