After recently setting up a European division, and releasing a selection of licensed titles across handheld formats, D3Publisher has laid the foundations to expand into the region as the industry begins its evolution around next-generation formats.
GamesIndustry.biz took the opportunity to talk with European managing director David Hope, to discuss the company's long term goals in the region, its plans for developing and publishing on new formats and its thoughts on downloadable content...
GamesIndustry.biz: So what are D3Publisher's plans in Europe - how do you operate, and what's your relationship with the Japanese parent company?
David Hope: Firstly, the parent company in Japan is very aware of the fact that each market is very different. They recognised that very early on with the working plans that we have. So some of the titles that they work with in Japan, we might not necessarily look at bringing over here, but there are other opportunities that we've got where we look at what Japan is doing and it might be right, so we're always keeping an eye out for considerations.
D3Publisher is best known in Japan for a range of products called the Simple Series. These are budget titles for PS2, PSP, DS and other formats. We do plan under a separate brand called Essential Games to bring some of those titles out across Europe as we progress into the first and second quarters of next year. We've been working on looking at the amount of product that's available, what's appropriate for the European markets, and then planning the localisation of the products for release sometime in the near future.
But we operate quite independently from Japan on a day-to-day basis. We have Japan's financial support which has been used to found the subsidiary in the US and also help us establish ourselves over here in Europe. But we report more on a regular basis into the office in the states because there's more synergy between us and the North American market and retail out there and with our own markets over in Europe.
So you have the autonomy of Sega, rather then waiting for the Japanese say-so like Capcom?
That's one way of putting it. I was at Koei for five years before I set D3 up in Europe and its philosophy was very similar to Capcom's. D3 is different. The strategy behind the products is to look at original IP for the hardcore sector of the market and for next-generation, but also to focus on major brands and licenses that appeal to the mass market for current-generation consoles.
At the minute you've got a lot of titles across different formats. Are you still in the process of dipping your toes in the European market to see what works in the region?
I think we are in part, and it also depends on the property that we're working on. We have a close working relationship with companies like Cartoon Network and its licenses lend themselves to some formats better than they do to others.
How important is it for D3 to establish a presence on the next-generation consoles, obviously you've got Dark Sector for the PlayStation 3 in development...
Our current view, if you look at the life-cycle of the PS2 and look at the DS which is performing very well in Europe, there's still plenty of legs left on the those hardware. And from our perspective we were relieved in some respects to see the launch of the PlayStation 3 moved back in Europe until next year. It gives us all time to focus on the PS2, which is still a strong format.
Moving forward we can see that Wii, PS3 and 360 are extremely important. We have a number of Wii projects under consideration and development, as well as Dark Sector for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in development for an Autumn 2007 release.
I don't think for us it's all about getting in there early. We've got to let the installed base develop and the brand awareness develop and make sure that consumers can buy the machine in sufficient quantities. So I'm happy we're releasing a product like Dark Sector a few months after the launch of the hardware. It also makes sure that Digital Extremes, who is working on the project, can really make the game everything it can be.
As you're based in Europe, how important do you see development teams in the region?
It's an increasingly important region to us. Over the last few weeks or so a number of senior D3Publisher representatives have actually been over to meet with European developers to look at potential opportunities, and we're also looking at potential licensing partners. The company is looking very closely at European development opportunities with the proviso that the products also have potential to be sold in the US and maybe even Japan. It's something that is very much part of the company strategy going forward.
So you're really on a drive to acquire content?
Well, we're always interested in looking at new opportunities. The company has this two-brand strategy where we'll look at licences for the mass market but at the same time we'll make sure we've got some compelling and strong original IP working alongside that. We've got a game coming out next year called Dead Head Fred, which is a great bit of new IP that was received extremely well out at E3 this year. And that's a great example of what we're about. We have Dead Head Fred as a new idea, and the movie tie-in Flushed Away for the mass market. The company is very interested where there's a good piece of original IP available, with good technology and an efficient development process involved.
Would you be interested in buying up new IP to own yourselves, as a publisher?
Well the current philosophy is to respect that the developer should own the IP and part of D3's message to companies has been that we'll respect that and work with people on that. But certainly in the longer term strategy of the business, it would be something we'd start to look at, to look at developing such things in house. Maybe even look at buying a development team themselves. If they had compelling IP, some good technology and could be run efficiently, then it would fit in with our longer term plans for D3.
Are we talking Euro development teams there?
I think it would be both American and potentially European.
You're clearly shopping around. Do you think you can get a god deal of business done at industry events like E3 or Leipzig, or are they more a chance to meet and greet?
It was interesting because I then spent the following day after the business show at Leipzig attending the consumer event and that was remarkable. To actually see consumers being welcomed rather than isolated, as has happened in the past with these sort of events. You sometimes get the feeling in this industry, and in the UK, that we don't want consumers to see what they can buy at Christmas.
What better way to see what a consumer likes than putting the game in their hands...
Exactly, we need to remember and recognise that we depend on people buying these games at the end of the day and so they need to see them in action. Seeing a game at an event like Leipzig starts to influence them to make their buying decisions, and gets the consumers excited about what we're doing as an industry.
What do you think to the opportunities in the digital downloads market such as Xbox Live. Is that something D3P is interested in working in?
We've got some guys out in the States that are looking at developing a couple of titles for Live Arcade. The view is that at the moment there's no real evidence of any real massive potential for us, but it is something its nice to put a toe in and see what happening and what's feasible. We've got the potential there with a couple of products to do Xbox Live Arcade versions but we'll see how things go.
There's a lot of old titles out on that service, but it has potential as a testing ground for something that you might want to make into a full game in the future in the future. If you've got something that works well and people like the simple concept of a new game on that service, then we could think about expanding it into a new game and something far bigger down the line. To see if it works, if it's practical and if it's a good gaming experience, see what the potential audience think, how they react to what they're seeing and playing.
David Hope is the European managing director of D3Publisher. Interview by Matt Martin.