Finding new ideas is best way to overcome UK development 'cost crisis' says Microsoft Game Studios head

Spencer: ‘UK independent studios must focus on new IPs’

Microsoft Game Studios’ newly appointed boss Phil Spencer today offered advice to UK studios – saying that Britsoft independents should focus on creating new IP if they want to find ways to get around the cost crisis facing the country’s games industry.

New ideas and potential franchises, he said, meant that publishers were more likely to invest – and if the new IPs don’t attract publishers, they can still make money through digital distribution.

Spencer was talking as part of a panel discussion at the Westminster Media Forum for games today.

Looking back on Microsoft Game Studio’s previous activity, he said "there are a number of Xbox franchises that came out of our work with UK studios. We’re very proud of these." Specifically, Project Gotham Racing (Bizarre), Fable (Lionhead) and the various Rare-developed games.

However, when it comes to commissioning new games in Europe – something the firm wants to do (Spencer was previously head of MGS Europe, spearheading the group’s growing presence in the territory) – it has to weight up cost matters. And the UK sometimes prices itself out of the market.

"Today’s video games are very expensive. Consequently when we look at new franchises we think in terms of three or four sequels – which means possibly a decade of development."

"The cost factors of where you might build these franchises has a big impact," said Spencer.

"There’s no doubt about the talent in the UK industry. But our concern is how do you support the development of games here through all the costs. That’s what we are struggling with."

He added: "When you think about the UK, you should think about IP creation – that will spur growth in the UK."

Spencer said UK studios could do well to learn from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, which was a prime example of an IP that was made locally in its territory and will only be developed there. It’s a game that in many respects could only have been made by the Montreal team, given the way it utilises the teams creative strength and the studio’s commercial benefits – the Quebec tax breaks.

"When I put myself in the shoes of a developer making new IP I would also look at new distribution methods, not just the traditional retail route."

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