Features// Games Industry Insights with Steve Lycett, SUMO Digital

Posted 30 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 10 part series of insights.

Industry Figure: Steve Lycett
Job Title: Executive Producer
Company: SUMO Digital
Best Known For: OutRun 2, SEGA Superstars Tennis, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

SPOnG: In what ways has the rise in tablet and mobile gaming proven beneficial/challenging to your work?

Steve Lycett: It was certainly eye opening on the iOS version of All-Star Racing! I think in terms of numbers it certainly has done a lot more than some of the consoles, so it?s clear If you put something of quality out there, it is well received.

If anything I think a lot of people now are buying tablets and mobiles over handheld consoles for their kids simply as for the money they?re quite attractive propositions. You get a device that does internet, music, video and gaming with very user friendly controls and quick and integrated stores.

I?m not sure they?re the best choice always for gaming and I?m surprised so far we?re not seeing any of the major players do gaming tablets (though we?re seeing this now, for example Archos are dipping their toes in the market) but certainly hardware wise, the gap between a dedicated gaming device and a tablet is rapidly closing.
Certainly it would be interesting to see what would happen if Apple or Google decided to go after the portable gaming market seriously?! So it?s a space we?re keeping a very close eye on, wouldn?t it be nice to have a mobile/tablet version of All-Star Racing Transformed?

SPOnG: How do you feel the industry has coped with regards to the economy, particularly redundancies and studio closures?
Steve Lycett: Well it?s certainly been a tough year and it?s a real shame to see so many major UK studios close, especially ones you thought would always be around, say Studio Liverpool. Our take has been to try and be flexible. We keep a core team as we always have, but we scale up via the use of in-sourcing and out-sourcing, I guess copying the model used by many movie studios.

It means we can react to the available work at any given time, scaling up and down as we need. A lot of firms have tried to be more traditional and hold a very large internal team, but then when that?s the case if you lose a project, suddenly you?ve got large overheads that are very difficult to cover if you can?t find a new project very quickly.

I think certainly for consoles there aren?t as many large projects as there have been, and certainly I think publishers are a lot more careful about commissioning something they consider risky as if they can?t guarantee a hit [there may not be] a return on the investment.

SPOnG: What's your opinion of cloud gaming? Have Gakai and OnLive helped with perception?
Steve Lycett: Well, I think this will grow, but it?s still very much in its infancy. Whilst internet connections are getting better, I think a lot of people out there just don?t have a connection which gives them the bandwidth to make the experience really enjoyable.

On top of this, generally the people who play the games they offer tend to already have a device which is capable enough of playing the games anyway. So I?m not sure there is a huge market who are demanding these cloud services.

Of course, this can change, let?s say Sony do cloud streamed play of classic PSone and PS2 titles for a small subscription fee on the PS3 or Vita, and suddenly it can make a lot more sense. If I was them I?d consider including this in PlayStation Plus.
Again, going back to tablets, many games aren?t really designed to be played with touch screen controls either, I tried OnLive?s beta and it wasn?t the best way to play the games on a tablet, certainly not without a controller attached. Again, if there were some gaming tablets, then it probably makes a lot more sense.

SPOnG: Crowd-sourcing (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?]
Steve Lycett: I?m fascinated with it! We?re seeing a lot of classic games that might not get greenlit by publishers getting backed by the audience who want to play them. So it?s meant we?ll see new games that fans have asked for for years actually getting backed by those fans. Again, it?s early days so we?ll have to see how some of those games turn out and if they?re received well.
I know I?ve backed quite a few projects I want to see the light of day from! On the other hand, and I think Rab Florence raised this, there are a few projects launched via Kickstarter that you?d expect could get backing for through more traditional means.

It?s curious to see whether this is as the creators want to maintain complete creative control, or they see it as a better business model in terms of getting funding to then self-publish down the line, but I?d hate to see more indie or niche projects lose Kickstarter as a viable means to get funding.

SPOnG: What is the best possible thing that can happen to the world of games in 2013?
Steve Lycett: Isn?t it time we had some more new consoles? Not only does this give you more options when you?re creating games as we?ve suddenly got a bump in power, memory and more, but they also create a lot of new business for developers.

But otherwise, all I?m really looking forward to is more exciting new games. We see new benchmarks in gaming year after year, and it?s only getting better. 

I?d also like to see more games which remember that you can have just as much fun playing in split-screen as you can online. It?s much more fun to be able to enjoy those victories up close and personal. We?re doing our bit to keep this alive, but come on chaps, we?re shouldn?t be the only ones!

SPOnG: Many thanks for your time, Steve.

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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