Eidos' Ian Livingstone: Facebook games will have a 'second boom' [Interview]

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Ian Livingstone
Mr. Ian Livingstone is no salesman. He's one of the men behind Warhammer creator (and Dungeon and Dragons' envoy to the UK) Games Workshop and the Life President of Eidos Interactive. So, why did Livingstone recently invest in UK-based Appatyze, a social games advertisement platform? If you hadn't noticed, most social games are not enjoying exposure on Zynga's scale, and something needs to be done about it. To Livingstone, one of the men behind Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider, advertising might be a way to increase the amount of successful developers and enamored social gamers elsewhere. Livingstone recently took a short break from an event at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA)--which now honors our favorite past time, video games--to explain why he invested in Appatyze and to give us predictions for the medium from an industry icon's perspective.

For someone who co-founded two of the arguably most influential games companies, why did you decide to get into social games advertising rather than the games themselves?

Games have been my life-I love playing games, I love the industry. I also do a lot of investing in start up companies. At my ripe old age of 61, I'd rather put my finger in everybody else's pies rather than make things myself. (Laughs.) I get a lot of people asking me to invest or to advise or to sit on boards of games companies. I think it's a very exciting time in the games industry-it's almost like the second Golden Age of games has arrived.

And around that space, there are opportunities and challenges: 'How do these content creators who had historically relied on publishers get visibility? How are their products discovered?' And one of the solutions, I would suggest, is advertising. And Appatyze, it allows developers to sell their ad inventory to the highest bidder, and in turn they can then spend that revenue advertising their app on other peoples' applications. So, it's good for advertisers and it's good for developers. It's a very elegant solution-the people behind it I've known for some time, and they're respected industry veterans with a great track record and fantastic integrity. I look at things long and hard before I put my name to it, and I'm very excited to be associated with Appatyze. And at GDC, I spoke to a number of industry veterans and legends, and when I talked to them about it they were also very excited. I think it's got a great chance to succeed.

AppatyzeWhy did you decide upon backing a more hands-off, auction house-style approach to selling advertising rather than directly selling ads to social game companies?

My expertise is designing and creating games. I think about games at almost tragic proportions. So, a lot of my time is thinking about elegant games mechanics, why people play games and just being so delighted that such a huge proportion of the population now plays games. Way back in the early days of games, when the Atari 2600 came around in the U.S., 40 percent of people were playing games. They were accessible, they were intuitive and they were a social experience. Games became harder over the years with some of the consoles with a complex controller, and it was daunting to many people.

But now games become social, of course with the Wii in the living room and social games on Facebook and social media devices like the iPhone and iPad allow huge amounts of people to enjoy the experience of games. It's not always complex, it's something for everybody now: male or female, hardcore or casual, there's something for everybody to enjoy. I would personally enjoy concentrating on making games myself, but this opportunity to be with Appatyze I just thought was such a great solution. I couldn't say no to it.

Now, about increasing potential game discovery, because that's been a pretty big problem in the past few months for Facebook games. Do you think that Appatyze will do good to increase the amount of games that get exposure?

Well, it's certainly going to help developers. If they allow the install of the Appatyze bar, then of course, they're going to come up on the radar through Appatyze and therefore be able to either take revenue from advertisers or they can use Appatyze to get consumers to play with their app. Developers are motivated by money as well, and they can start earning money really within the the 15 minutes of signing up. And they do keep up to 80 percent of their advertising revenue generated through the system.

You mentioned that you would be more interested in creating games yourself. Do you think this is an industry where you think you'll be staying for a long time?

Social games? Yeah, I mean, it's extraordinary what has happened. What happened on the first of December of last year when Zynga launched CityVille and 44 days later they had 100 million MAUs (monthly active players); these are extraordinary numbers. It's another great example of why games resonate with humans. There's something there for everybody to play and social games plays a major part in making games, if you like simple and socially acceptable.

I don't mean to say that triple-A games on consoles are going to disappear, but I think there's going to be a polarization and the rich will get richer. So, you're more likely to see the next Call of Duty sell 35 million units next time and FIFA will sell 20 million units. The best in class will get even more successful, but the middle ground will disappear as people play the best in class on their consoles, and they'll be snacking on iPhone games or games on Facebook.

OK, so what I'm getting is your prediction of the future is that there will just be polarity between triple-A games and the casual/social games, so-

At the moment, we all know there's a larger proportion of females, the soccer moms as you call them in the US [playing Facebook games]. I think when Unity [3D Engine] or Unreal gets a greater handle on the Facebook environment, I think you'll see production values rise and people who haven't played social games but have played console games will also enjoy games on Facebook.

Ian Livingstone with Lara Croft
What are your thoughts on the social gaming industry now? What's missing there that needs to be filled?

I think at the moment even if they're social games, they're not really social in the true sense. There's no real time, there is asynchronous movement at the moment and therefore asynchronous social linking. When it becomes real time and with mechanics drawn from traditional games, I think there's going to be a second boom. But in the meantime, you can't argue with 270-odd million playing games on Facebook. I just think it's going to be an higher proportion going forward, and more traditional gamers will play.

You mentioned that you were interested in designing your own games or that you can venture out on your own, regardless of your position with Eidos. So, are there any interests in bringing Eidos into the program you've backed, Appatyze?

We haven't discussed that yet, [but] I'm hoping that at some point we can take some of Eidos' great portfolio of IP and migrate it to Facebook. Also, one thing I'm sure of is that EA will be there sooner rather than later, and that some of their brand IP is certainly going to translate well onto Facebook. I would hope that one day that Tomb Raider, Hitman and Deus Ex and other Eidos stable IP will also be available on Facebook.

[Image Credit: Kotaku]

Do you think good advertising is the answer to lesser-known games (and their developers) gaining more exposure? Which Eidos property do you hope will become a Facebook game? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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