"When you go to Brighton once, you just fall in love with the city"
Veronique Lallier on why Hi-Rez chose the UK's south coast hub for its EU office
Brighton's status as an industry hotspot is under no doubt, with every month seemingly bringing another global industry player to the seaside hub.
The latest firm to join the ranks is Smite developer and eSports specialist Hi-Rez, appointing industry veteran Veronique Lallier as a vice president of European Publishing to head up the Atlanta-based studio's EU operations at a new office in the city. We caught up with the new hire to see exactly what she'll be looking after in the role.
What led to the choice of Brighton for the European offices?
We were looking for a place where we knew we'd have a community of people from the industry. Also, when you go to Brighton once, you just fall in love with the city. I moved to Brighton about 11 years ago, and that's what happened to me. I think that's what happened with Stew and Todd as well. They came to Develop and decided that Brighton was where they wanted to have their European offices.
We really love the city. It's the best place from an industry perspective, because there are so many other industry people there, but also from a talent perspective. It's such a vibrant city, it's easy to attract talent from Europe, which is something we want to do. The British love it, but I think the French and Germans do too.
What's going to be the focus of the new office? We see a lot of QA and customer support branches coming to the city...
"We really want to do a better job of serving our community, that's really the main goal. We want to be able to create a stronger relationship with our European fans"
We're going to focus on publishing - marketing, community and localisation. We really want to do a better job of serving our community, that's really the main goal. We want to be able to create a stronger relationship with our European fans so they can feedback to us more efficiently. That's really key to us.
We want to have a lean, focused team to start with, so we're opening six positions. I already have employee number one with me. We're looking for passionate people, maybe who are even already part of our community, who have a good understanding of what might make our games better.
You've got an excellent industry pedigree, but is the world of eSports a bit of a change after NCsoft and Warner?
Esports isn't actually new to me. Back at NCsoft I was involved in running Guild Wars tournaments, in Leipzig. We were running world championships at Gamescom. More recently at Warner my team was actually in charge of running Mortal Kombat X global competitions. So eSports isn't new to me, but I agree with you completely in that it's an entirely different job in terms of managing the community. It requires specific expertise.
But it's not new for me or for Hi-Rez, we know how it works. Hopefully we're going to get more efficient, though. I think it's down to the talent you hire and how well they understand the game, what it requires. Something we definitely want to have in the office is a broadcasting room where we can show off our games and create our own content.
The world champions in the January event were a European team, so we obviously have great competitors here. We want to encourage that.
Todd Harris (Hi-Rez COO) previously said that eSports was a marketing tool rather than a revenue stream - is that changing?
Not at the minute, definitely not. Esports is a way celebrate our fans and our community, when we did our world championship in Atlanta, that was just one big celebration of the people who love our games. Of course, it's a big tournament, but it's more than that. We had great cosplay, the chance to meet people from the studio and ask questions. It was very open, that's important.
"Smite's lifetime player count has more than doubled in 2015, a significant part of that growth was from the Xbox launch"
Smite came to the Xbox fairly recently. We've seen free-to-play taking off on console in number of forms, but Smite was the first MOBA. Has the console market lived up to your expectations?
Smite's lifetime player count has more than doubled in 2015, a significant part of that growth was from the Xbox launch. Today we have more than 14 million unique players, which is a great success. We really believe there's an appetite for this sort of game on console, and the launch has proven us right. What we usually do is focus on getting a great experience on as many platforms as possible. We recently launched Jetpack Fighters on mobile, we're really try to reach fans on whatever platform they're using.
If you look at Paladin which is in beta on PC now, we clearly had console in mind during the development process. It's about creating great games and making them available where our fans are. We're not afraid to try new things!
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