“We do things our own way, rightly or wrongly…” – Wired on last night’s Wired Direct, it’s new Black Label editions and 2021 slate

There’s a lot going on at Wired Productions. Faced with another COVID-hit year, the publisher last night put on its own livestream event, featuring an impressive new lineup of titles, all hosted by BAFTA and BBC presenter Julia Hardy.

But that’s just the beginning. Wired is also building up its own brand by licensing IP, launching its own Black Label special editions and repositioning its titles under the ‘Wired Presents’ moniker. We talk to MD Leo Zullo about all that and more.

Why Wired Presents, how does it differ from just plain old Wired publishes?
Our approach is different. Wired are not a traditional publisher. We do things our own way, rightly or wrongly, but alongside our developers, we are a family! We fight as one!

We are a partner to all our developers. That is not just a name or a phrase to us – every relationship is different, but generally we work with developers to improve games, and not to just publish them. We do work hard for every single developer to deliver success to them. If we can do that, we’re successful.

Each game is heavily curated – and gets greenlit by the whole team – every Wired team member has a vote on the games we sign. We put a huge amount of work behind the scenes meeting with developers and looking for those gems, and we feel that we do a good job at finding them. But it isn’t always about finding a million-copy selling game… a gem can be a great story, a difficult story, an uncomfortable experience, or just a bit of fun, but all designed to deliver a feeling. There is more value in delivering a unique feeling and a unique experience to gamers, and that is what Wired Presents is all about… a carefully curated range of games that all deliver!

What is a Wired game then, speaking both in the past and going forward?
Since our humble beginnings as a producer in 2008, we’ve been scaling organically, always with the aim of growing our business, from production to publishing, and the expansion of our publishing activities.

We’re very careful to have a balanced pipeline, and part of that is knowing what we’re good at. A Wired game is not a particular genre, but it is a story we believe needs to be told, or a game that needs to be played. It’s an experience delivered by developers as passionate as we are to break the mould, and try something new, or go somewhere that traditional publishers might not.

Fundamentally every game that we sign now has two core pillars: Firstly, each game must be created by a developer that we connect with. Each journey lasts years so there has to be a great relationship otherwise it doesn’t make sense.

Secondly, every game has to offer something new or different. Whether it has a great or difficult story, unique gameplay, or an experience that energises us as a team; and I think that’s evident in our product line up for 2021 and beyond.

Oh, and music still plays a big part of our line up, so each game will always have a kick ass soundtrack, that will get a vinyl release! Deep down I would love to own a record label!

I can see that! Tell us about your new Black Label edition, how does it differ from normal collector’s editions, and do you think Wired has the kind of following to justify this?
As a company, we’ve always loved to produce physical copies of our games and have often experimented with many different ways for players to get access to them. We produce collector’s editions, special editions, full retail with global distribution and we’ve recently started working with Limited Run Games to gain experience in the collector’s market.

Our Collector’s Editions are crème de la crème of our boxed offerings. We’ve been creating and developing them over time – culminating in our two latest offerings for Close to the Sun and Deliver Us The Moon. These are 100 per cent focused on the Game and the Developer and we will continue to make these for certain games and they will continue to be released on Day One.

The Black Label edition is a reflection of the way Wired curates its games. Each will have exclusive items that are items only available within the Black Label Edition; a beautifully crafted Wired stylised box, exclusive artwork, music and some top-secret stuff that we announced soon.

Products added to our Black Label range won’t be day one releases – it’ll be six months after release – and will be limited to 2,500 units that we believe will be the ultimate collection for fans of our games.

We are not arrogant enough to think Wired are the pup’s nuts of Indie Publishing. Wired as a brand was very much kept out of the press as we have always had a games first approach. It is time to show the community each of the Wired games has something unique to offer. The Black Label range is there to bind the range of games together and really offer Wired fans something nice to collect. It’s a beautiful presentation and essential for any collector.

Coming back to Wired Direct, do you then think there’s a shared audience for these titles?
We’ve been publishing indie games for a while now. Each indie game is normally a new indie game from a new developer, and while exciting, does present its own challenges. To try and launch new indie games with the effort that we do is a complex task. It takes a lot of effort. Wired as a company is always trying to fine tune, improve, iterate and doing our best to deliver success.

With this in mind, and with the impact of Covid 19 and the halting of consumer events, we’ve been looking at how we can improve how we operate and have direct conversations with customers. Now, as part of a huge commitment. From Wired, we’re going to drive a bigger community through in-house expertise, as evidenced by recent hires across product marketing, PR and our moves within social and content creation. We have to become the central point of our activities, and the kick off for that is Wired Direct.

It’s a celebration of Wired and its progress over the last few years in a one hour special. We are announcing information on eight titles, including five new products. It’s really a statement on how we are going to do things moving forward.

Wired Direct is a digital event about Wired and its games, but we’re doing so much more. As we’ve already discussed, there’s a new store, underpinned by a modern and engaging website built for future expansion.

Then there’s Wired Live; daily broadcasts of exclusive content, either filmed or live. And it is a big push and a step change in how Wired is perceived from a consumer standpoint, as well as industry perception. It’s a statement in this shift in attitudes and positioning of Wired as a company and we look forward to welcoming as many of our players as possible to Wired Direct, Wired Live, and taking them on this journey with us.

