The digital games industry has changed enormously since the GameHorizon conference first came to Gateshead five years ago. John Hill went along to discover the latest news. (Pictures: Geetha Photography).
YOU can give yourself a headache trying to keep track of all the genres, styles and business models wrapped up in the word “games”.
Over the last few years, the industry has seen the growth of mobile, and the rise of a free-to-play model which allows people to play games for free and pay for upgrades.
People are creating graphics that will make your eyes melt, and producing tiny social mobile games that sell in their millions.
A lot has happened since the GameHorizon conference arrived in Gateshead five years, but the two-day event returned to the Sage yesterday with many interesting questions still burning in the industry.
“Each year we come here and talk about change and opportunity and we assume something will have consolidated the next year, but it never has,” says Revolution Software founder Charles Cecil. “For example, a year ago no one would have talked about (crowdfunding platform) Kickstarter …
“The conference is about change and opportunity. Over the next couple of days we’ll be able to see what might happen in the next year, and it’s absolutely fascinating.”
Cecil was one of a number of leading games industry figures with stories to tell about their successes. David Helgason founded Unity in a Copenhagen basement, and now oversees a workforce of 200 people. Unity is a development tool for web, mobile and console, which has more than 450,000 registered users worldwide from large studios to hobbyists.
Eidos life president Ian Livingstone returned to the conference to talk about his experiences developing Games Workshop in the 1970s, as well as his work on the Fighting Fantasy role- playing books. To mark the 30th anniversary of the popular series, a new title is being released called Blood of the Zombies.
Livingstone also discussed the life and times of game adventurer Lara Croft, who was created to respond to the popularity of girl power and Tank Girl … and was initially going to be called Lara Cruz before it was decided that wasn’t English enough. Lara Croft has earned over $1.5 billion in games, merchandising and other revenue since she arrived in 1996.
Livingstone has also been active in pressing for changes to computing education in schools, and believes the UK industry requires a number of things to be successful, from decent broadband to investment and positive perception.
GameHorizon’s first day also featured panels on the future of games and funding options, as well as a “fireside chat” with Miles Jacobson, the studio manager of Football Manager creator Sports Interactive.
Jacobson originally worked in the music industry as part of the A&R for Food Records, before he found himself involved in the games world as a tester for Sports Interactive’s second Championship Manager game.
His role increased as the company took off, and it now boasts a staff of 84. Sales of the game have topped 15 million, and it’s been adapted for platforms including iPhone, PC, Mac and PSP.
Jacobson talked about the split with Eidos in 2003 – which saw Sports Interactive leave the Championship Manager name behind and publish its titles with Sega under the name Football Manager – as well as the current set-up at the company.
The Watford fan also fielded questions on his thoughts on the football world itself. Jacobson prefers Adrian Chiles over Gary Lineker on the Match of the Day sofa, tips Manchester City for the title next year and reckons Germany will win Euro 2012.
He managed to stay tight-lipped on any inside knowledge he had about any Premier League transfers, but hinted: “The most interesting team to watch this summer is not City, but United. And possibly Tottenham, depending on who their manager is.”
The GameHorizon conference continues today at the Sage. Go to www.gamehorizonconference.com for more information.