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Relentless Progress

Director and joint founder Andrew Eades on embracing digital and breaking free from exclusivity deals

Relentless software have been a Sony-exclusive developer for as long as most people have known them - seeing huge success with its in-house quiz game Buzz across several Sony platforms.

That exclusivity deal has now come to an end, amicably and from natural causes, so Relentless is taking a new tack with its refound independence by embracing the new digital distribution model which it pioneered with episodic murder mystery title Blue Toad Murder Files.

It's a bold step in today's harsh climate, but Relentless are confident that its the correct move to make. Here, co-founder and executive director Andrew Eades tells us the story behind the evolution, and where he hopes to see the company move in the future.

GamesIndustry.bizThe first thing we want to talk about is your move away from being a Sony exclusive publisher to a more independent stance - that's a very brave move, coming out from the umbrella of a successful IP and platform-holder exclusivity - what gave you the security and confidence to do that?
Andrew Eades

Well, our exclusivity was coming up to a decision point anyway, in 2010, so we took the view that the kind of game we wanted to make was not necessarily the kind of game that the PlayStation 3 core gamer audience would pick up in the sort of numbers that Buzz was picked up in on PlayStation 2.

So, we looked at where we wanted to go with the company. So yeah, you're right, it was a nice safety blanket, we've had a good strong relationship with Sony for a number of years - seven in fact - and we've just released Ultimate Music Quiz and there's another couple of things we're doing with Sony along the way, but we wanted to spread our wings a bit and do something new - try out digital.

Our real strategy going forward is to change the company from a disc-based, console games company only - which is what we were, we were only PlayStation 3, we were only console, we were only quiz, in fact. We wanted to change the company to have much more breadth and embrace the new digital platforms we saw coming in.

We'd already started that, in a way, with Blue Toad Murder Files which we released in the back end of 2009. That was more than an experiment - how do we become a self-publishing developer? We were still Sony exclusive when we did that, which is why it was exclusive to PlayStation.

We've just launched it on PC. We were really proud that we've come on to Steam and other digital distribution platforms - we think that the future is not a massively expensive console in your living room, necessarily. PlayStation 3 prices are going to come down, Xbox 360 prices are going to come down. Who knows what Nintendo are going to do with the Wii.

We also know that, come 2012, there are going to be other devices - maybe Apple TV, maybe Google TV, maybe even your Samsung connected TV will be able to play some decent connected games. Who knows?

It's very different from when we started in 2003, which was complete dominance by a low-price-point PS2, which suits our market. We're not a hardcore gamer company, we're social and casual family orientated games. We saw that in 2012, we don't think there will be a dominant PS3 or a dominant 360, it'll probably be pretty even between the two. There'll also be other devices which are lower price-point that we should be moving towards.

So it wasn't really a decision about the past and our relationship with Sony, it was where we want to be in the future. We decided that the future would be a lower price-point, digitally delivered, so that's where we wanted to move the company. Doesn't mean we've abandoned consoles and high-end products at all, we've just got a more balanced approach.

It's a big leap. Sometimes you have to take a risk.

GamesIndustry.bizHow did Sony did Sony feel about you not renewing that exclusivity? I remember watching an E3 presentation a few years back where Buzz was the only non-first-party game featured - you were obviously a very important asset to Sony.
Andrew Eades

Well it wasn't unilateral. I think we discussed it in February last year and we knew our contract specified a certain date that we had to make a decision by. Actually that date was the middle of 2010.

We had to start thinking about what we were going to start doing in the future because our exclusive arrangement ran out. So it was a mutual discussion and a mutual decision. I think we both felt it was the right thing to do.

GamesIndustry.bizHow important was the success of Blue Toad to that decision? If it had been a total dead end, would you still have made that move towards independence?
Andrew Eades

[laughs] What do politicians say? Never do hypotheticals? I'll have a go. I think Blue Toad has been really successful, we've sold over 85,000 copies on PSN and we're doing PS Home items.

So we're celebrating the first birthday of Blue Toad, which has been successful. If we hadn't had that would we have made the same decisions? I think it would have been a bit harder, because we wouldn't have had anything to fall back on. But the truth is, when we made the decision, we'd decided not to be exclusive to Sony, but that doesn't mean we've decided to never work together again.

Being exclusive or non-exclusive doesn't really change that status that much - it's whether you want to do stuff outside of the Sony empire, as it were. We decided that we did, and I think for an independent developer, that was the right decision to make.

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