Publisher SouthPeak Interactive is battling the retail market decline by setting up digital firm 7sixty. General manager Felix Bradshaw tells MCV about striking the balance between downloads and boxed sales:
Why establish a digital download publishing label?
Over the past few years, I think the industry has seen a massive trend towards more consumers wanting digital products – whether they’re downloadable titles on XBLA or PSN, PC games on Steam or smartphone content. Digital tends to be a place where developers and publishers can innovate a little bit more because there’s less risk of getting overshadowed by the big guns at retail. I think we can produce some really interesting content for digital distribution and we’re already looking at some fantastic products.
What about retail? Are you leaving it behind?
No. Digital is extremely important, but that’s not to say we’re totally leaving retail behind. We’ve got a strong history at retail – particularly in North America – so we will still be releasing boxed products. But we just want to make sure that any retail content is also backed up by a strong digital roadmap, like downloadable content, for example.
The mobile space obviously differs greatly from boxed retail and console downloads. What plans do you have in this area?
We’ve already released a couple of mobile titles – including Monster Madness for Android – and we’re looking at other games, too. But yes, it’s a very different market. It becomes a case of being in the right place at the right time, with the right game. With that in mind, we’re looking at a range of mobile titles that offer something different, instead of just being an Angry Birds clone.
You were previously European sales director at SouthPeak. How important is Europe for 7sixty? What about the UK, US, Africa, Asia and elsewhere?
Although we are a European office, the remit is actually far wider as we handle every territory outside of North and South America. Stronghold 3, in particular, will be massively important in Europe. We’ve signed up some great European partners including THQ in Germany and France, and Cidaverte in Italy, to ensure it gets world class distribution across Europe. We have fantastic reach in the rest of the world too and it’s a case of choosing the partner that best fits the particular title.
Is it fair to say that Stronghold 3 was a major influence for setting up 7sixty?
There were a number of key reasons for setting up 7sixty but, yes, I would say that Stronghold’s potential at digital is huge and to launch with that game under the 7sixty banner is a fantastic bonus.
What about your back catalogue? How does that portfolio lend itself to the digital marketplace?
We have already put a number of titles on Microsoft’s Games on Demand service and made Trine available for digital portals, including Steam and Green Man Gaming.Also, we’re looking at potentially converting some of our older titles to tablets, just like we did with Monster Madness. It’s a case of seeing potential opportunities, and a lot of titles in our portfolio have potential in the digital marketplace.
In terms of expanding your portfolio, what do you look for in a developer and their products?
It’s got to be an interesting product but now we also want to make sure that it’s a game that can clearly be expanded digitally. On the most basic level, it could be a downloadable game or have a clear list of DLC. But we’re also looking at ways for the online community to get involved.
With Stronghold 3 we’re really pushing the map building and sharing and we’ve even got the fans to choose a new weapon for the game through Facebook. Ultimately, I don’t think you can just release a game at retail now without backing it up with strong digital content. Like publishers have learnt to live with and accept pre-owned as a benefit at retail, they should recognise the benefit in a strategic digital roadmap to substantiate stronger sales.