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Kuju's Nigel Robbins

The company's new CEO talks business as he takes over from Ian Baverstock

Kuju has been a well-known part of the UK development scene for many years, headed up by Ian Baverstock and Jonathan Newth even after the acquisition by Catalis. But as their earn-out periods come to an end, both men will be moving into non-executive director roles as a new face to the games industry - former MTV Network Asia-Pacific president Nigel Robbins - takes the helm.

Here we speak to the man himself in an exclusive interview as he begins his new job - we find out why he's keen on the Kuju challenge, where he's looking to take the company and the studios next, what challenges the industry is facing, and whether or not the business is primed to grow.

GamesIndustry.biz You've come from outside the games industry, so what's your experience coming into this role?
Nigel Robbins

[smiles] Well, I'm Nigel, Aries, nice to meet you. I'd describe what first got me into the entertainment industry as creative and content - that's been the large part of my background in terms of TV originally. I was tasked with spearheading the TV and content roll-out for MTV Networks for a number of years - I spent about 15 years with MTV, and when I look back on my career that would be the biggest slice of the cake, among other things.

But it's also what helped me develop as a manager, when I stumbled into management as we all do - I was given opportunities as a result of that which broadened into president of the MTV Group Japan, and then president of MTV Networks Asia-Pacific

What always excited me the most about all of those roles was being as close as I could to the creative content delivery process - so nothing's changed there with this role, because in the end it's all about compelling content. That's what keeps me awake in board meetings, that's what keeps it interesting.

GamesIndustry.biz MTV Networks Asia-Pacific president to CEO of Kuju is quite a jump - why swap one for the other?
Nigel Robbins

Well, that's quite a straightforward one - my last assignment at MTV was to completely restructure the Asia-Pacific region, so I delivered that, and then stepped off the train to decide what to do next.

At that point I'd had assignments in Japan, Australia and India and had taken time in-between projects to actually scuttle up to the Highlands with my family to decide what to do next - but what was different about the last one is that I felt it was time to return to the UK, because I'd been overseas for so many years.

My intent was to immerse myself in the videogames industry - I didn't think I'd have such a clear-cut opportunity when I started looking around. I spoke to Catalis and Kuju at the end of last year and I was heartened by the fact that they were looking for someone who could bring a fresh perspective from outside of the games industry. That's the first hurdle - and I very much understand why they're doing that, but at the time I felt it could be seen as a risk.

But now, with my understanding of the Kuju group, and the strong foundations that Ian [Baverstock] and Jonathan [Newth] have established, I think it's absolutely the right thing to do - because I'm not here to help any of our guys create code, I'm here to stretch us... ask a lot of smart (and dumb) questions and find ways for us to continue to reinvent, scale-up where we can and make sure there's that continuity on the work-for-hire side of the business so we can superserve our glorious clients.

All of those challenges apply, and they've applied with previous roles I've had - but in the end it comes back to compelling content. So whichever facet of that you look at, you've got to have something that the end user - the game player - is going to use, enjoy and immerse themselves in. And of course our publishing partner needs to be completely happy with the delivery process.

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