Jem Alexander gets an inside look at Sumo Digital and asks COO, Paul Porter, how the multi studio developer balances work for hire with creating its own IPs
Could you please give an overview of Sumo’s history?
Sumo was started in 2003, following the closure of Infogrames in Sheffield, by myself, Carl Cavers, Darren Mills and James North-Hearn. We’d all worked together from Gremlin days so with some great support in place we took the opportunity to start a new development studio.
What is Sumo’s corporate culture like? How important is it to the company?
Sumo is a people-orientated business. We couldn’t do what we do without an incredible group of talented people. Right from day one, our priority was to build an open and creative environment where people could thrive; for us it’s essential that people here enjoy their work, feel a great sense of achievement and are proud to be part of the company.
I don’t know about being a nation of shopkeepers but I do believe we’re a nation of creators
Paul Porter, Sumo Digital
What are your opinions on work for hire vs creating new IPs internally?
Sumo’s approach to all projects is the same, whether for established IP or the creation of new IP. While for established IP there are some parameters to work within there’s also an incredible level of creativity and
technology. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work that goes into working with someone else’s treasured IP. When it’s handled well it’s seamless and just feels ‘right’, that in itself is something we strive for.
How was the reception of Snake Pass and how has that affected your plans for the future?
Seeing the success and reception to the unique mechanic in Snake Pass has been really heartwarming. It hasn’t changed Sumo’s plans. The internal gamejams will hopefully produce more, interesting titles for us to self-publish. But we’re laser- focused on continuing to do what we do well and that’s big budget, large scale, high quality triple-A titles based on established IPs.
What are your thoughts on the British games industry, our role on the global stage and how Sumo fits into that?
For me, the UK has always punched above its weight with incredible creativity and innovation in many fields. I don’t know about being a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ but I do believe we’re a ‘nation of creators’. That’s as true today as it was when the first 8-bit computers were created. There’s a thriving development community across the nation, working on a huge array of titles and ideas, from modders to triple-A studios like Sumo.
On the global stage our role is simply to deliver brilliant and fun gaming experiences and at Sumo that’s our number one priority. We’ve built an established team, with valuable experience of developing games over several console cycles. Across the company the staff love the opportunities to work on some fantastic IPs, bringing new life to established franchises is something we do enjoy.
What does the future of Sumo look like?
Sumo’s future remains focused on high quality, high production values for large scale projects, working collaboratively on global franchises. Logistically we continue to expand and grow the teams across all the studios in Nottingham, Sheffield and India. Building diverse, highly skilled teams is exciting.
What advice do you have for UK development studios and UK developers looking to start a new studio?
For studios already set up, stick to your principles and focus on what you and your teams enjoy doing, as that is what you’ll do well. For start ups, use the freely available tools and experiment. Whether it’s modding or starting something new from scratch; show people, ask them to play and listen to feedback. Don’t assume you know what people will like. Go to as many industry events as possible. Lots of developers are very approachable and willing to share some of their hard learnt lessons.
AROUND THE WORLD
We speak to the studio directors of Sumo Digital's Nottingham and Pune studios to see how the company is working globally.
Karl Hilton, studio director, Sumo Digital, Nottingham
Based in the Castle Marina area of the city and with Nottingham castle dominating the skyline, the Sumo Nottingham studio is a state- of-the-art space dedicated to supporting the highest calibre of game development’s most creative people.
The studio already has two teams hard at work on unannounced, exciting projects. Following an ethos of highly targeted recruitment to ensure a mixture of industry veterans, experienced development staff and graduates to create dynamic, energetic and knowledgeable teams.
Building and supporting teams that are comprehensive in their capabilities for delivering on the very high standards expected by today’s triple-A videogames market is a key driver for future success for Sumo Digital in Nottingham. The studio is excited about the future and to attract the best game development talent from all over the world.
Alexis Madinier, studio director, Sumo Videogames, Pune
Sumo India is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. In the past decade we’ve built a core,
highly skilled team that works as an integral part of Sumo. Going forward the India studio will continue to evolve and play a key role in the creativity that Sumo is known for.