Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV/Develop with their unique insight. In October, our Final Boss was Gary Dunn, managing director at Sumo Digital. He talks about his almost 20-year career overing development teams, his cricket commentator dreams and the future of the industry
You’ve been in senior roles overseeing development teams for approaching 20 years, how has the approach to games development changed in that time?
The first game I shipped in the industry was Colin McRae Rally 4. A great game, but it was absolutely finished on the day of gold master. The first real sense of things changing was shipping Empire: Total War, it was the first TW game with full Steam integration, and we definitely made the most of the fact that we had now shipped a game which could be updated and developed over a lifecycle – I think CA were at the forefront of that phase of change in the industry. Wind forward to today and GaaS is just a hygiene factor for all games – who today plans to release something and forget about it?
With the greatest respect to your current role, what is/was your dream job?
This one is easy. I would be a commentator for Sky Sports Cricket, although those of you who have witnessed my skills at the GamesAid Cricket Day know just how big a dream that is…..
Sumo has a lot of different teams and studio now, whilst elsewhere we’ve seen a number of developers acquired recently, why is the industry consolidating?
I would challenge the view that the industry is consolidating. The industry I joined in 2002 had many developers, but the route to market was boxed product only. When you look at how many developers are on the Steam store and iOS & Android app stores, I imagine there are many more today than back then. The industry is evolving in layers, both in publishing and development, with great content being created at every level.
What was the most ludicrous single moment of your career to date?
The weirdest moment of my career was actually pre games industry. I was once shot at with an air rifle whilst trying to repair an optical fibre cable down the side of a railway line in Nottinghamshire. I think it’s fair to say I enjoyed moving into games after that.
Do you feel the games industry is headed in the right direction?
I think the industry is headed in the right direction. We now create such diverse content across so many axes – be it visual fidelity, gameplay length, financial model or many others – essentially there is content to suit your gaming preferences. The industry continues to grow, providing more livelihoods for more people whose day job it is to bring some joy to people’s lives – how can that not be a good thing?
Finally, do you think that there still is a single entity you can call the ‘games industry’?
It is easy to think of it as a single entity, when you view it at a high level, but when you start to look at establishing boundaries – what is ‘in the industry’ and what isn’t, the lines become blurred. Are the datacentres which hold the servers of so many multiplayer games part of it? If not, how come, because the virtual machine next to it is counting loyalty points for a supermarket? I think ultimately if you care about it and contribute to it, you’re part of it.