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Part 1 - Eidos's Simon Protheroe

Simon Protheroe joined Eidos in 1993 and became technical director a year later. In 2003, he took charge of the company's new media division, and following SCi's acquisition of the company in 2005 he became director of new media and IT.

In part one of our interview, Protheroe discusses Eidos's strategies for approaching the mobile gaming market and the importance of balancing console tie-ins with original IP. Part two will be published on MobileIndustry.biz next week.

MobileIndustry.biz Can you give us some background as to Eidos's involvement with mobile gaming?
Simon Protheroe

We formalised our involvement in 2003. We'd actually done some work with Nokia before, but in terms of actual commercial activity it was 2003 - we did a couple of launch titles for N-Gage, some Java titles for Vodafone in Europe, but it's been the last 12 months really.

For the first couple of years Eidos was in a state of transition as well - we were very publically up for sale there was a bidding war going on towards the end. As a company we weren't really in a position to do anything radically different.

I think that's all settled down and since SCi bought the company we've been able to focus more on increasing the product pipeline, growing the team and increasing the depth of our operator relationships.

MobileIndustry.biz Are you still working with companies like Nokia? Are you developing any more titles for the N-Gage, for example?
Simon Protheroe

Not for the current N-Gage, not for the hardware. But we're still working with Nokia - for example the new Tomb Raider that we just announced is embedded on three N-series handsets with Orange. So there's a number of different touch points with companies like Nokia, but with other manufacturers as well.

It's not really a pure mobile division because we also deal with things like interactive TV, online distribution and games-on-demand. It's really about developing Eidos's IP markets, whether that's taking existing content such as PC games and offering it in a new format like online distribution, or whether that's taking current brands and developing totally new content like mobile games - it all falls within our remit.

It's deliberately a fairly small team. What we're trying to do is to make sure that as the market evolves over the next few years, the company as a whole is developing the expertise and infrastructure to move as the market moves. It's not really a separate division in the way that Eidos Wireless is a totally separate divsion; it's more integrated with the main company.

MobileIndustry.biz In terms of your product portfolio, what kind of balance does Eidos try to strike between original IP and mobile games based on successful console franchises?
Simon Protheroe

It was a lot easier for us three years ago, just coming into the market, to build distribution on the back of brands like Crash and Burn, Thief and Hitman.

Going forward I'd say we'd opt for an increasing proportion of new IP. So whilst we're continuing to do the big brands like Tomb Raider we're also starting to introduce new IP, because we're starting to see the market look a lot more sophisticated than it did three years ago.

Originally it was a lot of arcade classics, 2D side scrollers or top down 2D titles; there wasn't much variation in the market. I think what we're seeing now is a much broader market with high-end 3D titles at one end of the spectrum which are appealing to one part of the market. But at the other end of the spectrum there's more new IP, casual games - some branded with TV or film tie-ins but also more completely new IP.

We're not going after one area of the market or another. We want to treat it as a whole but to develop products which will suit different areas of that market. There are also geographical splits - UK operator decks are predominantly console-branded titles, while in the US there is a lot more casual IP with TV tie-ins.

MobileIndustry.biz It seems that the same games seem to turn up in the mobile download charts every month - WWTBAM, Tetris and so on. Why risk going with new IP when tried and trusted franchises are doing so well?
Simon Protheroe

Well, we're not avoiding those franchises, but we think there's an opportunity for new IP as well. Maybe it's not going to be the biggest seller but it's a big market, a growing market, and we think we've got some strong titles that we can bring to that market.

Our approach is very cross platform in the way that we've started bringing console titles to mobile - for example, some of the mobile titles which we're working on we're starting to move to other platforms. There are a couple of things where we'll definitely have PC download, handheld titles, cross-platform on Xbox Live Arcade.

So one of the differences between Eidos and a pure play mobile company is that we tend to look at things as brands and franchises that will work cross-platform and then look at cross-marketing those, rather than look at something as a pure mobile game.

I still think it's worth introducing games purely for mobile but as you say it is risky; its a risk we're willing to take, but the risk is still there. You're cutting down on that risk slightly when you're putting that title out on a number of different platforms at once. Thereby you've got a higher marketing spend, more awareness, cross-platform interactions and so on.

Simon Protheroe is director of new media and IT at Eidos. Interview by Ellie Gibson. To read part two of this feature, visit MobileIndustry.biz next week.

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