Features// Games Industry Insights with Theo Sanders, Ubisoft Singapore

Posted 29 Dec 2012 11:00 by
As 2013 comes into sharp focus, SPOnG turns to the real video games experts: the people who actually make games. We have posed the same five key questions to some of the most interesting and insightful publishing and development figures in the global games industry. We got their unedited, open and highly informed opinions and we are publishing them in multi-part series of insights.

Developer: Theo Sanders
Job Title: Lead Producer
Company: Ubisoft Singapore
Best Known For: Ghost Recon Online


SPOnG: In what ways has the rise in tablet and mobile gaming proven beneficial/challenging to your work?
 
Theo Sanders: We’ve barely scratched the surface of the impact mobile internet will have on games like Ghost Recon Online. Around the industry, a lot of the initial thinking went like this: “OK, so I’ve got this awesome experience on PC/console – now how could mobile help players connect to my brand anywhere, any time?”
 
Not surprisingly, we’ve seen tons of apps and websites pop up that surface meta-data or allow players to interact with the asynchronous portions of those games. Being able to browse leaderboards, interact with an auction house, and things like that.
 
I think we’ll start figuring out how to integrate mobile as a truly central part of a big-brand experience, rather than trying to eke out more engagement with filler activities between sessions of the “real experience” on PC or console.
 
With Ghost Recon Online being mainly community-driven, there’s probably great opportunities for us to try and innovate in a more meaningful way.


SPOnG: How do you feel the industry has coped with regards to the economy, particularly redundancies and studio closures?
 
Theo Sanders: I believe the gaming industry has done phenomenally well. Music record labels, newspapers, book publishers, and Hollywood all fell into the same trap of believing they had ample time to inch their strategies slowly back in line with consumer tastes. Before they knew it, Apple, Amazon, and Google were calling all the shots.
 
Gaming not only weathered a bad economy, but succeeded to completely reinvent itself over the past four years. League of Legends, World of Tanks, and Ghost Recon Online are great examples of rethinking a core offer – kick-ass gameplay – in a way that is relevant and current. The audiences are bigger and more global now than in 2008. The casual side of the industry was likewise able to grow its audiences exponentially by pivoting from boxed products first into social networks and later into mobile.
 
When things change this quickly, not every studio will adapt successfully. Despite the bad news we see about that, there are lots of other companies adapting successfully or newly emerging to move the industry forward.


SPOnG: What's your opinion of cloud gaming? Have Gakai and OnLive helped with perception?
 
Theo Sanders: There’s probably a future in cloud, somewhere. But I’m still waiting to hear a killer value proposition. I don’t buy into the pitch of “not having to upgrade my hardware ever again”.
 
I’m old-fashioned enough to geek out about new hardware coming along. It’s like a fresh start, and opportunities to innovate abound. I want hardware to still matter, and don’t want that excitement abstracted into a data-center upgrade somewhere.


SPOnG: Crowd-funding (i.e. Kickstarter) has become a popular method for games developers to pitch their projects. What's your opinion of it? Would you use it? Have you?
 
Theo Sanders: This won’t be a popular opinion – but I’m very sceptical about crowd-funding. The first problem I anticipate is fatigue. From the media – who’ll get tired of writing articles about the latest old-school developer, freed from corporate shackles, getting back to their roots on Kickstarter. But also from consumers - as Kickstarter copycats start to emerge, and the number of projects seeking funding becomes overwhelming. We’ll have a discovery problem.
 
The longer-term challenge will come as – inevitably – a great majority of new game projects will fail. Early-stage venture capitalists are accustomed to making a return on their investment from only 20% of the bets they place. But I’m not sure if a broader audience will stay interested when most of the games they enthusiastically supported don’t pan out in the end.


SPOnG: What is the best possible thing that can happen to the world of games in 2013? 
 
Theo Sanders: It’s impossible to foresee where we’ll be in a year. There’s such a dramatic amount of change happening everywhere. What I’d like to see most is gamers continue to come out as the big winners amidst all the chaos.

SPOnG: Thank you for your time Theo.


Be sure to check out how the other industry figures we've interviewed for this feature answer up by checking the links below like some sort of amazingly insightful advent calendar. Each interview goes live at 11am (GMT) on the day indicated and not before!

26/12/2012: Games Industry Insights with Antti Ilvessuo, RedLynx
27/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Paul Rustchynsky, Evolution Studios
28/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Ted Price, CEO Insomniac
29/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Theo Sanders, Ubisoft Singapore
30/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Steve Lycett, SUMO Digital
31/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Martyn Brown, InsightforHire
01/01/13: Games Industry Insights with Jon Lander of CCP
02/01/13: Games Industry Insights with David Jaffe
03/01/13: Games Industry Insights with Andy Payne O.B.E.
04/01/13: Games Industry Insights with Peter Molydeux, Genius

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