â??The way games are produced needs to changeâ??

â??The way games are produced needs to changeâ??
Michael French

By Michael French

February 2nd 2007 at 9:30AM

EXCLUSIVE Q&A: In this Developmag.com interview, Games That Matter co-founder Hannes Seifert tells us why the former Rockstar Vienna team has chosen the long-discussed ‘Hollywood Model’ for its new business – and why he thinks they can make it work.

Calling itself “neither a publisher nor a classic development studio”, Games That Matter was officially opened last week, founded by Hannes Seifert, Niki Laber and Jurgen Goeldner. Seifert and Laber formed Neo Software, which was acquired by Take Two to become the now closed Rockstar Vienna. Goeldner was responsible for founding Funsoft..

The studio defines itself as a production company – Seifert says the studio will develop, buy, or licence game concepts that are then fleshed out by a third-party studios, or a set of services companies. “We prepare production of each project in the form of goals, brands, financing, technologies, schedules,” says Seifert.

“We lead the production and work closely with our partners as executive producers. And we treat project investors as important partners and not as necessary evil. It's important for us that we cover all aspects of game development with enough experience.”


Develop: What motivated you to take on this business model for Games That Matter?
Hannes Seifert: We sincerely believe that the way games are produced needs to change to become a sustainable model. We've been there: with teams of 80 plus people for one project, massive budget, big studio. After the introduction of Xbox 360 and PS3 the expectations what a game has to deliver rose significantly. But the big budgets applied to games nowadays don't all go into the games. Much of them goes into the overheads to run the studio, retain the talent etc. You never have enough people in peak times and you always have too many between projects. Even if you are a multi project studio.

Personally I dislike the constant, often inappropriate comparisons with the movie industry - we are a different media - but with the modern scope of games there's something important to learn from movies: when you produce a film you don't rely on having constantly hired directors, actors, composers, cutters, etc. You find the right talent for the right project. As an industry we think we need to learn how to run such a production model for games. And that's what we do and what motivates us.

What’s the structure of the studio: how many employees are there and how many do you plan to get to?
Currently we are ten. The structure is very simple. I work as executive producer with my team of art director, QA manager, game designer, producer and technical director. On the financial and investor relations side there's Niki Laber, who works with his finance manager, IT manager and developer and public relations manager. We don't intend to grow significantly. We plan to add a very small number of producers, testers and associate producers over the course of the next years. I honestly hope we can stay below 20 people.

Do you have any games in production or signed with a publisher yet?
I can't talk about projects at this point in time. But of course we haven't been idle.

What has the founding of Neo Software and the subsequent sale to Take Two/Rockstar taught you about the games industry?
Well, 20 years in games and 14 years with neo Software of which five were with a major publisher taught me one thing: the only constant in this business is change. And that's good for me. It's not the least reason I decided to stay in this crazy industry.

Is Games That Matter planning to take advantage of new delivery systems such as digital distribution, for its games?
It's nothing we tailored into our business model, but we see it as an important part of the industry's growth. It depends on the individual project and platforms though.

By that same regard are there any specific markets you plan to target, such as casual games, mobile games, or MMO?
Frankly no. What we want to make are good games. We really believe only good games make good money. And a good game takes advantage of its platform, whereas I see MMO as a platform, too.

For us a game must make a difference. We want to work on new topics or game ideas. Don't get me wrong: we don't see ourselves as producers of exclusive high art, but we don't want to work on the 5th sequel of an overexploited game or another clone of a commonly used topic.

Are there any other development studios you admire or model yourselves after?
There are many studios I really admire. Too many to list them. For a few years I've been looking for a company that already pursues a business model like we use now, but I honestly haven't found one. There a few who do parts of what we do. But I'm convinced we are not going to stay the only ones forever.

Are there more opportunities for independent developers in the games market these days?
Yes. The reason is the upcoming change we expect and hope to be a small part of. We need companies that specialize on parts of games. We need technology providers, game design companies, art houses, etc. We need to get out of the vicious circle that only growing a studio gives you the chance to work on a big game. I really believe that's necessary to make more and better original games. And independent specialists, working on parts of each project, are the key to that. I think there's a bright future ahead for the companies who get ready for that change.