Jason and Warlord posing for The Sunday Times. Photography courtesy of Kasumi Kitano.
I’ve been at Rebellion for nearly 6 months now and just in that time we've seen huge changes in the industry, with the next generation of consoles being released and digital distribution becoming ever present in the way developers release their games. Video games are rapidly becoming part of mass culture and where the industry may go over the next 10 could change instantaneously.
Last week The Sunday Times sat down with Rebellion CEO and Creative Director Jason Kingsley, to discuss how he got started in the video game industry and built Rebellion into the award winning studio it is today.
We wanted to do a few follow up questions going into how Rebellion began and what the future may hold for both the studio and the industry as a whole.
When yourself and Chris started Rebellion more than 20 years ago, were there any ways that you set out to prove yourselves in the industry?
Jason: Not really, we were just interested in making games and trying to turn it into a living. We learnt the business side as we went along. Our ethos has remained the same, try to make the best games you can with the resources you have.
Were there any hurdles that you had to overcome during Rebellion’s start up, did working with a family member change any typical business dynamics?
Jason: Again it wasn’t a hurdle at all. Chris and I had been working together on projects for fun for ages, and whilst we shared similar ideas and objectives, Chris was much more technical than me, and I was better at making art, so there were areas we could specialise in and areas where we co-operated.
Rebellion now has just under 200 employees and two studios, what is the most important aspect you need to be able to oversee everything?
Jason: A major burden of having a larger company is that you get removed from the day to day details sometimes, and it’s important that where possible we get to be involved, and properly tuned into the games we make. Having knowledge of every tiny little piece is now impossible, but having talented team members who are true professionals helps make that unnecessary. We also have to keep driving communication, both between the two studios and between individuals in the team. Often a good short chat can sort out any number of misunderstood emails.
Rebellion has worked with some high profile licenses in the past, did you have to work towards gaining various publisher’s trust before working with their IP’s?
Jason: Generally the IP owner has approached us because of our track record, to make games, so the trust was already there. Only very occasionally have we pitched to do a game based on a license, and that business model is probably in fast decline currently. Not many licensed game’s are being made these days.
Over the last couple of years we have seen more studios and developers close down, would you say over the past decade the video game industry has become less stable and how does Rebellion try so safeguard itself against?
Jason: We have tried to have a portfolio approach to the type of games we make, who we work for and the types of business we are in. The idea is that the risk is spread out, and one non-so-successful project does not damage the company, instead we learn from our mistakes and build on the successes. We have comic publishing and book publishing to add to the mix these days.
You’ve been in the industry for more than 20 years, what do you consider Next Gen gaming?
Jason: Next gen is always the gen of computers that is not quite here yet, or has just landed. We are in that awkward linguistic place where the use of Next gen to describe them is still used, but probably wrong and everything has to shuffle down, to last gen and current gen, which seems weird for a while.
We are now in the 7th Generation of gaming, what do you think we can expect from the next generations?
Jason: No idea. Prediction is a risky strategy. What will almost certainly happen though is that computer processing speeds will increase, as will the options for games designers, and hopefully players. Development costs too will likely increase.
As the industry moves into digital distribution, how do you think this will affect a developer’s ability to self publish their games?
Jason: Self publishing is potentially very worth-while but it has aspects that are probably not too familiar to the average developer. Marketing and consumer support is a big part of the release of a title. Whilst it is fashionable to criticise big publishers they do have skill sets that are unfamiliar to developers, and those skill sets take some learning to acquire.
You graduated with a degree in Zoology at Oxford, as CEO run Rebellion, have acquired various Publishers (2000 AD, Solaris &Raven Stone), have a chair on the board of TIGA and still managed to become a Champion Jouster. Do you ever sleep?
Jason: Ha, but yes, when I can, and normally well, but after long-haul flights to the USA or China, badly for a few days whilst my body adjusts. Jet lag makes a bad partner to business decisions.
We’ve heard before about your influences in video games, but are there any companies or people that have or continue to influence you in the business world?
Jason: I try to forge my own path. I read both fiction and business books when I get time, often alternating them or adding a history book also to the mix. There are impressive business leaders out there, worth listening to, but listening with a critical ear, as some portion of everyone’s success is down to a bit of luck, and recognising as well as using that luck effectively is part of doing anything successfully.
For more insights into the video game industry you can follow Jason on Twitter @RebellionJason
and see Jason’s Linked in Profile here.