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Bigben's Benoît Clerc

The accessories giant's head of software on Game Connection - and why business is booming

As we near next week's Game Connection we catch up with Benoît Clerc, head of software at Bigben Interactive, to find out why he heads to Lyon each year.

Plus, for the company that's the worldwide leader in accessories for console platforms, why business is booming heading into the Christmas period. Tell us a bit about the Bigben Interactive business.
Benoît Clerc

Bigben has been quite a discrete company, although quite old in this business - 27 years old now, having been launched in 1981. We've never really tried to be under the spotlight, but we are a fairly important player on the third segment of the market, which is videogames accessories.

We're now the European market leader for peripheral sales - and if you take the PC section out of the revenue of our main competitor, Mad Catz, then we're pretty much bigger than them too, so we can say we're the global market leader for console videogame accessories. So what are some of your more popular products?
Benoît Clerc

We started out software business about seven years ago - firstly we worked just as a distributor, and it took some time for us to find the best way for the company to get into that business. Three years ago we started bundling some of our associated software with our accessories and it proved to be quite successful - not always, but from time-to-time and product-to-product we identified what the good ways were for us to identify the best ones for us and the ones which are most attractive to the customers.

So most of the time we're now trying to bring to market new things which are combinations of a toy and game - some bundles which are classic, like a racing game plus a wheel or a shooter plus gun. But some are far more innovating - for instance, last year we released a big, big box containing the Cyber Bike - a home cycle that works like a bit like a pad, but you sit on it a pedal. And that was bundled with a game designed specifically for that accessory.

It was especially successful with the Wii and DS, and it's opened up the market to those famous casual gamers - because it makes the links between the toy experience that they've had in the past with other types of games, and the game. Plus they understand better how the accessory will improve the game experience - it's obvious that it's more fun to play a racing game with a wheel, for example.

Furthermore, it also makes the playing of the game even simpler - it's not always obvious for casual gamers which button you have to press on the Wiimote. But once that's inside the rifle, it's clear you just have to pull the trigger. And do you work with your own brands, or is it licensed IP?
Benoît Clerc

Most of the time it's our own brands, but sometimes we do work with partners. Recently we've been working with System 3 on a Ferrari title for the Wii, so sometimes we use other IP when we have the opportunity. The Cyber Bike is an interesting one - with the question over childhood obesity hanging over some countries, what was the response of the market?
Benoît Clerc

Well, we're releasing the second edition of the cycle this Christmas, which should tell you. It sold tremendously well last Christmas - we didn't produce a large quantity at first because it was a new kind of product, with a level of innovation.

But we could have produced ten times more, based on sales... so that's why we're making a new cycle with better resistance - we're improving the concept and release it on new platforms at the end of 2011. The feedback from the market, and the customers, was much bigger than we expected. So we're talking ahead of Game Connection next week - what is it that draws you to the event, and why do you keep going back?
Benoît Clerc

Well, a couple of years ago we started in the software business after years in the accessories sector - and then we switched to a production model, where we wanted to produce our own titles in order for them to be closer to what we wanted - and to fit better with the accessories they were bundled with.

So Game Connection was at that time, and it's still the only place where we're able - in three days - to meet 80-100 creative development studios from all over the world, with lots of ideas and what we needed to start with that business model.

Without Game Connection, well... it would have been a pain in the ass, and taken a very long time. I don't know if it would have really been possible. I think the first year, when we started, 100 per cent of our games came from Game Connection meetings. Now, we have more experience and we produce lots of games with many different studios, so our network is bigger - but last year I'd say that 50-60 per cent of our games still came from Game Connection.

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