Following its $500 million game fund deal with multiple Abu Dhabi-based companies, Gamasutra has been talking with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment senior vice president Samantha Ryan about the firm's new Seattle publishing office, developer acquisition plans, and the "pretty safe" assumption that the DC Comics owner will be making more superhero games.
“We are busier than ever,” Warner Bros.’ Samantha Ryan, senior vice president of the company's interactive entertainment business since February, laughed when Gamasutra spoke to her recently about the company’s plans in the game industry.
“Warner Bros. is a content company that focuses on great content people love, and games are an increasingly important part of the way consumers enjoy content,” Ryan explained. “It makes perfect sense for WB to get involved.” She referred to the company’s funding of games like 300 for Sony's PSP and the recent Looney Tunes titles as “experiments,” explaining, “Those have gone well, so we are ready to play in this space a bit.”
Ryan says the new WB Games studio will be based in the Seattle area, and will run all of WB’s published and developed games, including recently announced titles like Speed Racer, and the F.E.A.R sequel – a total of 12 titles are in development, most of which have not been announced.
The studio is on the hunt for top talent, too. “We are staffing [up] like crazy,” says Ryan, “Like many publishers, a lot of the games we produce will be created by external developers, and we are bullish about acquiring more internal development.” That means WB Games will likely be making some acquisitions: “Currently Monolith are the only studio we own, and are big believers that internal production needs to grow -- so we are on the lookout for good studios to acquire,” Ryan adds.
Though Ryan says she doesn’t have any specific companies in the crosshairs at the moment, she says WB Games will focus on diversity. “Monolith is awesome in the FPS space, but I need developers in the other spaces too,” she said. “We’re looking for original IP, but in other genres besides shooters.”
Are there any constraints in how the company can spend such a hefty fund? "We have a 5 year slate plan that we’ve put together, and the biggest constraint is that we can't grow, from a practical standpoint, as fast as we would like," Ryan explains.
She particularly notes: "We can't just deliver 10 games next year! We have to build staff, localization, support services. We think this five-year growth plan will put us in a good space, but we can't spend [the money] overnight. I'm very product-focused, and I like to develop products on an individual basis instead of a global 'we always...' kind of approach."
Ryan continues, "Our biggest constraint is the need to bring talented people on board, and it can be tough sometimes getting the talent, but the Seattle area has a great diverse pocket of folks, so it’s been pretty good so far."
Will WB Games take over development for existing franchises based on its IPs, such as the Harry Potter movie titles, currently published by Electronic Arts? "No, we have a really great strong partnership with folks like EA," Ryan says. "They're doing a great job. We'll continue to have licensing as a part of our business - there may be properties we can't grow fast enough - and you'll continue to see us work with partners like EA and others for many years."
More superhero games, then? "I can’t comment on that in an official way," says Ryan, "but that’s probably a pretty safe assumption."