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To Be This Good Takes AGES

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

GamesIndustry.bizAre SEGA's UK studios protected from something like what happened to Bizarre?
Mike Hayes

Yeah... You look at it studio by studio, and it's what the output is going to be. Total War we have an intentional brand there, which continually sells well every time we release a major title like Shogun 2 - we have an international brand that we can make even bigger. Football Manager is just incredible, every product sells well. And I've seen that the new [Alien] project we've announced today on console, we know that the theme and what we're doing will have a big appeal in the United States, because we showed that with Aliens vs Predator.

So I would never, ever be foolish enough to say it's absolutely ring-fenced and perfect - you can't say that in our industry - but the brands that we have are international brands, they seem to be evergreen and I think working on the Alien license with what we have from a creativity point of view gives you a pretty good chance that you're going to have a commercial success with the project. It's never a cast iron guarantee. So do we feel extremely optimistic about our two UK studios? We absolutely do, no doubt about it.

Both Sports Interactive and Creative Assembly are outperforming their business plans from a profitability perspective

Gary Dunn, SEGA
Gary Dunn, SEGA Europe senior vice president - Production

Our UK internal studios are probably the bedrock of our business. Certainly, when I was signing off our studio bonus scheme and I was signing of the incentives last week, for the second year both Sports Interactive and Creative Assembly are outperforming their business plans from a profitability perspective. These guys are on top of the game, it's a real testimony to the games they make.

GamesIndustry.bizHow does the top brass at SEGA in Japan feel about the company having become almost UK-centric?
Mike Hayes

Well, when we continue to hit our revenues and profit targets, they're delighted [laughs]. CA and SI are very integral to that. But we have a spread - let's not underestimate what Sonic does for us, and what we've done with Mario and Sonic. Those are the behemoth titles that have done very well for us. But at the end of the day, regardless of where you are it's the fact that you have to have an internationally appealing game and brand. I think SEGA's fortunate that we've got two excellent UK studios, but the point is the majority of sales, particularly for the Creative Assembly, really have to be outside of the UK. So it needs to have an international appeal - certainly with Total War we get that. I think we're in very, very good shape, actually.

It's interesting: Creative Assembly are seen as the jewel in the crown of SEGA. That's an interesting thing, I don't think that would have been a thought about that fifteen years ago - but probably Creative Assembly has the consistent highest quality in terms of gaming for any studio, so SEGA's very proud of both. But as Gary says, when you break your targets, everyone's happy.

GamesIndustry.bizIn terms of CA and Alien, whose choice was it to give this game to this studio?
Tim Heaton

Well, the team finished Viking about three years ago now, and that was... flawed when it came out for PS3 and 360. I think it was flawed due to scope and timing issues and whatever, and it just didn't have the time it needed to gestate. So then I came in and we looked at that console team, or at the bare bones of what was left of that console team, and we talked about what we should do. So we developed a demo using some of the technology from Viking, but really quite changed, and we took it to SEGA. We knew the Alien license was part of SEGA's portfolio, so we showed them the demo and that was when everything changed. They got it, and it all became very clear that there was an opportunity there. The team were absolutely obsessed with it - it is the perfect videogame content, is not? It's fantastic and the legacy...

Equally, we are really commercially-minded, and we are that both in the studio and when we talk to SEGA. We only want to do something that's going to be massively successful, so we understand the quality levels that we need to hit in order to sell an awful lot of this game. So we want to make something that's quite different - we're not just wanting to take the license and knock out a licensed game, we want to make something really special out of it. So we've spent three years since Viking working on the technology, really bespoke for this genre of game, for what we're making, and it feels really, really strong now. So this is where we're happy to raise our heads above the parapet and talk about it a touch.

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.