Craig McNicol, Northern Europe MD, and Paul Nicholls, sales and marketing director for Northern Europe, discuss Koch Media's big changes during the last year, reveal the benefits of being both a publisher and distributor, and detail its brand new Superindie offering for smaller retailers
What have Koch Media's headline achievements been during 2015?
Craig McNicol, Northern Europe MD: 2015 has been a busy year for Koch Media. We have continued to strengthen our relationships with existing publishing partners and have signed distribution partnerships with Sega and Square Enix. We released 11 titles so far this year, all of which received creative and successful campaigns.
One of our proudest achievements of 2015 may come as a surprise; thanks to our UK strategy and total games marketing approach, Farming Simulator has continued to go from strength-to-strength and delivered exceptional sell-through results.
You've signed distribution deals for Kickstarted titles such as Wasteland 2, Divinity: Original Sin and Mighty No. 9. What has working with crowdfunded titles been like?
Paul Nicholls, sales and marketing director for Northern Europe: Kickstarter is not the reason that we decided to distribute or publish these titles; these are all great products from independent developers that just happen to be funded through Kickstarter.
Koch Media looks for interesting products and these independent developers were looking for distribution. They chose Koch Media as we can give them the best coverage across Europe, with bespoke campaigns managed by teams that are nimble enough to deal with all of their needs.
One unique benefit that Kickstarter affords us is a contribution to pre-awareness with consumers, which is always a benefit.
You scaled back your film division to focus on home entertainment, and then announced plans to move into TV with David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef. Why you have made these moves?
McNicol: At our heart we are an entertainment distributor, with an entrepreneurial drive to take opportunities that the market allows.
Whilst it's true that the competitiveness of the cinema industry in the UK has led us to have a strategy review, we have seen a burgeoning opportunity for us to step up our efforts in the TV-led home entertainment category.
"There has been a seismic shift in the services publishers require from their distribution partners."
Paul Nicholls, Koch Media
Koch has continued its close work with the UK's independent retail sector in 2015. Why is indie retail so valuable for you?
Nicholls: The independent retail sector is constantly evolving. We now have an exciting mix of online, market place and the more traditional High Street stores.
We have looked at and listened closely to independent retailers. We see creative, diverse, entertainment entrepreneurs who strive for a point of difference to keep them competitive.
All of these qualities appeal to the ethos of Koch Media and, in order to consistently understand and deliver on the requirements of independent retailers, Koch Media, as a supportive distributor, has recognised the need to evolve our management of these important accounts.
As such, we have created Superindie, a suite of services that recognises the diverse mix of operations within the independent sector and the individual needs they have to remain competitive.
You recently restructured the company, including relocating some staff to your Reading HQ. Could you talk about the move?
Nicholls: Our entire UK operation is now located in our new HQ in Theale, Reading. We moved in at the beginning of October and are now well settled.
Our reasons for relocating were twofold and probably the reasons that most companies relocate: the lease for our office in London was up and our games team based in Basingstoke had almost outgrown the office, so we took the opportunity to move all of the teams into one place.
You signed a deal with Square Enix to manage the sales and distribution of its titles in the UK. What are your expectations for the partnership going forwards?
McNicol: The market is changing with the fast growth of digital and is more generally an increasingly disruptive environment in which entertainment companies have to compete with gamers' spare time.
With this as a backdrop, content owners are making long-term decisions on how they deploy their internal resources. Because of our close relationship, we have been able to react swiftly to what Square Enix has asked of us.
"Entertainment companies increasingly have to compete with gamers' spare time."
Craig McNicol, Koch Media
What's the latest news from your operations in the rest of Europe?
McNicol: As with the UK, our European business is thriving. Our key strength lies within our teams in our European offices; we have experienced, creative and passionate staff who care deeply about the products they work on. This applies not only to our European offices, but also to our international and US teams.
What are the greatest challenges facing the distribution sector?
Nicholls: In the last year there has been a seismic shift in the services publishers require from their distribution partners; in a changing market with changing structures, publishers require their distributors to take a more core publishing role in their supply chain.
In addition to warehousing and logistics, the priority is delivering sales to the full market by implementing highly creative trade marketing, marketing and PR campaigns, driving sales from pre-order to launch and maximising sales over the full life cycle of the product.
This needs to be intrinsically linked with publishers' marketing campaigns by driving all asset beats and activity through our retail channels to maximise exposure and sales.
This desire for a publishing approach fits perfectly with Koch Media, as we are both distributor and publisher – with a proven track record in both.
We are seeing this challenge manifest itself into opportunity through our partnerships with Sega and Square Enix, who see the advantages in this approach.
What are your plans for 2016?
McNicol: We have an amazing year ahead of us with standout new releases and a rich back catalogue from both our own catalogue and from our distribution partners. We aim to deliver our trademark creative campaigns for every new release: Deus Ex, Homefront, Total War Warhammer and Hitman.
We will continue to evolve Superindie to ensure that our distribution business remains as relevant to the independent retail sector as it is now.