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To Be This Good Takes AGES

Hayes, Dunn and Heaton talk UK success, incubating Aliens and measuring the bottom line

SEGA-owned UK studio The Creative Assembly, best known for the Total War strategy games, last week announced plans to open a new 10,000 square foot studio and expand its head count from 160 to 200 as it embarked on a 'triple-A' new game based on the Alien IP. UK culture minister Ed Vaizey was in attendance to commemorate the announcement, as was president and CEO of SEGA Europe and SEGA of America Mike Hayes

Here, talks to Hayes, Creative Assembly studio head Tim Heaton and SEGA Europe senior VP of production Gary Dunn about the firms' plans for the new IP, whether it's still possible to launch a big game without a big brand, the UK games industry's links with government and why doom and gloom stories about the industry may be misplaced. What's the importance of Mr Vaizey visiting for you guys? Is it more a show of faith or direct discussion about how the government can help UK devs?
Tim Heaton

I think it's a show of faith - a senior politician, and clearly someone who is an evangelist for games within government. So it's great to see him, and we did talk about some pertinent issues, so it's good to get on the radar with those. And also to celebrate a successful company at a time when, if you went by the headlines, certainly you would be very, very depressed about the games industry within the UK. There are some real positive spots for sure. Did you feel that you had, through him, a direct line to the government itself, and the treasury?
Tim Heaton

I don't know how much influence he has, and I don't know how much influence we could ever look for...

Mike Hayes

But it's stage by stage, I mean if you go back years there were governments who weren't even interested, so the fact that a senior minister is here, taking it seriously, listening to us, he's got great relationships with Ian Livingstone and other members of the industry... How much further can we go? So I think it's a good start and great relationship - and a government that seems to be interested in the creative industry. That's good progress actually, and he certainly gets the business, which is enormously helpful for us.

We know a lot of guys there already, and so we certainly will make some recruits from that [Black Rock] team

Tim Heaton, SEGA
GamesIndustry.bizOutside of yourselves, how are you feeling about the UK games industry?
Tim Heaton

It could be perceived as doom and gloom, and there are some high profile problems, but there are people doing really well too. We saw the unfortunate Black Rock situation, and we've been to Brighton this week to go and talk to some of the staff, and there are other developers queuing up to see them because they're very well-regarded at Black Rock. Jagex and Codies and whoever are all around that, looking for staff. Where we are now is that the people who've survived, the stronger developers, are looking for hugely experienced, top-quality staff - they are hugely in demand at the moment.

GamesIndustry.bizCA must be pretty appealing to the Black Rock guys - you're only 40 minutes away...
Tim Heaton

Absolutely. And it's a small industry - we know a lot of guys there already, and so we certainly will make some recruits from that team. Nearly half [the CA] staff live in Brighton actually, so the games community there is pretty tight, and we're in this sort of triangle with London, Guildford and Brighton with Horsham almost in the middle of that. So we pretty much know what's going on all the time, and who we really would like to be employing if we possibly can.

Alec Meer avatar
Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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