Excalibur goes indie

Excalibur has made its name in PC sim games from other studios. Now its focus is on its own IP and indie games. Marketing boss Richard Barclay tells us why

How would you assess Excalibur’s performance in the last twelve months?

A year ago 75 per cent of our output was licensed goods. Now that’s turned on its head completely. The majority of our product now is digital and boxed, with a slight emphasis on digital sales rather than boxed. Also the products that we are bringing to the market, which we are now funding ourselves, aren’t simulation titles, apart from European Ship Simulator’s successor, World Ship Simulator.

Why are you cutting back on your simulation product?

Historically we’ve bought in simulation titles as licensed products. Some of those have been particularly successful and developers and IP owners just want more and more money for them on a yearly basis. You can’t necessarily afford to put 250,000 into an agreement and hope to see some return from it with no guarantee in, say, six months time.

As that market has diminished we’ve needed to look at how we’re going to generate revenue going forward. Being in charge of our own IP is really the way forward
for anybody.

Now your focus is funding indie games. Why?

The lack of good licensable simulation titles for a start, which is what we have made a lot of money out of over the last 11 years. It’s very expensive to think of a niche in the simulation market and then develop a new IP and bring that to market. You can’t do that over a short period of time either. That’s why we looked to indie studios that – in some cases – had already got products in development, or that had a history of developing good products.

In August you launched a new IP called Shoppe Keep (pictured below) on Steam. How has that performed for you?

That’s a product that we were approached to take by a one-man development team. He didn’t want to – and clearly didn’t have the time to – go through the process of trying to get his product onto Steam. We got it onto Steam. We’ve sold about 50,000 units, which doesn’t sound like a lot,
until you consider that it’s a small title that started in Early Access with a tiny marketing budget.

It’s done really well. If we can pick up titles like that, put some development funding behind them to take them through Early Access, then we can be very successful. That’s not something other publishers want to necessarily have anything to do with, just picking up these smaller titles.

Traditionally, Excalibur has been a PC publisher, but now you are bringing games to console. Why?

We don’t want to be just beholden to PC sales forever. We’re not looking at Xbox at the moment, but we have six products coming to PS4, both digitally and physically.

For us, Sony is probably easier to work with at this particular stage. The initial talks with Xbox seemed like a total minefield that we had no experience in. Having had dialogue with Sony over a period of months, that was a lot easier to do. We became a worldwide Sony publisher months ago and that was a procedure that was just an easier thing to do. Xbox was turning into a bit of a nightmare.

Given that it has never been easier to get to market – via means such as digital distribution – why should developers come to Excalibur?

Small indies could get games on Steam eventually, but it’s a whole lot easier for say Excalibur, or whoever, to get products on there. We can take care of that for people and focus on what we’re good at. You can always do something yourself and save a few grand by painting your own house inside and out, but the reality is that you pay somebody to do it and it gets done, and hopefully to a high standard.

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