INTERVIEW: Chris Rowe on why Gumi chose Vancouver for its new studio

The studio head discusses his development plans and why the Canada province is experiencing a resurgence
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Brave Frontier developer Gumi has just opened a new office in Vancouver as it aims to create more titles for Western audiences.

To find out more about the new studio and its plans, we spoke to executive producer and studio head Chris Rowe, who has previously worked at Capcom and Ninja Theory.

Why leave Capcom and join Gumi?
I spent the last three-and-a-half years working at Capcom and had a great time doing so, but once I met the team at Gumi and started talking to them about the possibility of setting up a studio here in Vancouver, I quickly fell in love with their passion and vision for where the company is heading. Gumi is one of the most dynamic and ambitious mobile game publishers in the world today, and I’m incredibly excited to be a part of their expansion into Canada.

What will you be doing at the new studio?
My role at Gumi Canada is to build and lead the most talented, passionate, and dedicated team of developers Vancouver has to offer in an attempt to realise our goal of making Gumi one of the top performing mobile developers/publishers in North America.

How many staff will you be recruiting at the Vancouver office?
I expect the team to ramp up to at least 25 staff members by the time we enter full production on our new game.

What makes Vancouver an attractive place to open a new game studio? Particularly when there are some very competitive Canadian development hubs like Montreal and Toronto nearby.
Vancouver has an amazing amount of talent spread across a wide variety of mobile and console game development companies, so for me that’s one of the key reasons we chose to open a studio here as part of Gumi’s expansion into Canada.

Keep in mind that it’s also one of the most desirable places to live in North America, so that definitely helps. In addition to that, there were other benefits to being in Vancouver that seemed to work perfectly for us; most notably the fact that we are reasonably close to our colleagues in Gumi San Francisco and Austin, as well as a painless direct flight to Tokyo. where Gumi is headquartered.

In the past few years the Vancouver game industry seems to have suffered a few setbacks, but recently more studios have been setting up shop in the region. What's changed and what's behind this resurgence?
There were a few notable setbacks for the console sector of the industry here in Vancouver over the last few years, but I think the rise of mobile and the resurgence of indies came at just the right time for developers to capitalise on those setbacks.

In my experience, mobile development is very attractive to those who have spent years in console, as you have smaller teams, shorter development cycles, drastically smaller budgets, and the opportunity to reach millions of players all around the world. While the landscape has definitely changed over the last few years, I see a hotbed of game development across the city, both big and small. It’s definitely a great time (and place) to be making games here in Vancouver.

What kind of games will you be developing for mobile at Gumi?
We’re still in the early stages of planning our first big title, so I can’t disclose too much information just yet. What I can say is that we recently travelled to Tokyo and presented our concept to the teams at HQ, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The Vancouver team and I were thrilled with the feedback and feel like we’re on the path towards making something special for our mid-core North American target audience.

What kind of development philosophy will you promote at the new studio? Will small teams work on multiple ideas? Do you have plans for one big project?
Our initial plan is to focus all of our energy on designing and developing one major project, supporting that project once it goes live, and then assessing our opportunities for growth. As for our development philosophy, my goal is to provide staff with an agile, flexible work environment that allows them to be creative, free from bureaucracy, and fast and fearless in the pursuit of excellence.

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