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Gameloft's Gonzague de Vallois

After announcing a 41 per cent rise in sales for the last quarter, Gameloft is clearly enjoying success as one of the key publishers and developers in the mobile gaming sector. caught up with vice president of publishing Gonzague de Vallois at 3GSM in Barcelona to discuss the company's plans for 2007, its push into 3D gaming, the perils of licensing and why online and multiplayer gaming isn't yet a viable option for the company.

MobileIndustry.bizGameloft has been enjoying a successful financial year - what do you think the company is doing right that some of your competitors aren't?
Gonzague de Vallois

One of our strongest beliefs is that mobile gaming is mass market, so we need to offer different types of games for different users. We don't think the mobile gaming business is the little brother of the videogame business and that only videogame IP will sell on mobile.

18 per cent of our titles are Ubisoft IP but the other 82 per cent are aimed at a more casual consumer. It's about high quality games from different genres - quality is still our main focus.

Also, we've established a very strong marketing relationship with our carriers. We've been investing heavily in marketing operations along with the carriers. Our belief is that there is huge potential in our business.

We can see that in a mature market like Korea or Japan, with carriers that are very effective in the way they market the games, the penetration rate of a service can reach 20 per cent.

Today, in Europe, we are still at around 5 per cent. We will get there only if we market them successfully. People won't wake one morning and say, 'Hey, let's download a mobile game.' We need to let them know they can play.

All of our marketing is targeted on education - to recruit new players and to make existing players even happier with the experience they already have. That's also why 2007 is the 3D year. We need to keep pushing the envelope because there have been restrictions with what we can do in 2D. We've been doing 2D games for four years, and now this year is all about 3D.

MobileIndustry.bizThere's a lot of licensed content in your portfolio - videogame brands, movie and TV brands. Is that something Gameloft is going to continue to pursue - to sign up the hot brands from the entertainment market?
Gonzague de Vallois

Yes, but more than 50 per cent of our sales are from non-licensed material. We're trying to keep a balance. What we're trying to do more is go after local licenses like we did in the UK with Deal or No Deal. It was a huge success and became one of the best game launches in the mobile gaming industry.

We need to keep a balance between licensed and original IP because there's room for both if you bring an innovative and high quality experience to handsets.

MobileIndustry.bizBeing an offshoot of a TV or movie brand means that there's only a short time to take advantage of the hype surrounding that particular brand. A TV show is only hot for so long, movies are only on show for a few months of the year...
Gonzague de Vallois

I would say that all licenses are a gamble. We started distributing Deal of No Deal in France in early December but by early January it was not being shown any more. There is always a risk there. We'll take the risk but also try to sign the IP that we think has a long lasting appeal.

For movies it's also true that there's one hotspot in time. And there are a lot of movie licenses on the market, so we need to be very selective with them. We try to secure the right IP so that we limit the short sales period.

MobileIndustry.bizHow important is it to develop your mobile gaming brands alongside developments in the videogame industry? Or is it more important to develop your titles separately from the home console business?
Gonzague de Vallois

The mobile gaming market is completely different from the console market. There is only 10 to 20 per cent common ground where some gamers might play on both formats. But mobile gaming is much more mass market, that's why we're accelerating our business in the casual market.

In 2003 around 70 per cent of our sales were from Ubisoft IP. We keep the videogame titles because they sell and there is an audience for them but it's only one part of our global target.

MobileIndustry.bizWhat is Gameloft's focus for 2007, and how do you expect the industry to change over the next 12 months?
Gonzague de Vallois

3D is one of our key areas to keep the 'wow' factor in mobile gaming. If you look at the console business, for example, when new hardware comes out developers only take advantage of maybe 60 per cent, the year after around 80 per cent, and in the third year a full 100 per cent. After that, developers reach their maximum potential.

In our business, we are also reaching this type of maturity so we need to bring something new to the table, and 3D is part of that. And it's a boost for every type of game. It makes sense to play a racing game in 3D, but it also makes sense to play a pool game in 3D - we all live in a 3D world.

MobileIndustry.bizWhat other new technology do you see as key to advancing mobile gaming?
Gonzague de Vallois

There's the question of file size - we need to make the best gaming experience but also the best download experience. There are also things such as online and multiplayer gaming, but for Gameloft it's still very early days. Not because we don't think there is a market there, but there are questions about technical maturity.

It's a very fragmented market. When you develop for a console you're working on just one format. We have 800 phones to support and even in one country a Samsung phone won't work in the same way as another Samsung model.

We ran a multiplayer trial with one of our key customers in Latin America - just sending high scores, very basic - but there was so much fragmentation on the technical side that we decided to give up. If 2007 is about 3D then 2008 will be about multiplayer, when the technology becomes more uniform.

Gonzague de Vallois is vice president of publishing for Gameloft. Interview by Matt Martin.

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