Recently we have invited Polygamia, one of the biggest Polish gaming outlets, to visit our HQ. On this occasion, they also had a chat with our CEO on Outriders, company’s growth, and making games during pandemic. Check that out!
Paweł Hekman: The excitement of Outriders’ release is behind us. Now it is time to tackle the challenge that I believe is even harder: to retain the players’ attention.
Sebastian Wojciechowski: It is no secret that we initially focused on fixing bugs and making improvements to the game. This effort continues. All major fixes have already been done and we focus on smaller but more frequent updates. As far as the future is concerned, we must be patient. We will be making particular announcements when the time comes.
The information that no royalties were paid by Square Enix stirred up quite a storm on the Internet. Perhaps we could explain what exactly happened.
I understand that the news evoked emotions, but I think some reactions were excessive. We did not receive royalties from the publisher on the date set in our agreement. As the CEO of a public company, I believe that this fact needed to be communicated to the investors, in particular because the market expected this information.
How does this situation affect your work? I imagine that the publisher’s inaction may be frustrating.
Inaction is a strong word. Besides, this sphere of our cooperation needs to be separated from the day-to-day project work. The latter proceeds at a normal pace and the teams on both sides cooperate very well.
Since we cannot talk about the future of “Outriders”, let us talk about the studio’s recent acquisitions. What is their purpose?
We orient ourselves towards North America because of the talent pool available there. We must take a hard look in the mirror and admit that the Polish market is relatively small. There are not many developers who have been involved in Triple-A productions. The market depth is also limited. In Warsaw there are, let’s say, two thousand developers. In Montreal there are twenty thousand. This is a factor that determines our growth. We are seeking studios and people with experience. On the other hand, we are having a keen eye for markets that offer us the potential for growing further. This is how we gain foothold to climb even higher.
People Can Fly is growing not only globally, but also locally. The team in Poland is quickly expanding.
This rate of growth is the effect of the quantity of projects and their scale, as well as our and our publishers’ appetite for delivering sizeable productions. We have two projects with two different partners: Square Enix and Take-Two Interactive. In our quarterly financial statements, we disclosed that we work on one more thing.
This third, mystery project involves self-publishing.
I believe that self-publishing is a natural path for every development studio as it reaches certain size. For us it is not even an alternate route, but a way to branch-out. We will continue our cooperation with external partners and self-publishing is just an addition to our business model. We are where we are today because we create good games and the natural next step is to try to keep a greater percentage of their profits which we otherwise must share with the publishers. Financially, we are currently capable of publishing one or more games ourselves.
The People Can Fly strategy is aligned with the more general trend observed in the industry. Historically, a studio would only work on one game at a time. Today, we see more and more studios trying to develop several games at the same time. What is the reason?
In our case, it is a consequence of the company’s growth and our geographical reach. Developing several projects within one studio is a serious challenge. The risk of cannibalizing own projects is very high and every studio which has attempted such a task will agree. We distribute our parallel development efforts among various locations, mainly to ensure that the responsibility for each process rests fully with one team.
Do you still play Outriders?
Not any more. However, I did play through the whole game several times. At first, it was a part of the feedback process. Playing for pleasure was a luxury I could afford after the launch.
I have always wondered if the creators play their own games after countless hours of intensive work before the release.
After the launch you can play with your family or friends who have never seen the game and observe their reactions. Also, putting your hands on the finished, boxed product is very enjoyable. In-house we also play the versions that have their issues or for a particular purpose, so the fun does not end with the release.
Have you suffered seriously from the pandemic?
I would not say “seriously”. Certainly, the pandemic and the lockdowns did not help. Luckily, all our systems have already been configured for remote work, so we did not have to readjust our pipelines dramatically. On the other hand, thanks to this situation we were able to identify opportunities to work with people who would otherwise be harder to cooperate with due to the distance. We are not planning to force anybody to go back to the office. We have learned to work remotely. Although to answer the question if the remote work is equally effective, we may yet need to consult our conscience.
Are you making any special preparations for another lockdown?
Today, we have many people, especially in Warsaw, who came back to the office and who obviously needed it. Not necessarily full time, but in a hybrid model. This is a sign that we are prepared for any scenario.
In “normal times” we would be in the middle of the “fair fever”, with E3 just behind us and Gamescom just ahead. Do you think those events will never come back? Or perhaps, due to the costs, their scale will change for good?
I think it is too early to answer this question, although it is an important one. No one would deny that the digital market is more profitable than physical distribution. What we observe today is a natural evolution in response to this pressure. Having said that, I think people still want to organize these big events and things such as fairs are not going away any time soon. They can be organized to some extent as virtual events, but it would be very hard to do the same when it comes to the networking. Meeting face to face has dynamics incomparable to using Zoom. I am sure we will be back doing these things as soon as it becomes possible again.
Thanks for stopping by, Polygamia!
The original interview can be found here: https://polygamia.pl/sebastian-wojciechowski-brak-tantiem-musimy-takie-rzeczy-komunikowac,6674621547604640a