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Creating a COD Killer

U4iA's Dusty Welch on the launch of his new, social shooter studio, and why it's after COD.

Plenty of new studios talk about creating "COD killer" titles, but not many of those studios are headed up by the man who helped to create the shooter franchise in the first place. Step forward Dusty Welch, founder and CEO of U4ia (pronounced "euphoria") a marketer with an impressive history as SVP and head of publishing at Activision, and as the driving force behind Call Of Duty and Guitar Hero.

Welch took time out of his Thanksgiving holiday to talk exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz about how along with his co-founder Chris Archer, U4iA intends to make the most out of his considerable experience, and the opportunities afforded to the company by the reactive nature of social platforms, to take down the very mega franchise he helped to create.

GamesIndustry.biz Your background is with some of the industry's biggest franchises, why leave that behind?
Dusty Welch

You're right. My track record is pretty strong, and certainly in the core space building up some of the biggest franchises in gaming history, like Call Of Duty, but I think importantly I'm an entrepreneur, I'm a business builder, and I was really impacted and influenced by the book Blue Ocean Strategy.

I don't know if you've seen it or read it, but to me it was a game changing dynamic book, and to me it really crystallised the dynamics which are taking shape in our industry, which is disruptive technologies impacting the more traditional console model. And because my passion and my career is built around new franchises and business models, the book really spoke to me and gave me the insights that I was kind of living in a big company, big franchise world, but for the most part I'd been ignorant to the trends and the groundswell current that was taking shape with consumers that are looking for new distribution methodologies.

They want to play and have access to games anywhere, anytime regardless of distribution, regardless of platform and for many of these consumers they're looking to extend their playtime into new areas that don't have them plunking down $70 or $80 each time for a game, but rather paying as you go or experiencing the content as they would like. In many cases we learned and I learned that core gamers will happily pay double to triple the price of a console game if it's on their own terms, where they want to play it, when they want to play it.

It's still early days for non-console gaming and for the convergence and migration of active gamers to the new platforms

So those were "aha" moments for me, and I felt that I had built successful IP for other companies, but it was really time to bet on myself and shape where the gaming industry was going. And so that's why I decided to go and do it. And I really felt that was an undeserved genre for the shooter in social networks, or PC, Mac, mobile and tablet devices. Number one genre, and yet really, no one dedicated to making a AAA, quality gaming experience for those platforms and devices for consumers. And I felt like that was a unique opportunity that I could tackle.

GamesIndustry.biz Why do you think there is that gap?
Dusty Welch

There's two avenues that you have to look at here. First, it's early days. It's still early days for non-console gaming and for the convergence and migration of active gamers to the new platforms. Core gamers are still on the consoles, but there's a convergence happening and a migrations, so I think it's still early days.

I look at what Riot Games has done for League Of Legends, making a core, PC, AAA proposition and disrupting the established players by offering free-to-play, microtrasanction content, and they've been wildly successful. So I think there's an example of core propositions extending themselves into the new area. And a first person shooter, I just think we haven't found the right team and the right proposition yet to engage in that. There are lower quality first person shooters that still exist in the marketplace today on the PC platform, but they're not AAA, and that's what U4iA is going to uniquely provide.

And I think secondarily, if you're talking social networks, really the team and the talent and the tech hasn't existed yet today to provide a AAA quality experience, for example in Facebook. Flash really can't take advantage until Flash 3D comes out, but Unity can.

And so we have a great talented group of individuals who now can develop a first person shooter dynamically, spawning on an Amazon cloud server, launching it in a browser. That's how we test our game every week, we test it through launching a browser, and we experience a AAA, first person shooter gaming experience. And so that I think is partly what's revolutionary about our proposition of what U4iA is, the really core connected AAA experience, but our ability to push it through the browser is a game changer.

I kind of liken it to when I created Call Of Duty to dethrone the established leaders back in the early 2000s, and you bet my goal at U4iA is to repeat that success again. And so providing a AAA, first person shooter experience in a browser is really what the end game is for us. And I think that's going to help lead the new dynamic and a transition of gamers into the social.

GamesIndustry.biz Being the man who created COD and then beat it again with a whole new way of playing shooters?
Dusty Welch

I think you look at my track record of knocking off the established players and you can imagine that my goal for U4iA is to once again dethrone the established players, across the spectrum, across the space and allow gamers to again unite and experience the best consumer proposition that's available, and usher in a new genre experience. That's what U4iA is going to provide.

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Rachel Weber

Senior Editor

Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.

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