In this in-depth two-part interview, with speak to â??godfather of Lara Croftâ?? and Eidosâ?? creative director Ian Livingstone about the publisherâ??s recent restructure, what that means for studios, and why heâ??s backing Games Upâ?¦

Q&A: Eidosâ?? Ian Livingstone â?? Part 1

Eidos has recently restructured. What changes in the market have encouraged the changes to the way the company will be run?

The market is growing and diversifying at the same time. Not that many years ago the games market was a lot easier to predict and to develop product for. The bulk of the market was made up of hardcore male gamers who played console games offline and predictably wanted a certain type of game, usually sports, action/adventure or first person shooters. So, whilst the market has expanded and sales are up quite significantly year-on-year, creating new opportunities for the industry, there have been new challenges as companies have had to adapt their product mix, their development processes such as outsourcing, ways of distribution, and ways to communicate and market their products.

Today we have the overall impact of the internet plus the specific impact of MMOs, online casual games, the Nintendo factor with Wii and DS, micro transactions, in-game advertising, social networking, user-generated content, and multiple devices that has attracted a much more diverse audience – young and old, male and female, all within their own tastes and all enjoying a wide variety of games.

To that end ‘new’ Eidos has formed independent business units with specialist skill sets to address the different sectors of the market.

What will the switch to this ‘studio-led’ model mean creatively for the studios run by Eidos?

‘Studio-led’ means that operationally we will be moving publishing responsibilities such as brand, PR and marketing into our key studios. Creatively this means we are bringing people closer to games so that the whole team offering can be creatively driven. Having a focused team based around our cornerstone franchises means one team all based in the same office, country and timezone so that creatively they can explore every opportunity directly alongside the game’s development.

A lot has been said in the trade press recently about getting the government to support the games industry more in terms of education and costs, specifically when it come to Games Up, which you are a spokesperson for. What does the industry need to to ensure it gets what it wants from Government?

I am pleased to be involved in Games Up. There is a real skills shortage with not enough graduates coming out of university with the ready skills that studios need i.e. computer science, maths and physics. Too many universities have rebranded their Media Studies courses as Computer Games Studies which results in too many generalist game designers applying for jobs. And they aren’t getting them.

With regard to costs, the UK is now the most expensive country in the world in which to develop. There are naturally cheap labour markets in Asia and also subsidised markets like Canada. The UK has slipped from third to fourth in world development. Given the heritage of development in the UK, this is a tragedy. Whilst the UK Government does nothing, developers will continue to shut down or be acquired by overseas companies who see greater long term value in our talent than we do ourselves. The Government needs to invest in this valuable Creative Industries asset or suffer the consequences.

Eidos is moving some of its ops to its Montreal studios as part of its restructure – just one example of the pressure globally the UK industry is feeling. What needs to be done in the UK by developers and publishers to ensure the country remains a competitive part of the global market?

I think it is more of the case that the Government should address the issues of skills and costs for the UK to remain competitive.

Developers do, of course, have to help themselves in order to survive in this fast-changing industry. Big teams need big skills, big budgets and big management. Clearly developers need to attract the best possible talent they can, ensure they have access to working capital and have the best management to run projects to budget and schedule in a very competitive landscape. And if they can create (and retain ownership of their) valuable IP, so much the better.

As far as publishers go, there isn’t really any obligation for them to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of world development. Publishers want the best games from the best teams at the cheapest price. They go to wherever that deal is. Currently it is Canada that is the hot spot and hence it is up to Government to make it attractive for them to operate in the UK.

In part two, we discuss new online opportunities for Eidos, and how the publisher can, after the Lara Croft and Hitman movies, further explot the crossover with Hollywood.

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