IF ANY doubts remained over Warner Bros' commitment to hitting its target of becoming a billion dollar publisher in five years, its recent acquisition of TT Games was a potent symbol of its desire to invest in games.
Having made some pretty bold statements in the press as it set up its new London base, the multi-million pound deal for UK-based Traveller's Tales was a true watershed moment for the ambitious new publisher. Now Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment really means business – and is ready to justify this huge investment by releasing a string of hit titles.
We certainly have ambitions and we want to build our share,” says Warner UK MD Josh Berger. We are not going at this half-heartedly.”
And there can be no doubt over where Warner will be focusing its efforts. TT Games boss Tom Stone explains: We want to be integrated and feel integrated – that's the point of us joining with Warner. And we will continue to focus on the younger gamers and their families. That's what we know and do best.
They are a formidable company – just look at their intellectual property base and distribution presence in DVDs.
This is one of the reasons TT Games and Traveller's Tales want to be part of Warner Bros. We can now plug into that vast library of properties – both historical and ones to come. For sure, we are all pretty excited by the future.”
There's no doubt that Traveller's Tales' masterful handling of Lego Star Wars has prompted this deal. And clearly that will continue, not just with the recently announced Lego Batman, but with Warner's mighty arsenal of other successful IP.
Because of our relationship with them as the licensors of Batman it was good that we were able to get to know Warner Bros quite well before any discussions about a longer-term partnership emerged,” says Stone. We've been working with DC and Warner for a while now and that helped us decide they were the right partner.”
That fusion of development expertise and big-name IP is a formidable combination – and one that Warner believes can set the foundations for its Interactive Entertainment business.
We have nothing specific to announce at this stage but as you can imagine, we are going to have a very close relationship with TT in terms of developing games for our IP,” says Berger. And we know we are both particularly strong in those areas so expect to see more coming from us with those guys.
How we impact on the other companies in the market remains to be seen. Everybody's going to put up a pretty good fight to protect their market share, but Warner is used to doing that – we've been doing it for years.”
And as MCV revealed last week, this is just the first step on Warner's acquisition trail – and indeed its efforts to snare the cream of the UK's industry talent.
I think we've made good progress already with the hires to date,” says Berger. Obviously the people that are really going to make it happen are the people making the games. As with anybody we hire, we are obviously going to look to get the most talented executives.”
Warner has the money and the desire to truly shake the publishing world to its core. Travellers' Tales is the first major signal of intent – but it seems Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment's story has only just begun.
WARNER IN GAMES: THE STORY SO FAR
OCTOBER 23rd 2006: Reports emerge suggesting that Time Warner has bought a ten per cent stake in SCi/Eidos.
DECEMBER 15th 2006: Warner confirms the rumours and buys ten per cent of SCi/Eidos for a whopping 44.5 million. UK publisher Eidos scoops the rights to create games based on eleven big name licences, as well as leveraging its business through Warner's US distribution network.
DECEMBER 19th 2006: Just a few days after the SCi deal, Warner signs another deal with Codemasters. Warner agrees to handle the UK publisher's distribution, sales and trade marketing across all of North America from April 2007.
JUNE 21st 2007: Rumours suggest Warner is to open a London office as a base for its European Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment business. A sales and marketing operation would be first, followed by development capability as the operation grows.
JULY 6th 2007: Warner tells MCV that the company is setting up a London office, and plans to snare the UK trade's top talent to help raise its profile.
AUGUST 8th 2007: Develop magazine reveals that Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment plans a swathe of studio acquisitions, internal development growth and game signings. The ambitious firm also anounces plans to increase the number of games it releases by five or six times over the next few years.
AUGUST 14th 2007: Warner issues a press release confirming its expansion into Europe, promising direct distribution, sales and marketing and a commitment to recruiting top industry executives. Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal and Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck are confirmed as Warner's first self-published titles in Europe.
AUGUST 24th 2007: Senior VP of worldwide sales and distribution Ron Scott at Warner tells MCV of the Interactive Entertainment division's ambitions to become a billion dollar business within five years. We're in this for the long haul,” he says.
SEPTEMBER 14th 2007: MCV reveals that industry veteran Chris Meredith (pictured above left, with Ron Scott) is to spearhead Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment's efforts in Europe, as it gears up for the release of its debut titles in Europe on November 30th.
SEPTEMBER 24th 2007: Warner Bros is implicated in the on-going rumours of a bid for SCi/Eidos, alongside Ubisoft and an unnamed Chinese company.
NOVEMBER 2nd 2007: Warner chooses Centresoft as its official distribution partner.
NOVEMBER 8th 2007: Travellers' Tales and TT Games is acquired by Warner in a deal hailed by the studio as a great fit for us and the right next step for Warner Bros”.
NOVEMBER 16th 2007: More developer acquisitions and deals are on the way after the deal for TT, Warner confirms to MCV. It also plans to dominate the licensed family games market with a combination of its big name IP and Travellers' Tales development pedigree.