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Focus Entertainment: "We're trying to build a Federation of Studios"

The Paris-based publisher discusses its acquisition strategy, ambitions in movies and how diversity will drive the industry

Focus Entertainment -- the artist formerly known as Focus Home Interactive -- has been rapidly acquiring studios over the past two years.

It began in June 2020 with the acquisition of Deck13, the developer behind The Surge and Lords of Fallen.

In April last year it acquired Streum On Studio, the team responsible for Warhammer first-person shooters such as Space Hulk: Deathwing and Necromunda: Hired Gun.

It snapped up retro games publisher and developer Dotemu (Windjammers, Streets of Rage 4) a few months later. Followed swiftly by Douze Dixièmes, the creator of 3D puzzle platformer Shady Part of Me. Then earlier this year came Metal Slug Tactics developer Leiker Studio.

Yves Le Yaouanq, Focus Entertainment

Shooters, RPGs, retro-style games and puzzlers... it's an eclectic group of studios operating in a range of different niches.

"Being genre agnostic has always been part of our DNA," begins chief content officer Yves Le Yaouanq, who joined Focus in March last year following nearly 11 years at Ubisoft.

"We have a strong palatability for mature and dark universes, but we're expanding our own boundaries, with the same objective: turning initial nice concepts or gameplays into mass market titles.

"This is our strategy, consolidating and expanding in genres we already have experience in, while gaining new audiences and new talents in genres that provide different game emotions. We'll keep investigating and expanding in games-as-a-service genres, with fair business models for the players, but we will also address those gamers interested in more completed experiences, searching for more diversified gameplays and narratives, and not necessarily games artificially filled with content.

"We want to address all ends of the player base and find the right spots where they all can meet, with games that linger, not only in playtime but in their memories."

Although the studios the company has acquired are quite different from one another, the majority of them are former Focus partners.

"For some studios with whom Focus has worked for several years, it only made sense to evolve together in a closer capacity, giving them space and means to create even more ambitious and innovative games," Le Yaouanq explains.

"When you see publishers having relationships with developers for many years, across different games, that is generally a very good sign"

"This is part of the reason why I joined Focus. When you see publishers having relationships with developers for many years, across different games, that is generally a very good sign that everyone is happy. And when talking about acquisitions, it also means that they don't come out of nowhere, but that they were built on solid foundations, with people having worked together and wanting to work together even more. Our own version of consolidation here is to ensure our studios keep not only their freedom, of course, but their creativity as well. The end goal is to allow them to be creative so that in the end our players can be creative."

Focus Entertainment is one of numerous companies that are acquiring and investing in businesses at a rapid pace, but Le Yaouanq insists it's not about "engulfing as much as we can".

"We're trying to create something more like a Federation of talents and studios, with a focus on meaningful synergies -- so an expert RPG studio that's enriched by another studio's narrative expertise, an FPS studio benefiting from the roguelike experience of a different team, one studio's custom engine used by another and, why not, some internal studios collaborating on a crazy project.

"We're at the foundation of our collective house, and we only consider studios and talents with whom we can imagine living together in it for a long time."

This 'Federation' concept is why Focus wants developers who do different things and work on different genres.

"To create this Federation of talents, we're trying to avoid piling up on duplicate studios or game genres, to not compete with ourselves. What we want is to try and find the right partners on each genre, and with expertise that means they can add their own unique touch and twist... so at the same time they can learn from each other."

Focus publishes all sorts of games, from niche retro sequels to licensed first-person shooters

For Le Yaouanq, he sees the opportunity for Focus -- and indeed the entire games industry -- comes through creating numerous games that can unlock new audiences in all sorts of demographics. Rather than trying to create or find "one big risky success".

"The market is in an intermediary state at the moment," he tells us. "Fully globalized, but not uniform. The player base is wider, but also more diverse and more mature. It's a market more clustered with many different niches to address.

"There are not only a new generation of players, but also new generations of creators, game designers, producers, QA, programmers... who are coming from different backgrounds and cultures, and who will rejuvenate and build the future of video games. The ongoing talks about diversity and inclusivity are not only a moral requirement, but also the future of our industry.

"We will also pay attention to market evolution, new niches, players and territories, and to what happens in other entertainment mediums, like movies, music and literature, which can give us hints on the new topics and territories to explore."

The mention of other entertainment media touches upon another opportunity that Focus is keen to explore. The publisher is backed by FLCP Group, which has already expanded into TV, moves and animation.

"Our goal is obviously to expand towards transmedia," Le Yaouanq concludes. "We have wonderful IPs that would do tremendously well in TV series, comics, feature films and any other avenues.

"I started in the movie industry a while ago, and I strongly believe that transmedia is not only a buzz word but a way of providing players different ways to access our worlds, through different medias, and at their own timing.

"And we also want to embrace transmedia in both directions -- so not only expand our games towards other medias, but welcome creators from the likes of TV, animation, comics and music, to build relevant bridges in video games."

Focus Entertainment is looking to meet indie developers at GI Live: Online later this month. For more information on that event, click here.

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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
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