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Frima's Steve Couture and Jake Theis

On financing growth, acquisitions, and turning threats into opportunities

I don't know many CEO's that would joke that they do their best interviews while taking a shower (bizarrely, there was a shower in our interview room at GDC), but then I don't meet many CEO's of independent studios that have a headcount of over 250 people. Frima, based in Quebec, has been producing work-for-hire projects since 2003 for the likes of Hasbro and EA, LeapFrog, Nickelodeon, Player X and Miniclip, across virtual worlds, smartphones, social, web games and consoles - but in the past 24 months has really ramped up efforts with new original intellectual property.

Here, in this exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz, CEO Steve Couture and senior brand manager Jake Theis discuss the evolution of the studio, plans to reach across every available format that has a screen, the importance of acquisitions, and what some see as a threat is a market opportunity for everyone else.

GamesIndustry.biz Can you begin by telling us a little about the studio, size, projects etcetera?
Steve Couture

We are a company based in Quebec and we founded the company in 2003. We are now 265 employees and we are still an independent studio. We're trying to get "midependent" to catch on, as a phrase. We're a multiplatform studio, we're doing everything that has a screen so from Xbox to PSN mobile phone, tablet, social. A big part of out business is doing work-for-hire for the big studios and for the toy industry, and the other part is developing our own IPs. So we finance our business and our growth by releasing work-for-hire titles, that's the how we play the business. We're a super-nice business, to be honest.

GamesIndustry.biz So Jake, can you tell me more about your focus on creating new and original IP?
Jake Theis

One of the really exciting things and initiatives at Frima, the reason I moved to Quebec and am drinking the Frima Kool-Aid, is that we're set up in a way where we can take the best opportunity at any given time. Technology is getting good enough and cross-platform enough that if we see a market opportunity we can reach out, capture that and align it with the best IP that we have with the best market opportunity. There's not a barrier there. One of the nice things about Frima is we have a great legacy of seven years of partnerships with major studio developers and with different console developers. We can get our IPs out and get the notoriety that someone that is just starting new IP probably couldn't because we have this legacy.

In terms of actual things we're doing we have A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks, which is downloadable for PSP and PSN. It's a minis title, it's the most literal title in gaming that you'll find...

GamesIndustry.biz Is it a space shooter that you buy for $2?
Jake Theis

It delivers on that! Sony worked with us on the promotion of it and it's been doing fantastically well - we have 100,000 downloads, a blend of some free giveaways through the PlayStation Plus programme and also from people shelling out the big $2 to get it. Critical reviews have been really good, my favourite are the ones that say you can't afford to not own it. Basically our methodology for that opportunity was thinking about 80s arcade machines, which were the first micro-transactions. People were shelling out thousands of quarters for the classic space explorations titles - to take that technology and amp it up so there's a narrative with multiple paths for where you want to go, different upgrades - it's been doing well.

Jake Theis

It's been ranked as the fourth best PSP title on Metacritic. So for a small title it sits beside God of War and some other high-profile games.

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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