Sumo Digital: Expanding Sumo

This month, we speak to Sumo Digital’s Nottingham studio director, Karl Hilton, Pune studio director Alexis Madinier and Sheffield studio director and co-founder, Darren Mills about the expansion of the company in the UK and beyond.

Tell us about the history of the Pune studio and how that office was opened?

Alexis Madinier: Sumo India is now 10 years old and our success has allowed us to grow from being an art support studio into a facility that can now support every discipline in the development process; we’ve built a strong team of coders and have recently brought in our first game designers, too. Ultimately, we aim to be in a position to be able to do full game development here.

This expansion has meant we’ve recently moved to new, bigger premises, centrally located in Pune. Our studio is a unique place in the Indian video game ecosystem; we are one of the rare companies working on console games that is not an art outsourcing company.

We have experience and a proven track record, working closely with the Sheffield and Nottingham studios across triple-A IP. The team here work very much alongside the guys in the UK – together – and that close working relationship, as a single worldwide team, makes us a uniquely attractive proposition for new talent. That symbiotic relationship is not something many other studios are able to offer.

Tell us a bit of the history around Sumo Digital’s first expansions in the UK?

Karl Hilton: As Sumo grew it became apparent that a new studio in a different part of the UK would be able to tap into a new talent pool and enable more dynamic growth for the company. Nottingham is close enough to Sheffield to feel part of the Sumo family, but far enough south to be able to attract talent that the guys in Sheffield were missing out on; it broadened the net and allowed for controlled expansion.

The Nottingham studio is a well-designed space for everything from a state-of-the-art audio studio to social spaces that makes it a bright and fun place to work; we’ve tried to consider all aspects of dev-life in our studio design; we’re really pleased with it.

How does expansion figure in Sumo Digital’s future plans?

Darren Mills: We’re growing. The Nottingham studio has just opened up an additional space, increasing our size by nearly 40% and Sheffield’s currently kitting out another unit- on an office park we’re increasingly dominating – in preparation for more expansion next year.

KH: Sumo has always been about flexibility and being able to take on different projects in different genres. With three well-established studios, we’re able to call on a greater depth of experience and talent in the creation of a wide range of different games for all our partners.

It also means we can offer our team members the opportunity to contribute to several different types of games over the course of their development. This obviously presents enticing possibilities for all our staff – there’s always a new challenge awaiting.

It seems to be one of the things that Sumo staff enjoy the most about the company – the variety of the projects and the versatility that that demands of their skills.

What opportunities are there for Sumo Digital staff to work at these other offices?

KH: Nottingham and Sheffield occasionally ‘lend’ staff to each other and this can either be staying on-site or visiting between studios as required. Staff at both studios can always ask to move to the other studio if they feel the projects there would suit them better and Sumo will always try to accommodate requests like this.

DM: We try to be flexible and we want to offer everyone a good work/life balance. Sometimes a change of scene can also refresh people’s approach to their job, help them make new friends within the company and give them a broader understanding of Sumo as an organisation – so it can be a very positive thing for Sumo to support.

AM: The India staff often spend a month or two in Sheffield or Nottingham to interact with their team and get the project-specific knowledge and training first-hand.

It’s especially useful at the start of a new project, when a new employee joins the company or is assigned to a new project or team. Sheffield and Nottingham also send people to India regularly for training or team building. It’s always nice to meet the people you talk with every day through Skype in person and it helps to build stronger relationships between team members.

What’s next for Sumo Digital and its expansion?

DM: We have some exciting projects lined up over the next couple of years. We’ve just announced our new partnership with CCP, on Project Nova. Working with great IPs (like EVE Online) and building great content for these creative environments is what will drive the company’s future growth.

How the games and our long-term relationships with partners like CCP develop will dictate expansion at all of the studios. One of the components of Sumo’s success to date has been its ability to follow gaming trends quickly and offer publishers what they need, when they need it. Maintaining that reliable and responsive flexibility will be a key driver of Sumo’s future growth.

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