How I learned to love the Bomb

Over the last few years, there’s been a trend of video game veterans going indie.

From Peter Molyneux to Fiona Sperry, past Cliff Bleszinski to Michel Ancel, we’ve seen a number of people who could walk into any job, go back to basics.

And it’s not just creators, but business people, too. People such as industry vet John Kavanagh (pictured right).

Having held roles at the likes of Eidos, Crystal Dynamics, Kuju America and Paramount Pictures, Kavanagh made a return to the games industry in December as Manchester-based Pixelbomb’s MD.

Crystal Dynamics had about 120 people making a game. Now you need 200 people, and it takes three years to make something,” Kavanagh explains.

I’ll probably make three more games before I retire. I was really interested in the indie scene where you know the names of everybody working there and you’re very direct-to-consumer because it’s mostly digital. And you can get releases done some time before your grandchildren have grown up. That was the attraction.”

This isn’t just a personal move for Kavanagh, but just what Pixelbomb was looking for in making its first game: Beyond Flesh and Blood.

John joining has opened up a lot of doors,” co-studio lead Phil Muwanga says (pictured above far right).

I came from an indie background and I just focus on making the best games possible. But the games industry is a business and there was this whole other side to it. I didn’t know how to swim in those waters. With all of John’s experience, he has opened up a lot of doors for us and to help get Beyond Flesh and Blood to where we want it to be.”

In addition, Kavanagh’s business smarts and industry experience are going to help Pixelbomb realise its grander vision of becoming a digital publisher as well as a developer.

We have three things that we want to do which is create, curate and invest,” Kavanagh explains.

Over the coming year we are obviously going to publish our own titles, but we’re looking at other IPs and developers and see where we can add value to that process and get to market. We are interested in developers that need investment in order to move forward, too. We have a very ambitious growth plan.”

The studio was also one of the first British developers to benefit from UK tax relief when that scheme launched in 2014. But Muwanga believes more can be done to help out the development scene on a government level.

The tax relief was a great boon to us,” he says. But I would like to see more help for indies in the future – more transparency and awareness of all the grants that are out there. I spent a long time being indie and because I was just in my small isolated bubble, I wasn’t aware of all the help that the government could give.”

Kavanagh believes that there is a gap between the triple-A and indie scenes that Pixelbomb can capitalise on.

Beyond Flesh and Blood is an indie game, so we’re not beholden to any publisher, but our budget is way beyond what most indie games would be. We’re in the middle,” he says.

We’re very lucky in that respect. We’re trying to capture that middle ground in the digital space between pure indie – bedroom coders – and teams of 250. We have about 25 people on this game.

That’s bigger than your average bedroom team.”

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