Interview: Callum Rowley of Gameloft

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With so many announcements regarding Gameloft doing the rounds, we decided to catch-up with Callum Rowley, the Marketing and Community Manager, to talk about what the future means for the mighty developer.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”thumbnail_small”,”fid”:”21978″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”80″,”width”:”55″}}]]Gameloft who?

These are the guys who recently partnered with Qualcomm to create Tegra-2 chip Android gaming, and Epic Games so it can use its Unreal Engine 3. Its extensive catalogue includes Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus, the Asphalt series and Eternal Legacy.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and Gameloft?

My name is Callum Rowley and I’m the Marketing & Community Manager for Gameloft UK. Our UK team is based in London, with our headquarters residing in Paris, France. Gameloft has been operational for 10 years, starting life in the mobile market and now evolving into a leading digital games developer and publisher.

What does Gameloft have in store for 2011?

Gameloft has an exciting year ahead. We’re only two months into 2011 and to date we’ve released a highly successful PlayStation Network title, Modern Combat: Domination, which has been our first high-profile foray into core gaming on consoles.

At Mobile World Congress we announced our support of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play smartphone with ten titles being released at launch and a further ten within six months… and we’ve announced Gameloft games will be launching in 3D on LG’s Optimus 3D smartphone. So you have three broad yet highly accessible markets there, and we’re only two months into the year.

We’ve got a stellar line-up of new games on the way including the first ever Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six game on iOS and Asphalt 3D coming to the Nintendo 3DS – with plenty more unannounced titles, partnerships and promotions on the way.

We’ve heard Gameloft is trying to lessen the gap between when games are released on iPhone and Android. Exactly how do you aim to achieve this and what sort of time frame are you aiming for?

Initially we’re aiming for a gap of maybe one or two months – as you’ve seen with Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, which only came out on iOS at the tail-end of 2010 and is now playable on several Android devices and launching within the next few months. Eventually we’d like to get it down to simultaneous launches – but when that might well be, we can’t yet say.

Although iTunes obviously has the edge in terms of sheer user numbers, is really there such a big gap between Android and iOS, both in terms of revenue and following?

Both iOS and Android have strong markets with very distinctive userbases. By not being on the Android Market Place we’ve had to penetrate the Android userbase in a different way to how we operate on iOS, which has contributed towards an interesting and exciting experience. Regardless of their numbers they’re both very important markets for us, and markets we’re continuously looking to support and provide high quality games for.

Do you think having your own Android store, something many users probably aren’t aware of, holds back some of the platform’s potential for Gameloft?

We’ve sold millions of games through the Gameloft store and those numbers are climbing higher and higher each day, so I don’t think it’s holding back the potential of the platform for us. Sure, it means you can’t sit back and expect the market place to create sales for you, but that’s something that has just driven us to be more creative and innovative in how we drive interest in our Android games.

Windows Phone 7 may not be the most popular mobile platform at the moment, but some big names have mentioned it’s gaining momentum. How long before Gameloft develops for Windows Phone 7, if at all?

We have games already out on Windows Phone 7 – such as Brain Challenge, Assassin’s Creed and Earth Worm Jim. It’s an interesting platform and one we’re actively supporting. And I think what’s interesting about it is that it’s attracted quite the console gaming crowd, so gaming applications are obviously something which they’re going to have a vested interest in playing.

What have you found to be some of the pros and cons of the platform?

It’s an up and coming platform, which we’re excited to be a part of. The integration with Xbox LIVE for achievements is a particularly good idea and I think Microsoft have done well to leverage their Xbox LIVE community to support their Windows Phone 7 platform.

Were you happy to go with Microsoft’s way of doing things?

Right now we’re focused on working with Microsoft to provide a quality gaming experience, which uses their store to carry the games. The title’s we’ve released for the platform already include Xbox Live Achievements – with a potential 200 to be snapped up for each title.

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Even though you are a large development studio, are there still difficulties from developing on Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone 7; is it ever a case of too much at once?

We have studios all over the world, focusing on different projects. We have in the region of 3,000 staff in development so there’s plenty of resource for us to continue developing for multiple platforms and multiple devices without feeling we’re doing too much at once.

A slightly touch subject perhaps; some users complain your games can be a little too similar to the games they take inspiration from. What do you say to the average gamer that accuses Gameloft of copying ideas or ‘plagiarising’?

It’s important to remember that all of our games are completely new and unique experiences with unique characters, stories, locations, controls and game mechanics. Creating games around popular themes is something almost as old as the industry itself.

Recently Gameloft’s CEO stated how unimpressed he was with EA’s Christmas sale. Do you think next year developers will all try to compete with the lowest prices possible or might the quality of titles have more of a bearing than price?

We, and every other developer, have to be careful that consumers don’t become accustomed to the 59p price range. iOS games are already mind-blowing experiences with the potential to rival console titles and we’re seeing the quality increase as each new title comes out. £3.99 is not an expensive price tag for what you’re getting with Gameloft games (and it’s cheaper than a baguette or a pint in some London pubs), but if people think they can just wait till a premium game drops to 59p then the whole industry is going to end up suffering.

You’ve announced the ten Gameloft games that will be available from the launch for Sony Ericsson Xperia Play users and said there will be a further ten within the first six months – any hints as to what the unannounced games might be?

We’ll be announcing the additional 10 titles as they get closer to their respective launches. We’re holding names and details of these titles back as our focus is on the 10 titles at launch – including the two embedded games which are pre-installed on the device, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline and Star Battalion.

Many Playstation fans think the ‘Playstation Phone’ is a ship that sailed a while ago – what does Gameloft think about it?

It’s an exciting opportunity for us. The 10 games we’re releasing for the Xperia Play launch have previously only been tailored to touch-based devices. With the inclusion of a Playstation pad on the Xperia Play it allows our fans and consumers to experience our games in a ‘traditional’ gaming sense with a control pad at their fingertips.

Not everyone wants to carry around their smartphone as well as a portable gaming console – by blending these two mediums together it presents developers with an accessible device to make games for, targeted at both gamers and non-gamers alike, which we feel can only be a good thing for any media device to do.

At Mobile World Congress 2011 Gameloft made it known it was getting on the 3D train with support for LG¹s Optimus 3D smartphone. Do you think the technology is just a fad or do you see value in its inclusion?

In order to see the true value of 3D I think you have to witness the technology for yourself – it’s impossible for videos and screenshots to do it justice (unless being viewed in 3D itself).

We’re fully supportive of the new 3D devices which are surfacing this year, the LG Optimus 3D and Nintendo 3DS, both of which we have games for. Historically the biggest consumer gripe with 3D media has been the necessity to wear 3D glasses; with this barrier to entry removed it presents an accessible experience that is truly magical, immersive and accessible.

Games have always strived to be a medium that has the ability to immerse oneself in a world of fantasy and realism alike. With the inclusion of 3D in gaming-enabled devices it brings us even closer to that experience on a visual level.

Before we round this up, we’re sure many current and budding developers are hoping to be the next Gameloft. Any wisdom you can share that may be of use?

Don’t ever give up and don’t ever stop loving games. At times it can be a tough journey but the games industry is still the most magical place to be apart of. Gameloft is going from strength to strength and it’s because everyone here is determined, hardworking and passionate about what they do.

Lastly, what is your current favourite Gameloft game, and why?

I’m loving Starfront: Collision right now because I’ve always been a sucker for Real-Time Strategy games. Beyond that, Dungeon Hunter 2 is probably my all time favourite.

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