Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV/DEVELOP with their unique insight. This month we talk to Nick Roberts, head of studio at Amuzo Games.
What brought about your transition from game magazines to game development?
My magazine career had taken me from ZX Spectrum game reviewer on Crash to editor-in-chief of legendary titles like Retro Gamer, Play and games™. It’s one particular magazine that I published for 164 issues that led me to game development though – Pokémon World! Not to sound too much like Dennis Waterman, but I wrote it, designed it, sold the ads and created the cover gifts – working with the world’s best toy companies to maximise their marketing. We were selling almost 50,000 copies a month!
With a job attending trade shows and working with marketing people for LEGO, Playmobil, Spinmaster, et al: it was one Sunday morning in bed, my wife said, “Do you realise there’s a game developer in Bournemouth making games for LEGO?” I had discovered Amuzo Games, and they were looking for someone to sell mobile games to children’s brands. Bingo!
That was 2014, Amuzo has now made over 100 games for LEGO, Playmobil, Ferrero, Disney – all the big boys. I’ve been here for 8 years, and they made me head of studio last month. So, it’s going pretty well!
What would you say is your proudest moment in the industry?
Working with the talented team to launch games™ magazine I would say. I think it was 2002. We ended up winning an award for best magazine and I made a speech!
What ambitions do you have for the future – both for yourself and for the industry as a whole?
Like many game studios, Amuzo is working hard to find “the game”. The one that brings in the money and allows us to make whatever game we want next. Our lockdown game wipEout Merge was so rewarding to make – working with Sony and Rogue. As an ex-editor of a PlayStation magazine, I’ve been like a kid in a candy store with the 3D art, sounds and music. We’re really hoping that mobile gamers take it to their heart.
Much has changed in the industry since you started, but what have been the most notable changes that have impacted you professionally?
It would have to be the rise of mobile gaming. When I started out, home computers had 48k of RAM and games took five minutes to load. Now, I’ve just downloaded Genshin Impact on iOS and it’s an 18gb download! This brings top quality games to the pocket of everybody – not just gamers – everybody. We have my in-laws sharing Wordle puzzles, my boys playing FIFA 22 on the PS5 all day, only to go to bed and continue with Football Manager under the covers.
What do you see as the gaming industry’s biggest challenges in the years ahead? Will it be able to overcome them?
Well for us at Amuzo it’s still making mobile games that engage and are fun but monetise well. Adverts get in the way, but they are a necessary evil in a time when content is expected for free. Free content on websites and apps was the death knell for the magazine industry, and free content in games was going the same way. So many games are fighting for players’ attention. But there’s a solution…
Do you think the games industry is in a healthy place right now – or headed in the right direction, at least?
Games evolve, industries evolve. Wouldn’t life be dull if they didn’t? As an old-school gamer, I am really excited by the rise of game subscription services, this will help us overcome the free to play challenge. Apple Arcade has some wonderful games, and well worth the £4.99 a month – and now Netflix Games is on the scene. I am very proud that one of the first games on Netflix has been made by Amuzo – Card Blast. I think mobile subscription games will allow game developers to get back to making great game experiences, and not have to worry about breaking up the flow with an ad for crypto.