Train simulation specialist Dovetail Games is living up to its promise to expand beyond the railways by launching into the fishing and flight categories.
We speak to CEO Paul Jackson on his hugely ambitious plans for the business
You've opened a new office in the Medway towns. How has the expansion gone?
We moved into new offices a year ago and it looks like we will already need to expand to even bigger premises by Christmas.
In 2009 we launched the business with just seven people and over the past five years we have grown to over 70. Now we're in a position where we will need to find room to accommodate 200 to 400 people over the next five years.
What's also exciting is seeing how the area in the Medway towns is shaping up to become a hub for new games companies. A lot of this is under wraps at the moment, but with all the Government support starting to come through and the close proximity of three universities, you can imagine that there will be some interesting possibilities in this area in the future.
You've moved beyond rail simulation this year and teamed up with Microsoft on the Flight Simulator series. Why do this?
Flight Simulator is simply one of the greatest video game franchises of all time. Who wouldn't be interested in it? I am just so proud that Microsoft has trusted us with it.
We are going to work incredibly hard to revitalise the sector. We want to build on what's been done and add to it with new thinking.Importantly, it's an opportunity for us to extend a friendly and supportive hand to a whole new range of highly talented content providers.
And there's a new fishing game...
Fishing is one of the world's largest sporting pastimes, and I believe that Dovetail Games Fishing will become our biggest franchise over time.
One of the elements at the heart of the Dovetail business is creating digital hobbies and in so many ways it's the perfect hobby product for us.
Over the next five to eight years we plan to build out the locations and methods of fishing that you can participate in across the world to give players the most extensive digital fishing experience.
What are your expectations for these games?
We operate with very long term views compared to many other companies in the industry.
We have been growing our Train Simulator franchise for five years, and although we typically deliver more than 40 items of DLC every year, we've barely scratched the surface in terms of delivering local market content.
I don't expect big ‘day one' numbers for any of our projects. However, I do expect us to still be selling and expanding them in 20 years' time. So in both the flight and fishing categories, we will relentlessly ship, improve, expand; ship, improve, expand.
What is the market size for hobby gaming?
That's a hard one to answer definitively. We have good estimates that there are upwards of 100m active train fans around the world, and with a little help from The World Bank we estimate that there are around 200m recreational fishermen.
Plane fans are a little more difficult to estimate, however we have some good insights from the performance of previous flight simulators. Our aim is to build a base of 10 to 15 million people who enjoy one or more of our hobbies over the next 15 years.
What can we expect from your next Train Simulator?
I can't say too much. We will be adding features that make the game more intuitive and engaging.
We are also at the very early stages of exploring a new technology base for the product that will deliver more realism and immersion than anyone has seen in a simulator before. And that's before we even start talking about VR...
What are you considering with VR?
We are working with a number of VR partners, and it's fascinating to see what they are doing.
It's the work that Valve is doing which has most impressed me – their experimental systems are the most exciting thing I have seen in 25 years in the industry.
I think the pace and nature of our content is an ideal fit for VR.
However, although I am excited by the opportunity, I don't think we are going to see an interesting business for a few years, so the industry has time to prepare.