Buzz words

EDGE - - KNOWLEDGE RELENTLESS -

An­drew Eades re­counts the highs and lows of 12 years of Re­lent­less Soft­ware

Asense of hu­mour cer­tainly helps in an in­dus­try as un­pre­dictable as this one. Ahead of his talk at this year’s De­velop con­fer­ence, in which he’s set to dis­cuss his com­pany’s his­tory, Re­lent­less Soft­ware CEO An­drew Eades jokes with self-ef­fac­ing mod­esty that “you can prob­a­bly com­press it into: ‘We made Buzz.’” And yet there’s far more to a stu­dio that’s sur­vived a decade in gam­ing’s tur­bu­lent wa­ters. We talk to Eades to find out how Re­lent­less has adapted to the in­dus­try’s evo­lu­tion. Buzz is a ma­jor part of your his­tory, but it wasn’t an im­me­di­ate suc­cess, was it? I’ve got my own the­o­ries on this – and I’m sure Sony mar­ket­ing would say some­thing dif­fer­ent – but we de­signed the first Buzz game with Christ­mas Day very much in mind. And once friends and fam­i­lies started play­ing it at so­cial events dur­ing that pe­riod, that’s when peo­ple went out and bought it in Jan­uary. We re­leased it in Oc­to­ber, and you’re right, it was a bit of a slow burn. Ob­vi­ously, back then we didn’t have any teleme­try, so we didn’t have any idea when peo­ple un­boxed it and started play­ing it, but we think a lot of [its suc­cess] was ba­si­cally down to word of mouth. And then it just sold for an as­ton­ish­ing num­ber of weeks – I think it was in the top 20 for over a year.

Buzz came out the same kind of era as Gui­tar Hero, and Singstar had been be­fore us, so there was a def­i­nite move to broader con­tent. As [Sony UK boss] Ray Maguire put it, “I’ve sold as many PlaySta­tion 2s as I can to gamers; we need to find a new au­di­ence,” and that’s what we were look­ing for. When we founded Re­lent­less, we were think­ing there was a great op­por­tu­nity on PS2. It was cheap, and lots of peo­ple were buy­ing it as a DVD player. We wanted to fo­cus on peo­ple who weren’t nat­u­rally gamers but we could en­ter­tain. Do you feel you were ahead of the curve in that re­gard? Yeah, we were. I mean, the rea­son I joined Com­puter Art­works [the com­pany at which Eades met Re­lent­less co-founder David Amor] was to make con­tent for non-gamers. We started with DJ: Decks & FX, which wasn’t re­ally a game, just vir­tual decks. But I went to Three, the mo­bile phone net­work, be­cause I be­lieved that ev­ery­one would have a broad­band-con­nected mo­bile gam­ing de­vice in their pock­ets – and it turns out I was right, I was just about five years early. Now we’re mak­ing games for de­vices that peo­ple just have: they don’t buy them be­cause they’re gamers, they sim­ply have them and there­fore they play games on them. You’ve en­joyed some suc­cess on the App Store with crime drama The Trace. Do you think that Ap­ple is push­ing pre­mium games a lit­tle harder th­ese days? Well, I be­lieve all the plat­form hold­ers, Ap­ple in­cluded, want to show­case their for­mats. It’s the same with Sony and Mi­crosoft, who we’ve worked very closely with: they want their plat­form to look bet­ter than ev­ery­one else’s, and they’re go­ing to show­case the best stuff they can, quite rightly. And you can do it with a small team or a big­ger team – The Trace had up to 15 peo­ple at one point, so it’s a [com­par­a­tively] big­ger pro­duc­tion, but then I be­lieve in qual­ity. I’d rather try to make re­ally high-qual­ity games than churn out a load of low- As some­one who ac­tively sup­ports the Bri­tish game in­dus­try, do you think it’s in a strong po­si­tion now? I think it’s dif­fer­ent! I don’t think we could call it the same in­dus­try, re­ally. I mean, it’s changed so rad­i­cally. From [Re­lent­less’s] point of view, I think we’ve been re­ally good at adapt­ing. Part of my job is to try to think a few years ahead, to pre­pare us for what I be­lieve is hap­pen­ing. I was say­ing for a long time, “Con­sole’s dead, guys – we’ve got to think about mov­ing.” And it wasn’t like I wanted [con­soles] to be dead, I just recog­nised we were go­ing to strug­gle in the PlaySta­tion 3 gen­er­a­tion.

“Now we’re mak­ing games for de­vices peo­ple just

they don’t buy them be­cause they’re gamers”

Yet you’re cur­rently mak­ing a game for PS4 and Xbox One. [Laughs] Yeah, can’t help it, can I? The thing is, we’ve now got open con­sole plat­forms. And it’s in our DNA to make some­thing that en­ter­tains a group of peo­ple in a living room, so it would be churl­ish not to make a game for those plat­forms. We’re us­ing all our ex­pe­ri­ence in self-pub­lish­ing, dig­i­tal dis­tri­bu­tion, mo­bile and Unity to­gether to hope­fully make a re­ally great game. What does De­velop mean to you? It’s where the game in­dus­try from the UK and far­ther afield gath­ers to talk about games, dis­cuss the chal­lenges ahead and cel­e­brate some of the suc­cesses. I’ve been on the ad­vi­sory board from day one – be­cause I’m lo­cal, I reckon – and the game com­mu­nity in Brighton is pretty strong and pretty good.

TheTrace builds on top of Re­lent­less’s Mur­der Files se­ries, which was orig­i­nally con­ceived for PS3 but found its even­tual home on the touch­screens of Ap­ple users world­wide

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