WB ramps up game development focus

WB ramps up game development focus
Michael French

By Michael French

August 8th 2007 at 4:53PM

Warner Bros planning studio acquisitions, more internal games development and external signings

Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment boss Samantha Ryan has revealed to Develop that she is spearheading a new strategy to increase the number of games the company produces by up to six times over the next five years.

In an exclusive interview she outlines that the ramp up will take place via product signings, in-house development and studio acquisitions - with the first step being the recent establishment of a new production studio called WB Games, based in Kirkland near Seattle in the US.

WB Games will be located near Monolith, the one other development house WBIE owns – and where Ryan began her career alongside WBIE founder Jason Hall.

“Our goal is to increase the number of games we’re producing by five or six times what we’re currently producing in the next five to six years,” explained Ryan. “We also hope to acquire more developers over time.”

WBIE was formed in 2004 by former Monolith boss Hall, who recently moved on to set up his own company – Ryan, who took over as head of Monolith when Hall moved to WB, stepped up to take his place once again, now as head of the whole operation, in February this year.

She added: “I really feel that Monolith is the template for what worked well for Warner Brothers – which is that you acquire a games studio because it makes great games and has the right people and everything works well, and not disturb it. So for potential studios I wouldn’t want to move them or disturb them, I would just want to buy them and let them continue to do the great work that they have been doing.”

Already, WBIE has officially announced deals with the UK’s Traveller’s Tales for Lego Batman, Australian outfit Red Tribe for production of a new Looney Tunes game, and Los Angeles’ Way Forward for DS game Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck.

Other deals are also in the works with “developers around the world” but are currently unannounced - just today the firm confirmed it had signed New Zealand-based Sidhe for a game based on the upcoming Speed Racer remake movie.

While all those above are based on classic Warner Bros properties, Ryan said a large chunk of the WB Games slate would come from original IP, too.

She explained: “We do acknowledge that a large part of our portfolio will come from our theatrical properties and some of the great library IP that Warner Bros has accumulated over the years, such as Loony Tunes, but we expect 30 to 40 per cent will come from original IP.”

There’s also a chance that the IP discovered in the games space will be perfect to cross over into other mediums – Warner Bros is of course a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood – reversing the traditional licensing cycle.

In fact, there’s much of the traditional games industry Ryan wants to challenge as WB powers up – WBIE’s strength, she said, would be that it has someone with a development background running the business rather than a sales-focused publisher.

“My games development background gives us an edge because we can go in and ask the questions that game developers ask developers and which publishers don’t necessarily ask developers.

“It has been a really beneficial approach for us so far,” Ryan said.

“WB has a history of really valuing creativity and valuing the creators – you see that all the time in theatrical productions where there are producers and directors that have worked with Warner Bros. for years and years and years because their input is so valued. And you’re really only now seeing that extend into the games space where a real value is now placed on the creators.”

You can read the full Q&A with Ryan, which discusses the WBIE development plans in more detail and touches on how Warner Bros will disrupt the traditional publisher-developer relationship, here.