It was interesting to hear the man speak.
To some his books became the gamifaction of literature (Fighting Fantasy) to others he was responsible for their high school crush on a computer game (with Lara Croft) and to those even older – he was the reason they may have got dressed up as a wizard once or twice to often to roll dice in a dungeon with his Games Workshops monopolies.
No matter who he is to you (and to some young people he is simply nothing at all) the ideas of Ian Livingstone to me are more relevant today with us at Dojit Games than ever before.
As Dojit, like Ian’s first works, doesn’t know how big they will become. We just don’t know if happy and optimistic gaming to help children interact with mobiles, will catch on as much as the “almost bigger than bond” figure of Lara Croft. Even as a concept.
But what did we learn from him?
Ian’s first business, with Lara Croft (first called Lara Cruz) planned to hope to sell ½ million for the whole duration of the game’s life. In the end, they sold 7 million in first year and now more than 20 years on, and a couple of heart breaks later, Lara Croft has sold over 30 million copies had countless spin offs into mercanising and IP. Giving those working on it and in it a billion pounds worth of revenue. Add to this getting to meet Angelina Jolie a couple of times and those films bringing in another ½ billion and you can see a very happy man take to the stage at #yourcreativefuture in his home town of Manchester. So the take home – Create your own IP and retain the ownership no matter what. As Ian said – “Control your own destiny. Don’t have someone do it for you”.
Could our Home Bear – become a soft toy? Could we launch a series of geo location toys? Who knows?
Another thing we learnt from the talk was “do what you are good at – and nothing else”. Ian learnt this the hard way. Did you know that at the peak of Lara Croft mania, the company got so big that they even recorded an album! Which they never launched, I have heard it – it is awful (truly awful) but the company in the end knew it was bad and had the decency to never launch it…
Would Ian had done things differently with his amazing successes? I don’t think so I have the feeling not.
But did he had any tips for us, brand new start up businesses, making games for mobile phones?
He did. But strangely not directly even though he admitted that whilst the games industry is now worth $50 billion and predicted to grow to $90 billion by 2015, that this was the year of the tipping point for digital downloads. And as he put it – Once this has happened you can never go back.
And so this changes the infrastructure, it changes the ecology and the ecosystem for gaming in general. With a now huge opportunity for the right people to make mini games companies and do very well i.e. he used for example – the one Danish guy made Minecraft. But as he put it – For every one Angry Birds there are a million dead birds. Even Rovio, Angry Birds developers, had 57 no shows before their iconic success.
No matter whether it is digital download, freemium (which he thinks is the way to go citing Clash of Clan’s in app purchase model now creating $1 million a day, or triple AAA big releases, for Ian it’s all about the gameplay and nothing else. As he said it “otherwise you would be making films”. For computer games – it’s the experience of playing not of viewing that makes the difference. Our takeway – UX is EVERYTHING.