The biggest games today are usually created by teams that cross company boundaries, with publishers, developers and asset houses working together to bring a project to fruition. However, such partnerships can still be rigid and transactional in nature.
Scopely, though, is looking for a more holistic collaboration, under its Scopely Studio Ecosystem initiative, that applies to both internal and external partners of the Marvel Strike Force developer. Where its promises to eliminate the traditional boundaries between developer and publisher.
As part of that initiative the company has just announced a $50m investment in three European, including two UK, studios: Barcelona’s Omnidrone, Leamington Spa’s Pixel Toys, and Dundee’s Tag Games. In practice that means the studios can benefit from Scopely’s publishing infrastructure, operating system, and proprietary technology platform – Playgami.
SCOPING THE PROJECT
Scopely Chief Revenue Officer Tim O’Brien explained to us in more detail how these deals differed from simple work-for-hire contracts to create new titles for Scopely.
“Our games are true collaborations between Scopely product leaders and our game studios – whether those are internal Scopely Studios or external partner studios, like the three we are talking about today. Our philosophy has always been that the best products are the result of truly unified and collaborative game teams. We aim to bring together the most talented experts who are passionate and experienced in specific game genres and then eliminate the traditional boundaries between developer and publisher, co-creating as a single team.
“Our partnerships are set up from day one to accomplish this type of collaboration and integration. We have also set up our operations and technology platform Playgami to be flexible and dynamic based on each development team’s needs. We strive to create a game making culture that empowers creativity and drives success.”
Pixel Toys is one of Scopely’s newly-announced partners, though the pair have been working together for some time it becomes apparent. The Leamington-based studio is best known for its Warhammer related titles, such as Fireblade, Realm War and the recent Battle Sister. And Pixel Toys CEO Andy Wafer is very positive about the collaboration to date:
“We pride ourselves on making big, bold games that defy expectations — and that’s only possible because of our uniquely talented and creative people. Scopely shares our mindset and our teams instantly meshed, and that strong dynamic will continue to unlock creativity and shared learnings that will deliver incredible experiences for players,” says Wafer about the unannounced title.
“We’ve already learned so much from joining this ecosystem and leveraging the power of Scopely’s Playgami technology and feel highly valued for the expertise and creativity that our studio is contributing as well,” added Wafer. “This funding represents an investment in the future of fun.”
And while the exact details of the structure of the investment are not public, Scopely’s O’Brien is keen to impress upon us just how far these deals are from work for hire.
“While every partnership is unique, our goal is never to structure external studio partnerships as work-for-hire; we are instead one team committed to a long-term relationship and delivering for players for years to come. We invest in our partner studios to remove any constraints that they may have on their business, which generally could include access to capital, technology capabilities, recruiting talent to grow their teams, publishing infrastructure, and more,” says O’Brien.
“In the case of investments like these, we are providing the resources to co-create and deliver the deepest, most immersive games possible. We work with our partners because of their world-class talent and what they bring to the game making process, and they work with us because of the unique, highly integrated studio ecosystem that we have built,” he continued.
Marc Williamson, CEO of Tag Games, is more than happy to back up O’Brien’s line: “Having worked with many publishers over the years, Scopely has differentiated themselves as a company of game makers that value collaboration and iteration for the betterment of the player experience above all else.”
The Dundee-based developer has worked on titles as diverse as Pocket Mortys, racing title CSR2, Downton Abbey: Mysteries of the Manor and Prison Architect Mobile. Even then, Williamson is impressed with Scopely’s offering.
“We’ve been inspired by what we’ve learned from their rich ecosystem so far and look forward to what more we can do together. With Scopely’s support and the technology they’ve built to create truly personalized player experiences as well as the knowledge-sharing across studios, game making is a highly enjoyable adventure.”
Scopely’s O’Brien provides more details about the breadth of what’s on offer to partners.
“They benefit from what we call our ‘operating system,’ or the people and processes that power our game-making at Scopely, including our publishing infrastructure, cross-functional ‘learning machine,’ and proprietary technology platform Playgami, which offers a range of tools and products. These Scopely differentiators enable teams to unlock their full potential and not only create games players love, but also grow them into great, long-term businesses.”
By that O’Brien means to help eliminate distractions such as funding, talent, technology etc.
“Partners are also able to co-create products that are based on some of the most beloved AAA IPs in the world — access that they oftentimes would not typically have on their own. The studios also blend as one game team with Scopely product leaders, engineers, analysts, marketers and more, which aims to add more value and inputs to the creative process.”
That’s something Omnidrone’s CEO Gerard Fernandez is happy to concur with. “Scopely’s investment in our team allows us the freedom to create a truly unique, fresh and ambitious atmosphere at Omnidrone, and attract even more talent to our studio,” he said.
“We can combine the agility of a boutique games studio with the expertise, leadership, and transformative technology of Scopely to collaborate on innovative game experiences that are just as exciting to develop as they are to play. With more than 30 open roles, we are actively seeking the world’s best in game-making to join us on this adventure with Scopely in Barcelona,” he notes.
Scopely is headquartered in Los Angeles, and has made a very conscious choice to announce these three European investments together. We wonder if that’s because it’s keen to take onboard developers who have a certain outlook, to better engage a European audience.
O’Brien doesn’t quite see it that way, though. “We look for the best talent possible, and are open to working with teams anywhere in the world. We currently have studio partners across four continents and expect that number to continue to grow… Some of the best game makers in the world operate in Europe, and we look forward to finding new teams to work with in the market who share our cultural orientation toward excellence, learning, and enjoying the process of making games.”
And beyond making those games, the studios will be operating them too, as ongoing live concerns. “Our game experiences are co-created pre-launch by Scopely and our studios – as a unified game team – and then grow and evolve each day as live-operated global experiences by that same game team, as well as our technology and publishing teams.”
Those experiences currently include not just more core gamer experiences such as Marvel Strike Force and Star Trek Fleet Command, but also casual titles such as Scrabble Go and Yahtzee with Buddies. So it’s hard to predict where the new titles will sit in Scopely’s slate (though we’d bet Pixel Toys isn’t working on a Match-3 game!)
“We have an extremely diversified live games portfolio… we have always been extremely ambitious with our strategy, having conviction to explore and enter new game genres with teams that are passionate and experienced to do so,” says O’Brien.
“Instead of focusing on what we have done well historically, or where we have current expertise, we focus on what players will enjoy and where the industry is going. This approach is also why we built the studio ecosystem that we have been discussing today — to find and partner with new talent who share our enthusiasm to create and have the expertise to deliver innovative, long lasting businesses.”
SCOPING IT OUT
So what should other studios that feel Scopely is a good partner for them be thinking about?
“We are very thoughtful in who we partner with to ensure the most optimal two-way relationship. We want our partner studios to be complementary, not duplicative, in talent to our current expertise and for the teams to be excited to come together as one,” says O’Brien. “Overall, we are looking for a few key things in our partners: genre expertise, strong leadership, creative thinkers that will level-up Scopely, and a group who is excited to partner for the long term.
“As far as strong leadership, Gerard at Omnidrone, Alex and Andy at Pixel Toys, and Marc at Tag Games all bring a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to their studios and we are thrilled to collaborate with them as we build new game experiences together.”