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Establishing a Perimeter

Former IGDA head Jason Della Rocca on tax breaks, Canada, and why governments are interested in games

Formerly the executive director of the International Game Developer Association, Jason Della Rocca is now perhaps the most familiar face on the trade show circuit, speaking and offering consultation at events from San Francisco to Malmo, Barcelona and beyond. In those engagements, a quick wit and a tendency to speak his mind has earned him a reputation as an entertaining speaker and a dangerous man to rile - but his day to day business these days is in Perimeter Partners - a consultancy firm which offers advice and insight to small game companies, larger firms from other industries and governments across the world.

At the Nordic Game Festival in Malmo earlier this month, Jason presented both the award ceremony and the frantic final session of the event, but found time alongside to speak to about his new business, where he sees the industry heading and why governments are starting to take notice of games and the business behind them.

GamesIndustry.bizTo begin, can you give us a quick run-down of what Perimeter Partners does?
Jason Della Rocca

Well, it's really just me! [laughs] That was just a name I came up with to make it sound somewhat legitimate, rather than me just flying around or whatever, but half my time is spent on business consulting, in the games industry. Some of that is helping smaller or start-up studios who are mainly driven by designery or artsy or coder type folks who don't really have a sense of the business side of things.

The smart ones realise when they've come to a point at which their intuitions are no longer enough. I'll mentor them, coach them a bit in terms of taking the next step or where they should go. Business strategy type stuff. I've also done work with some of the larger studios, but much more granular type stuff. Production processes or enabling higher levels of creativity.

I also do some work with companies which are on the boundaries of the games industry, so say a film studio or TV broadcaster who thinks they have an opportunity in the games industry but don't quite understand how it works, the value chain of who to talk to, etc. So they'll kind of bring me in as an expert to give them a sense of how it works.

So that's the business consultancy side. The other side is the government economic and sector development side where you have governments or different regions around the world who are trying to catalyse or incentivise or grow and support a game industry in their country or city or region. It's the same kind of thing. These government people don't really understand how the game industry works, it's unclear, if they're going to poke someone, who they've got to poke. Is it developers, is it publishers, is it indies, is it larger studios, digital... where do you poke, what kind of fertiliser do you throw onto it?

So I'll go in and help them understand how the industry works and, given the state of their country or region, where their gaps are and where they might want to focus those energies or funds or incentives.

GamesIndustry.bizSo the currently near ubiquitous nature of gamification must be of great interest to you, and a significant driver for your business?
Jason Della Rocca

Well, yes and no. For me, the area of focus is more the shift between the idea of games as products versus games as services. At a very conceptual level. Regardless of what sub-market or genre or whatever you're going into, the real disruption is "am I dealing with a product or am I dealing with a service?"

Almost everyone I consult with, whether it's the film studios, or the governments or the small studios, understanding that shift, what it means to their business and how it changes the way that they need to make and design games, it's so fundamental that the decision of "am I making an ad-game or a web browser game, or retail or downloadable" that almost comes after deciding if you're making products or delivering a service. So it's really that shift, and understanding it.

GamesIndustry.bizWhat sort of trends have have you noticed in your client base? Are there any particular industries which are taking an interest in games?
Jason Della Rocca

Pretty much like anywhere you're seeing a growing interest in games as service. The mobile, casual, social, online spaces and so on. Parsing that out and understanding how that works. So you have older school studios who are geared towards producing products, they're seeing Zynga, they're seeing all the other successes occur, and they're asking "jeez, how do we make that shift?"

Or you have start-ups, who maybe got let go from one of the older school product-based companies and are saying, "we think we need to be making Facebook games, or making iOS games", and they haven't really quite wrapped their head around what that means.

Much as I describe this disruption or shift from product to service, a lot of my work has been sort of geared towards understanding what that means and the implications of it. Helping companies or governments make or support that shift.

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Dan Pearson