Team17 on becoming more than just ‘that Worms studio’

For decades, the name ‘Team17” would inevitably conjure up memories of exploding sheep, that infectious theme song and a series of squeaky voiced invertebrates screaming ‘incoming’.

Worms defined the UK studio for two decades, a period in which over 20 Worms titles were released.

Today, Team17 is becoming better known for its publishing (or rather ‘label’) initiatives. It helped develop and release The Escapists, a game made by former roofer Chris Davis, which went on to be a huge success after its launch last year.

Now, it’s gearing up a number of interesting projects, including Playtonic’s 3D platformer Yooka-Laylee. Ahead of its E3 showing, we caught up with MD Debbie Bestwick.

Kids, retro and arthouse titles… your line-up is quite eclectic.

It’s intentionally diverse. We are keen to not be pigeon holed into a specific genre, art style or types of studios. When I see the likes of Worms, Yooka-Laylee, The Escapists, Way to the Woods and Overcooked, I feel very proud that Team17 is working with our partners to create something incredibly unique and hopefully will help hundreds of studios.

How many studios have you had come to you in the last year?

We’ve had thousands submitted in the last 18 months and are getting more daily. Evaluation is something we take very seriously: as we are also a developer, we understand how important it is to ensure a speedy turn around. We have a very focused system that means we can respond fast, ideally within a week and often same day if the game catches our attention. We move very fast on games we feel are right for the market and our label. Many of our deals have happened within a few weeks from first contact.

What helps is developers submitting the right material: some provide too much information when what we essentially need is: overview, general vision and raw gameplay footage in the first instance. If we are interested, we will tell you what we need.

What’s a good number of games to release a year?

We can handle half a dozen new games a year and serve them to the best of our ability. It’s not easy and time management is probably the hardest part these days.

We are not just publishing. Instead we are helping build new and sustainable businesses. That’s time consuming and accounts for over 50 per cent of the work we do with our partners.

You primarily release games digitally. Do you have any plans for the physical space?

I started out in retail and will always have a love for retail. I’d love to see a specialist games chain like Games Workshop. I love that face-to-face with gamers, as I believe there’s absolutely no better way of understanding an audience.

We’ve experimented with physical and it’s doing great for the right titles: established series and licensed games do well. New IP is far more difficult in retail since we are dealing with the most mainstream audience. So the question is: how do we get support from retail for unique and new IP without huge marketing budgets? With The Escapists we had to do a lot of educating buyers. It hasn’t been pain free and that’s a game that’s sold seven figures digitally. Where it makes sense, we will look at physical along with collectors editions.

This interview was done before Team17 ended its collaboration with developer Lilith on Allison Road. The publisher has, since then, responded to the title’s cancellation.

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