How did you promote the stream, how do you springboard off that?
From Production to PR, and developers to even myself, we’re all working hard to deliver a stand-out event, hosted by Julia Hardy, and delivering at least eight games we’re presenting over the coming 12 months.

There was significant spend on the broadcast itself in production terms and bringing all of this content together is a testament to the hard work of our team. We challenged them to deliver, and they have done so.

To reinforce this, we’ve invested strongly in social, trade, video pre-roll, and content creators to really bring home the message that Wired Productions is a different beast to the average publisher. We do more, we work harder, and if we deliver success for our partners, we’re successful ourselves, and that’s the driving force behind everything we do.

A huge part of this push is a new website. While I know how exciting that sounds, we’ve created a website built for the future, including our store. You’ll see more from us in the calendar year as we move to phase two of our plans for our online presence.

When we think about Wired Direct and how we’re capitalising on the success of the event, it’s important to look at the breadth of titles we’re announcing. During the event we announced five new titles, and we’ve still got more to go before 2022 is over.

But just from our broadcast, we showcased Martha Is Dead, a title that we’re expecting big things from. We showed Deliver Us The Moon with next-gen features to-die for. It’ll be the best version of the game, no question. We showcased Lumote, a brilliant puzzle adventure from the developers of some huge triple-A titles. This is the game they wanted to make, and we’re delighted to work with them on bringing Lumote to market.

Looking back to recent titles, how was The Falconeer received?
The Falconeer was recently nominated for a BAFTA award for Debut Game, so telling Tomas, the solo developer that he’d been nominated was an incredible moment. At this time, we don’t know if he’s won, but we do know he would be the most deserving recipient.

His dedication to creating this world in such detail, his direct interaction with the community, and the joy he brings is unreal. Across the editorial spectrum, and on storefronts, The Falconeer has done very well, and we’re planning some exciting announcements that we just couldn’t fit into Wired Direct.

We are on track for a huge number of players of The Falconeer and there’s a long future for the IP. During Wired Direct, we announced additional free DLC that launched during the show, which will be the third DLC pack, two of which have been free, and there will be many more announcements coming up soon.

There’s plenty of feathers left in this bird!

Arcade Paradise is easily our favourite of your new titles…
Sometimes you meet developers and you just hit it off. Nosebleed Interactive are one of those developers where we worked with them on Vostok Inc, and we just wanted to keep that relationship going.

We’d been floating ideas around, and we came up with one for Arcade Paradise. It really is a collaborative project between us, and when you consider the magic sauce that Dre and his team deliver in everything they do, we had to give them the space to deliver the vision. We gave them carte blanche, and Arcade Paradise is the result.

You’re tasked with managing a laundrette, but rather than do this, you figure you’d be better off building an arcade to sit side-by-side with washing machines. Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?

The metagame, which Nosebleed are experts on, includes 35+ playable arcade games inspired by 80s and 90s arcade units, each with their own progression systems, leader boards and more. We’re delighted with the progress the team is making and we’re working hard for launch later this year.

Tiny Troopers is now a Wired IP, why that game, and what are your plans for it?
Tiny Troopers has a long history at Wired, and was the first title Wired signed when it began the transition towards publishing. While Tiny Troopers isn’t a Wired owned IP, we’ve been given the trust of the IP owner Kukouri Mobile to develop games within that universe via a licensing partnership.

Whilst some might not have heard of the franchise, it’s been a really strong and evergreen IP for us. We’ve continued to port Tiny Troopers to new platforms in recent years, but we’re now focused on delivering a true sequel on multiple platforms for launch later this year.

It is a fun IP, akin to the old Cannon Fodder days, and we are super excited to be bringing Tiny Troopers Global Ops to all formats, but digitally and physically.

Tin Hearts and The Last Worker both have Oculus versions – Why are you branching out into VR, was it a strategic choice, or just happenstance?
Whilst VR has a finite audience, the Oculus Quest has really started to shine. Wired are not big enough to invest in many new technological trends, but we are small enough and agile enough to pivot if we see an opportunity. We really love what the Quest is doing.

That said, we signed Tin Hearts and The Last Worker because we love the teams and think both games are stand-out experiences. The fact that Oculus curates the content on its platform is a massive deal for us and shows the synergy between what they’re trying to do to grow that market, and their selection and belief in the games we sign.

Wired had been following Tin Hearts for a long while, maybe two years, but was not in the right place to be able to do it justice. Now we are and we are ecstatic to be working alongside Rogue Sun, who have such a pedigree in development from their time developing the Fable series at Lionhead. That experience shows in the accessible and compelling game design.

Tin Hearts is a beautiful puzzle game, entwined with a heart-breaking backstory, enriched with amazing graphics. It is a real gem, and we are just super stoked to be able to be working on this game across literally so many formats.

The Last Worker is similar in that yes, we’re going to be on Oculus, but the premise and design of the game is something entirely different. Working with Oiffy and Wolf & Wood, we are able, every day, to see their passion, creativity and drive to deliver an outstanding game on multiple platforms.

The Last Worker is a first-person narrative adventure centred around our struggle in an increasingly automated world. It is wrapped in a beautiful hand-crafted art style with uniquely immersive gameplay mechanics in an epic setting. I can’t wait to show more of the emotional, thought provoking and comedic story and the all-star cast lined up to perform it.

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