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Ian Livingstone talks next-gen consoles and Eidos's future plans.

Last week, we published part 1 of our exclusive interview with Eidos's Ian Livingstone, which focused on his appearance before a House of Commons select committee and what the UK Government can do to help the games industry.

In part 2, Livingstone discusses the next-gen consoles, the new format E3, why he believes EA is changing its business strategy and what's next for Eidos - read on to find out more.


GamesIndustry.biz: Turning to the subject of the next-gen consoles, will Eidos be supporting all three platforms equally?

Ian Livingstone: Absolutely, yes. As a publisher we're platform agnostic, so we'll publish on whatever platform is dominant, given enough advance warning.

So when do you think the day will come when it's clear who's in the lead?

I don't think there will be a clear leader this time round. Nintendo has come out of nowhere with the Wii and, in many people's opinion, could win. They'll probably win in Japan; Xbox 360 will probably win in the US, because they'll have had a year already over PS3 and they've got the online capabilities absolutely nailed down.

But you can never discount Sony, and PlayStation 3 will be a success despite murmurings to the contrary. Sony is the best consumer electronics company in the world, and PlayStation is very much part of their success, so they'll make it happen.

Traditionally, their most successful market has been Europe, so they'll probably dominate in Europe again. But it's definitely a three horse race this time round.

What did you think of Sony's decision to delay the release of the PS3 in Europe?

I think it was a strange decision given that Europe has been the most successful market for PS1 and PS2. The decision is certainly going to test the resolve of their faithful consumers hitherto loyal to the brand. It means that Microsoft will have had the luxury of selling the 360 for two Christmases without competition from Sony - and let Nintendo's Wii in too.

I'm sure Sony never planned it that way, but it does put them in a tight spot. Coming third to market with the most expensive console can't be a place they want to be.

Having said that, in the end it is software that sells hardware and you can guarantee that there will be some titles that will be exclusive to PS3 that will make it a 'must have' purchase - remember how Tomb Raider drove sales of PS1 and Grand Theft Auto droves sales of PS2.

What do you think of the performance of the Xbox 360 so far?

I think everyone's been pleasantly surprised. It's had some great games, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to get good content on the platform, and Xbox Live and Xbox Live Arcade have also brought gaming to a whole new audience. The fact that you can play Uno on Xbox Live Arcade shows how successful they've been.

I think they've probably taken a leaf out of Nintendo's book, saying games don't have to be hardcore action adventures; people want other types of content.

Last week, the ESA unveiled their plans for the new E3, which is set to be a much smaller event from now on. Do you think they've made the right decision?

Absolutely. E3 was becoming unsustainable; it was becoming more about impressing people with size and noise rather than content, and attracting people to stands with free t-shirts or nubile stand girls, which really for me is not what E3 should be all about.

I think Leipzig's proved that it doesn't have to be that much about the stands to be successful. They've acted responsibly in downsizing, and plus the costs were becoming absolutely prohibitive. We took the decision two years ago to come off the show floor, and meant you could actually do business rather than trying to shout above the noise next to you.

How much involvement do you plan to have with the new E3?

I'm not in the marketing department, but I'm sure we're going to be there with quite a considerable presence - as long as it's viable economically.

How do you believe Eidos is matching up at present to other third party publishers like EA, THQ and so on?

Eidos has always focused on creating original content. EA has always been a company that's sought out licensed properties, whether it's sports licenses or movie licenses or book licenses - and they've been very successful with that.

But I've always believed that if we can't afford to get an absolute premiere license we should create our own content. At the end of the day, if you own your own content, you control your own destiny.

It's rather like owning a goldmine. If you lease a goldmine for two years, you only have the rights for a short term, and at the end of your lease you have to compete with others to renew that lease. Whereas if you own your own goldmine, as long as there's gold in it you can mine that gold for forever and a day.

Plus you can leverage your IP in different areas through merchandising and licensing - so for us, the fact that there's been Tomb Raider movies, there's going to be a Hitman movie and other merchandise, people are willing to pay up for the benefit of using our content in their products... That's a great place to be.

EA and other companies have woken up to the fact that if you get it right, creating original content is a very good, stable and long term plan.

Of course, that's a criticism that's often levelled at EA - that they focus too much on churning out sequels. But the fact is, they are the biggest third party publisher, so isn't there an argument that maybe gamers do want more of the same and that's the most successful business model?

Yes, they've had a very successful business model, but recently they've moved to creating original content as well for a more balanced portfolio. Whether they'll do that through organic growth or new acquisitions I have no idea, but in the long term, for me, it's all about owning content - that's the key to success.

Can you ever see a day when Eidos will overtake EA as the number one third party publisher?

That's a very ambitious plan! It's a nice idea, and I hope we can achieve that, but we need a number of things to happen first. The investment community in the UK has to understand the value of digital content and intellectual property we create; they've always had difficulty in understanding how you actually put that on your balance sheet. How do you value something like Lara Croft? How do you measure the real value? It's very difficult to do.

The UK investment community has always struggled with Eidos in particular, as a company that has always underestimated the value of the content we create. So we need backing from Government, the investment community and the media to let people know that Eidos, the publisher, is a great thing for this economy. We create original content, we open doors around the world, and we add real value in terms of both earnings and growth.

Ian Livingstone is product acquisition director for Eidos. Interview by Ellie Gibson. Click here to read the first part of this interview.

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Ellie Gibson

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Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.

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