Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV with their unique insight. In September, our Final Boss was Leo Zullo, managing director of Wired Productions. He talks about how important music is to his life and work, the industry’s responsibility to vulnerable audiences, and the company’s motto to “To do business the right way!”
Your first big success was with Dance eJay, I first met you at a Motörhead-related event, then there’s We Sing and The Voice, and Wired’s branding has an indie record label feel to it… Is that all a coincidence or is music important to you?
Music is life. Video games are great, but even with the best games, it’s the soundtrack that makes them pop. I started my career running and promoting club nights. That experience actually helped me get my first job in the industry, and especially helped in making Dance eJay a success. Funny how life opens doors in different ways!
Wired having a bit of an indie record vibe… This has come naturally really, and genuinely. It’s all about the developers who make great games. They keep the IP, we pay great royalty rates and we try to be one big family, while busting our ass to make each game a success. We have been compared to Factory Records a few times, but then I’m not posh… I’m a West Watford streetboy with Italian blood – not very posh at all.
What was the worst single moment of your career to date?
Having to put down my dog Bella recently – she was part of the Wired family and the company mascot. RIP Bella.
The previous worst moment in my career was losing my first company – I was great at my job, but shit at running a business. We made a lot of money for people, but as soon as things turned, people turned. It was the worst period of my life. And one which never really goes away. I learnt a lot, and sadly have scars to prove it. But I never ran, I stood my ground, and took the hits. I had to roll up my sleeves and get on with it. The Wired razor blade logo is a result of that period of my life.
“I learnt a lot, and sadly have scars to prove it. But I never ran, I stood my ground, and took the hits.”
Wired’s motto is: “To do business the right way!” How and when did that become important to you and what does it mean practically speaking?
If we don’t learn from our experiences, we are stupid. Humans are not supposed to be stupid, right!? Experience is king. Knowing the next step, or having a back-up plan, or having access to help is essential – and staying calm, really calm!
Wired was started with a few simple mottos: “If you can’t pay, don’t buy”, “If you are not serious, don’t sign”, “Partners mean partners, make it successful for both parties”, “Work double hard when you have someone else’s money”, “Only work with good people”, “Try your fucking hardest”!
Can the games industry possibly change as much over the next five years as it has over the last five?
Of course it will. New formats are incoming. Streaming will come, and has a high percentage chance of sticking. Retail will still be on its last legs (apparently). We will have gone through more fads, more investment trains that fuel the industry, and one or two surprising hits will take over the gaming landscape.
Who continues to impress you in the industry?
My team continues to impress me. I would take a bullet for each and every one of them. But cheesy answer aside, an amazing pair of Swedish chaps called Pelle Lundborg and Lars Wingefors [THQ Nordic co-founders]. Working with them was a career-defining moment, and an opportunity which I didn’t want to mess up. The journey that both of those fine chaps have been on since continues to impress me and they show no signs of stopping.
Do you feel the games industry is headed in the right direction?
We have access to some of the most vulnerable audiences – I think it is our responsibility to help, support, develop, nurture, teach and improve the lives of this audience. This can be through the stories and journeys of our games, the ethos that we work and live by, the communities we develop, and the support and guidance that we provide. Let’s lead by example and help shape a generation!