Together with younger brother Chris, Jason Kingsley formed Oxford-based developer Rebellion in 1991. Their first published title was Alien Vs. Predator on the Atari Jaguar, which was released in 1995. It wasn't until 1999's PC game Aliens Vs. Predator however that the studio gained wider acclaim. The following year, the Kingsleys bought famed UK comic publisher 2000 AD, gaining access to hundreds of intellectual properties, including Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Halo Jones. The first fruits of the deal came with 2003's PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC game Judge Dredd: Dredd Vs. Death, while Rogue Trooper, released in 2006 for the same platforms, has been its most successful comic-to-game transition.
Rebellion's development headcount has grown with the purchase of Eidos' Core Design (now Rebellion Derby), and Empire Interactive's Strangelite (now Rebellion Liverpool) in 2006, and Ignition's Awesome Developments (Rebellion Banbury) in spring 2007. The Kingsley brothers also set up book publisher Abbadon, currently dormant film production company Fearnort and have a controlling share in Oxford-based motion capture studio Audio Motion.
As for its current workload, it has just finished the PSP version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for EA, and is working on various SKUs of The Simpsons Game. Its main Oxford HQ is also developing PSP-only Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron for LucasArts, while its Derby office is working on Vietnam-set zombie-shooter Shellshock 2 for Eidos.
Rebellion seems to be in expansive mode at present. Was this something you planned?
Jason Kingsley: We've always planned the future in terms of things like how many titles should we be doing and what platforms should we be working on, but our acquisitions have been opportunistic. When it came to dealing with nextgen, Chris and me sat down and worked out our team sizes would need to be between 50 and 100, with budgets in the high single millions of dollars.
It would have been difficult to build up teamsizes to that scale organically, so the opportunity to buy entire studios has worked out well for us. We've always thought having one game in development is risky, both for the developer and the publisher. It's risky for the developer because the publisher has the power. But it's also risky for the publisher because the only option if the project goes wrong is to shoot the developer dead. There's no middle route.
How many games do you plan to have in development then?
JK: We work on the process of having five at different stages of development on the basis that a project takes, roughly, two years. If you want to release a couple of projects a year, you need four projects in development at any one time, and a fifth one would be really good. We thought, let’s aim for five sizeable projects. How many people do we need? Obviously you won’t need 70 people working on a project from start to finish, so we thought it’s probably something like 250 to 280.