Who better to ask about the growth and success of the games industry in the Netherlands than its most famous development team, Sony-owned Guerrilla? Michael French spoke to MD Hermen Hulst about the region’s successes and thoughts on the future…
How have you seen the games industry in the Netherlands develop in recent years?
I’ve seen tremendous growth in the Dutch games industry, to the point where there are now over one hundred companies operating in this sector. Many of the newer development studios are start-ups, created by students and graduates from Dutch educational institutes which offer games-related courses.
At the same time, the development studios which have been around for a while are gaining increased international recognition. Triumph Studios, for instance, has established itself as a stable, triple-A developer with the Overlord franchise. Streamline Studios, a digital content solutions provider, has built up a solid worldwide reputation as a quality outsourcing studio.
What support has been available to studios in the region from local regional development/support agencies?
To stimulate the development of games in the Netherlands, the government now offers grants to developers who meet the requirements. We’ve also witnessed the creation of several support agencies in recent years: the Dutch Games Association, an umbrella organization which represents the interests of the Dutch games industry; the NLGD Foundation, which aims to position the Dutch games industry internationally; and the Dutch Game Garden, which focuses on industry growth. The agencies organise frequent conferences to encourage industry co-operation and knowledge exchange.
In what ways do you think the Dutch games industry will grow further?
I know of some very promising start-up companies, and I hope to see them grow into strong international players in the coming years.
More competition within the industry means there will be a larger ecosystem for new graduates to learn the ropes in. I believe having such an ecosystem is vital for a healthy industry.
In what ways did the switch to PS3 impact your production processes? What changed at the studio in terms of investment and technology?
The switch affected us in a lot of ways. Apart from the professionalisation of Guerrilla in the years between our last release on the PlayStation 2 and the release of Killzone 2 on the PlayStation 3, the technological leap required us to review and improve almost every facet of our development process.
For example, the high-definition nature of the PlayStation 3 meant that we had to create assets at a much higher level of detail. The console’s focus on online connectivity also required that we pay greater attention to the multiplayer component of the game.
Happily, our first-party status afforded us excellent technological support from Sony Computer Entertainment’s dedicated support teams, such as the Advanced Technology Group and ICE. This helped us get up to speed with the hardware very quickly.
What effect did that have on staff – both in terms of how the current employees worked and also how you have expanded the team?
The studio has doubled in size since the launch of the original Killzone. We hired talent from abroad to fill highly specialised roles, as well as bringing in veteran experience. We also employed a lot of local talent, to give them the opportunity to mature.
Is it hard to attract talent to the Netherlands?
It’s always a big step for people to move to a different country, but typically once candidates have been to the studio for an on-site interview, they recognise the charm of working in a 17th Century mansion on the canals of Amsterdam.
Also, for many developers working at Guerrilla is a rather pleasant way to have an expatriate experience. Even though the official company language is English, more than a dozen different languages are spoken here, so it is easy to feel at home.
We all know Guerrilla for its work on the Killzone titles – but what's next?
I can’t really talk about it yet, but it’s safe to say that we have started on several new initiatives and projects to support the Sony platforms. More will be revealed at a later stage.