Q&A With Adam Lancman, President of the Game Developers Association of Australia

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Adam Lancman, president of the Game Developers’ Association of Australia (GDAA), was one of the founders of Beam Software (said to be the starting point of the game development industry in Australia), and until recently, was CEO and Managing Director of Atari Melbourne House. Adam has over 23 years of extensive experience in all facets of the international game development and publishing industry, and has strong established ties with many of the major international publishers and console manufacturers around the world. Adam, who was instrumental in establishing the GDAA, has a strong commitment to the future growth and success of the Australian video game industry.

 

Q: Adam, what trend do you foresee for the global video game industry in the coming years?

A: I see the sophistication and complexity of next-generation platforms requiring the development industry to establish a new paradigm for development on these new platforms more in keeping with film production. I believe that most, if not all of the big publishers/developers in the US are going to need access to significantly more resources than they have available locally in creating next-generation video games. Today’s titles require a staff of anywhere up to 80 people, some even more than that. Next generation titles are likely to need 120+ people to complete each title. They are going to need to outsource.

Q: Where do you see Australia fitting in with these trends?

A: I believe many of these companies will begin to view Australia as the best place to outsource that work and/or develop titles for next-generation consoles.

Q: Why do you say that?

A: Two reasons. First and foremost, Australia features a huge talent pool. Australia may be a small country of 20M people, but we have a well established, world class, film production industry and a mature and internationally experienced quality video games industry. We have the talent and numbers to support and even create these large projects. Secondly, there is an affinity between the US and Australia that makes it easy and comfortable to work together creating games that appeal to US audiences.

Q: It has been said that increasing development costs for next-generation titles will cost 3x as much money in 2006 to turn the same sales numbers publishers are seeing today. Do you see publishers taking fewer risks and allowing for less creativity in order to ensure they have winning titles?

A: Economics dictate that the number of titles publishers put into production and allow to run to completion will be less than we have seen on earlier platforms. Therefore, it goes without saying that the market performance of each title released must be significant for a publisher to achieve sales requirements. This could mean that publishers will look to licenses to provide a bit of insurance on the sales potential of their titles. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any original concepts making it to market, just less of them. I would also add that you can still be creative as a developer within the context of a license.

Q: If so, how can Australia help?

A: The risks associated with development and publishing on the next-generation platforms are top of mind for publishers on these platforms. Australian developers can help to mitigate these risks in the 3 main areas of quality, cost, and time to market.

Quality: Australian Developers are recognized in the US as being able to produce games as good as any US Developer.

Cost: Australian Developers deliver more “bang for the buck”, which translates to a cost that is 60-70% of what would have to be paid in the US.

Time to Market: A product that misses its release date has huge financial repercussions for the Publisher. Australian Developers are experienced and have mature project management mechanisms in place, which have helped to make Australian Developers the most reliable in the world.

Q: What factors would see a publisher seeking assistance in AU for the development of next-generation titles and stop them from looking at Asia and/or the Eastern block for video game development?

A: Culturally, Australia is more inline and more in sync with the US – and we speak English! Asia and the Eastern block may have cheaper rates for developing games, but the cultural differences really impact the design process and the language makes it difficult to move at a quicker pace. Already, many US Publishers/Developers who have tried to outsource to these “cheaper” territories have found that the quality is not even close to what is needed and that after factoring in how long it takes, including extra management time and US reworking, to get a result there is little if any cost saving.

Q: With a growing number of hot new technologies coming out of Asia and your belief that there is often a communication barrier between U.S. companies and those in Asia, how can Australia offer powerful business links into the lucrative Asian markets to the big U.S. publishers/distributors?

A: Australia positions itself as part of Asia, geographically we are in the same part of the world and in similar time zones. Economically, Australia has significant trading relationships with Asia. Culturally, Australia and Asia have a lot in common as a result of the significant Asian national component of the Australian population. Many Multi-Nationals have established their Asian Headquarters in Australia as the most effective and “comfortable” base for Asian operations. Australian Developers already have experience in dealing with Asia and the Asian games markets.

Q: Aside from the large number of available workers, what do you believe will entice large US publishers/developers to outsource in Australia?

A: The video game industry in Australia already has a number of mature, stable, proven developers and we are expanding. Our government is taking a big interest in this industry. That interest has translated into government incentives to foreign companies to setup shop/outsource in Australia.

Q: Are there other factors?

A: Yes, there is a lot more self-financing happening in Australia, which is attractive to publishers. There are mechanisms that now exist in Australia to raise money for large projects. We have already seen some major international companies investing in a development capacity in Australia. Companies like Atari, Irrational, Pandemic, THQ, and Creative Assembly are all studios associated with major international companies.

Q: What has been happening with the video game industry in Australia of late that would make people realize it really is viable for video game development?

A: The Video game industry in Australia is growing and is driving its own growth; export earnings of Australian produced video games are quickly surpassing the film industry in Australia. It is stable and secure. Companies here have weathered the global storm while many developers around the world have gone under/shut down shop. Also, as more Australian video game companies now work on AAA titles due to larger budgets, you will start to see better quality work and better games.

Q: What are some of the new titles coming out of Australia this year and which will make their debut at this year’s GDC in San Francisco, CA?

A: Here are some, to name a few:

1. Tantalus Interactive (www.tantalus.com.au) – Havoc’s Cradle

2. Irrational Games Australia (www.irrationalgames.com) – Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich

3. Fuzzyeyes Studios (www.fuzzyeyes.com) – HotDogs HotGals!

4. Studio Moshi (www.moshidesign.com) – El Mariachi

5. Krome Studios (www.kromestudios.com) – Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 3

Q: What booth location is the GDAA located at for this year’s GDC?

A: The GDAA will not have a booth at GDC this year. We will be attending the event and supporting a number of GDAA member companies attending the event. However, we are hosting a private networking function that is fully supported by a number of different State and Local Government Agencies in Australia. It will be a chance for developers, publishers, industry players, and members of the media to find out what is going on in the Australian video games industry.

Q: What are some of these companies and what are their booth numbers?

A: Auran (Booth #: CP 160) and BigWorld (Booth #: 827).

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