Can the BBC get games right this time?

Christopher Dring
Can the BBC get games right this time?

The BBC's plan for the video games market regenerates almost as often as The Doctor.

Back in 2005 it closed its Multimedia division – after almost ten years of publishing titles – when the boxed games market crashed.

In January 2010, MCV revealed that the firm would return in a big way with a new Los Angeles-based division. BBC Worldwide's new games department existed for almost five years, and brought the Top Gear test track to Gran Turismo 5 and Forza 4, delivered the Stig in Forza 5, launched a number of ok game apps, and helped publish a few pretty dreadful Doctor Who boxed games.

It wasn't quite working, and last year the BBC closed its LA games division and started again, this time back in Britain.

Over the years the team has managed a range of successful games from the Top Gear Stunt School series, and establishing the partnership with Microsoft for Forza Motorsport,” says Rikesh Desai, director of Digital Entertainment and Games at BBC Worldwide.

This set the foundation for games at BBC Worldwide and allows us internally to explore new concepts with the IP and discuss partnerships with exciting gaming companies.”

He continues: In terms of ambition nothing has changed.But, since bringing gaming back to the UK we've restructured the team and are focused on creating a business to drive quality that can deliver sustainable growth. The team has a wealth of experience starting with Grant Dean, our head of Top Gear Games, Pete Hickman, producer within the Digital and Entertainment games at BBC Worldwide, and our associate producer Kevin Jorge.”

It is about identifying suitable partners that have a
track record of delivering quality. That's why we're
actively seeking developers for future products,
particularly Doctor Who and BBC Earth. The market
is very unforgiving, we can't be complacent because
we have popular IP. It wouldn't be fair.
When we do
get the formula right our fans and partners are very
forthcoming with their views. When we announced
our Doctor Who partnership with Minecraft we saw
the highest ever response from the community.”

Rikesh Desai - Director of Digital Entertainment and Games, BBC Worldwide


BBC Worldwide's games division today is primarily about licensing its IP to the right partner, whether that's Top Gear, Doctor Who, its various kids brands or other properties, such as BBC Earth.

The current strategy is to deliver profitability by licensing and integrating our IP to major and global partners,” continues Desai.This does not mean we won't ever commission game development at some point in the future but where the business is today it is prudent to follow the license strategy.”

Yet this approach has not been an overwhelming success thus far, with a number of poor quality titles launching from small developers. But Desai insists this is something the BBC is acutely aware of.

It is about identifying suitable partners that have a track record of delivering quality. That's why we're actively seeking developers for future products, particularly Doctor Who and BBC Earth,” he says. The market is very unforgiving, we can't be complacent because we have popular IP. It wouldn't be fair.

When we do get the formula right our fans and partners are very forthcoming with their views. When we announced our Doctor Who partnership with Minecraft we saw the highest ever response from the community.”

Although the BBC has struggled to find success on consoles, it's had a bit more luck in the mobile market. Doctor Who Legacy, the free-to-play mobile puzzle game, has attracted some 1.4m gamers. And its various Top Gear titles – including Top Gear Race – The Stig, and Top Gear Stunt School – have been well received.

Mobile has become such a key market, driven by demand and many creative new releases each week,” says Desai.Doctor Who Legacy taught us how important it is to maintain a pipeline of new content to retain existing users and attract new fans.

Also for the launch of Top Gear Race the Stig earlier this year, we learnt how important it was to prepare. It was great to see all this preparation pay off as we saw the fastest rate of daily installs for any mobile game we have launched.”

Mobile is in many ways a better fit for the BBC. Its brands are not ‘hardcore' IP, but mass market propositions – which makes them suited to a mobile audience. These games are also easier and cheaper to make. But Desai says that the console space offers the BBC something that mobile does not.

We have plans in place for further releases on consoles for our major brands,” he explains. Both mobile and console are important platforms forus as each allow us to create various gaming experiences that appeal to different audiences in different situations.”

THE BBC'S NEW FRIENDS

A lot of focus may befall the BBC's various video games, but arguably their most
successful activity has been by teaming up with other big name brands, such as
Forza, Minecraft and Gran Turismo.

Top Gear has been a regular presence in the Forza series, while in August the firm
did a deal with Minecraft on Xbox 360 to introduce Doctor Who characters
into the game.

And there has been plenty of benefits to the BBC for doing this, says director for
Digital Entertainment and Games at BBC Worldwide, Rikesh Desai.

Firstly, it's just the opportunity to work with partners that are passionate about our
brands as much as we are,” he explains. I can't stress how important this is
when collaborating with developers as creative really comes through in the final
game output. Secondly, with the games market continually evolving and rapidly
growing, it's important for us to forge strategic partnerships with proven and
established developers and franchises

to succeed.”

And there's more to come, too.

I can't say much at this point, but we have some very exciting partnerships
planned for release over the next 12 months, which I believe fans will
really enjoy,” insists Desai. In addition to this we have innovative toy and
game cross-over products, which is an area we are actively exploring.”



We pushed Desai to announce some other upcoming BBC IP, but all he would say is that – in addition to Doctor Who and Top Gear – the firm will release two Children's mobile games” and that further out we are discussing opportunities for BBC Earth and s

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