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Rare opens additional Fazeley facility

New studio to enable evolved business model; duties to include Natal product testing

Microsoft Game Studios developer Rare has announced that it is to open a new facility in Fazeley, in addition to its traditional Twycross case.

The new studio will be structured in a different way to most, however, and work more along the film production model in which teams scale up and down regularly according to the needs of projects being created.

Among the duties to be undertaken in Fazeley will be testing for Natal products - something which requires more space than traditional Xbox 360 games - while the decision is also part of a bid to stem the relentless increase of development costs over the years.

"Well, we've been in business for a long time, and teams have become somewhat unwieldy in the development process - very inflexible, very expensive," studio director Mark Betteridge told GamesIndustry.biz. "Over the last six or seven years it's really started to get out of hand, and companies and teams that were having great success before are realising the same thing.

"We've thought for some time that the way teams have become very bloated and inflexible, with large numbers of people working on a project - it becomes inefficient to develop games that way, and to be successful developing games that way."

The process, which is similar in some ways to outsourcing, is labelled "insourcing" by Betteridge, and he cites past successes such as Xbox Live Avatars and the Sky link-up design as projects that were completed in this way.

"Avatars was the perfect example of a small project that we were able to put forward to Microsoft, which was then green-lit and went into full production... we developed that project with just the core people here as employed by Rare, probably four or five people was all it was," he explained.

"But there was sometimes in excess of 30 people, sometimes contractors, working on that project. That's a simple example, but it shows how we're able to think - creatively the idea is the diamond, and to bring that to fruition you need a lot more people in flexible and specialised roles than you're used to."

The location of the new studio was selected because while it sits in the middle of a creative industries hub in Birmingham, it's still within striking distance of the Twycross base - which will remain the creative hub of the company.

The move isn't likely to result in restructuring, he added, while Fazeley's capacity will run to around "40-50 people in core development and probably a similar number again in test" - specifically to include Natal products.

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