"It's not a big brother approach," says commercial director Chris Lee

Q&A: FreeStyleGames talks Red Bull deal

Earlier today, FreeStyleGames and Red Bull announced a partnership to co-develop video games. We caught up with the studio’s commercial director Chris Lee (pictured) to find out more.

What can you tell us about FreeStyle and Red Bull’s background and how that relates today’s announcement?

We first met their people during the production of B-boy. Crazy Legs, who is featured in the game, is sponsored by Red Bull.

So is this deal with them akin to FreeStyle being sponsored by Red Bull?
No, it’s not that – and it’s more than what that could imply. We’re working with them in a variety of different ways with them depending on what we do. At the moment we are looking at a variety of different opportunities – some of those will be a traditional publisher route, some of those will be more inclusive with FreeStyle and Red Bull working very closely.

Apart from the big brand backing, what does FreeStyle gain from the partnership?
We’re very aware that developers must be commercially creative as well as creative when developing a game. And its very important for us to go out and source opportunities like this so that when we talk to publishers we’ve already got answers to all their main questions when it comes to an IP, brand or a new market. That’s what the opportunity brings us. We will still look for and we are in discussions over publishing opportunities. It’s more that this partnership is co-developing and co-designing products, and then we find the most appropriate ways to get that game to market.

What do you say to those reticent about letting a corporation influence the design of a game?
That’s a good point. When it comes to the games we make with Red Bull they won’t be influencing, say, controller design and controlling us. Rather, they are pointing out new markets to us and asking if we are aware of what they do in this space – or telling us about their events. It’s much more high-level and trying to open us up to all the various spectrums to do with the culture they are part of. It’s certainly not a ‘big brother’ or hands on approach to development from them. It’s about us getting some phenomenal influence and guidance.

Which is something you’d never have had without the partnership, right?

Exactly – when you look at what Red Bull as a brand has done its phenomenal. There’s so much stuff they do as – not just the drink but events and sponsorship – that there’s plenty of material for us to play with.

Do you think this is a business model for games studios going forward?

We haven’t aggressively gone out to find a brand – and we’re not saying that studios will do great business now if they just go out and team up with a well-known product – we’ve just been inspired from initially working with this particular brand as a partner. But independents should be aware that there is a way to enter the wider entertainment industry and reach the wider audience that comes from that. What Red Bull has given us is the chance to understand what kind of market is out there for the games we make – that’s what other studios should be thinking about.

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