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Arkane's Romuald Capron

The French studio's COO on the ZeniMax acquisition, dev costs and core gaming audiences

ZeniMax is quietly going about becoming a significant force in the videogames business, with acquisitions in the past of strong businesses including Bethesda and id Software. This year it's added several more companies to its fold, including Arkane Studios - best-known for creating Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, as well as its work on BioShock 2.

At this year's Game Connection in Lyon, GamesIndustry.biz spent some time with the studio's COO, Romuald Capron to find out more about the acquisition process, chat about the state of development costs and mull over the future of the core gaming audience.

GamesIndustry.biz It's been a pretty busy year for you guys - how have things settled down since the ZeniMax acquisition?
Romuald Capron

I would say on the day-to-day work and studio organisation it hasn't changed so much - especially for the development process, they're still working on the same projects they were working on for Bethesda for more than a year. So we're just keeping on working on the same game.

I think it's more in the mid- to long-term that we'll see changes, and also for some leads, some management of the studio - because for the publisher we're no longer the client, but partners, and that changes a lot of things.

It's more transparent now, though I have to say it was already very different from most publishers we'd already worked with in terms of collaboration - the classic barrier between client and provider was much lighter than we'd known before.

So that's why it hasn't changed so much since we were acquired, because we were already in a very trusting relationship with them.

I say it's changed a lot of things for the management of the studio, because we can keep the focus more on the content of the game, and much less on business development, looking for the next projects, the next clients and those kind of things.

I can say, it's a lot of stress that's been taken out of it.

GamesIndustry.biz Was that one of the reasons behind taking the deal?
Romuald Capron

No, I wouldn't say it was one of the main reasons - we've survived for ten years, and we could have continued like that. But I have to say - and Rafael, who is the CEO would be able to tell you more - it was more and more difficult to make the big jump each time. At the end of each project it was more and more difficult to be an independent studio.

That's something I'm hearing a lot around me, from other studios - that it's more and more difficult. Because as you know the development budget is more and more important, and when you only have five-to-ten clients you can sign with, if you add in that they may not be in-line with your own schedules, and that you have to negotiate a big budget that will probably take six months... it's become a miracle when you manage to find a new contract at the right time.

It was almost impossible sometimes, when you had to find a compromise - a project in-between the two big projects, creating some services or something like that. It was feasible, but more and more complicated, and our conclusion was that it was going to have an impact on the quality of our projects.

When we started the discussions on acquisition with the guys at ZeniMax, it was the first time we felt comfortable with a partner like that. There aren't so many publishers to whom we'd have said yes. We probably wouldn't have accepted any other offer, in fact. It wasn't about money, it was about being in-line with certain game philosophies and values with the company.

It was the right company and the right time.

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Phil Elliott

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