Develop takes a look at Kuju's latest upstart – and its first outside the UK...
Based in San Francisco, new studio Kuju America isn’t just another step in the company’s ambitious expansion and founding of unique studios – it’s also a key step towards establishing a base for the company in North America, helping raise the profile of all Kuju’s teams and tap into the local talent base.
The company appointed former Eidos man John Kavanagh (pictured above) to head up the operation as president, which formerly opened early in 2008.
Kavanagh self-describes himself as an industry veteran (“which I guess is part experience, and part ‘he’s 40 years old’,” he jokes) – but it’s a well-earned badge. He started writing games at 14, later joining Domark to make a James Bond game and then moving to set up the publisher’s US office in 1992. Domark US became Eidos in 1995, where he stayed for 10 years, working at first in America and then moving back home to run Eidos’ UK development. In that time, he signed a number of key concepts that went on to become franchise products such as Hitman, TimeSplitters, and Deus Ex. So for Kuju’s first major global step, he’s the ideal man.
“I was always happiest at the studios working with the development teams and making sure their needs were best represented at the corporate level,” and this is something you’ll see at Kuju, he says.
“Our goal in establishing a North American outpost is two-fold,” explains Kavanagh. “Firstly to establish a corporate base in the US market so that we can raise the profile of all the Kuju studios with US-based publishers and serve their needs by having a ‘same time zone’ contact for business development issues. Secondly to tap into the large local talent base and establish a best-in-class studio providing a local development solution for our publishing partners.”
Kuju America also has a prime opportunity to avoid the pitfalls of big budget games development, while also satisfying the needs of publishers, adds Kavanagh – creating a haven for those looking to escape the treadmill of other studios.
The environment at Kuju, he adds, is a stark contrast – and the evolved games sector, driven in part thanks to the success of the Wii, has “created a market for fun games”.
Adds Kavanagh: “I’d always kept in touch with Jonathan [Newth, president of Kuju group] and Ian [Baverstock, CEO], but even I was surprised by how their studio model had matured and become so successful with a great reputation within the publisher community.
“So when they asked me to help them set up the US studio I jumped at the chance. The opportunity to work on high quality, fun Wii games is a great thing, but working with old friends who understand and trust each other is the icing on the cake.”