Interview: Eidos Big Cheese Ian Livingstone
We get some time in with Eidos life president Ian Livingstone
Eidos life president Ian Livingstone was in SA recently, and thanks to local distributor Numetro, we managed to get some one on one time in with him.
Now, it is important to note that Livingstone is no ordinary corporate mogul. It is easy to become jaded when we think of our beloved industry as one which is run by businessmen who don’t even play games, or understand the culture behind them. It came as a pleasant relief then to learn that Ian defies this stereotype, and has a résumé that would make even the most cynical old school geek giddy.
When it comes it all things geek, there isn’t much which demands as much respect as Dungeons & Dragons and the store which played a major role in bringing it to the world; Games Workshop. Ian, along with two partners founded Games Workshop in 1975, and are credited with bringing D&D to Europe back when Gary Gygax was still trying to get his revolutionary board gaming established.
Then in 1977, Ian started White Dwarf magazine – the UK’s first “interactive magazine”, and one of the world’s first publications dedicated to the pastime of gaming. He worked as editor for 5 years, while at the same time growing Games Workshop which now has over 300 stores worldwide.
Ian Realised from the success which D&D afforded Games Workshop that it was important for any games company to own its own IP, a principle which he maintains to this day. Unfortunately, Games Workshop did not own D&D, and when their three year contract ended, they lost the iconic property. Realising the importance of strong IP, Games Workshop bought the rights to Warhammer, which it owns to this day.
Along the way, Ian and friend Steve Jackson wrote The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, which went on to sell over 16 million copies around the world. 20 more books followed, including the iconic Deathtrap Dungeon. Ian also invented many boardgames over the years.
This was all achieved before most of the people reading this were even born.
In the early 90’s, Ian realised that gaming was evolving into the digital space. He sold his shares in Games Workshop, and became involved at a senior level with Domark Games. In 1995 he helped broker a deal between Domark and Eidos – which was at the time a video editing software developer.
Domark and Eidos combined, and then went on to buy a games company called CentreGold, which owned a studio called Core Design. Core Design was already hard at work on a game which would become Tomb Raider; one of the most successful game IPs ever made.
So Eidos got off to a solid start, with Tomb Raider far exceeding its expected sales of 100,000 units. Not only did the game break ground by using a female protagonist, but it was also one of the first fully interactive 3D game worlds navigated by a third person 3D character.
Eidos continued to flourish under Ian’s watch, and was eventually bought by global mega-publisher Square Enix. The likes of Deus Ex, Commandos, Thief, Legacy of Kain, Time Splitters and of course Tomb Raider are some of Eidos’ best received IPs, and Ian maintains that the most important thing for a publisher is to own its own content, as opposed to relying on licensing the work of others.
The first thing I asked Ian was what he sees as the biggest challenges for the games industry today.
“The industry is currently at a crossroads. We are seeing delivery methods evolving, largely due to improved global broadband penetration. Games are also changing, and the market is becoming broader. The most important thing for the industry now, is for the perception of gaming to evolve, and it’s happening. People who would never have played games before are getting involved.”
So, you think casual gaming will form a large part of the future of the industry?
“Certainly. We are coming from an era where the big money was in massive budget AAA titles. We are now seeing much smaller and cheaper games achieve commercial success, thanks largely to things like Xbox Live.”
But do you think there will still be room for more serious games?
“Yes, that segment of the market will never die. The beauty is that the market will expand around it, and as more people get into casual games, more will be enjoying the core games down the line.”
He then goes on to discuss the casual market, and how it makes it so much easier for aspiring developers to share their games. “Young developers can reach their audiences easier than ever now.”
And what is your take on motion controlled gaming?
“Any new technology that can bring new people into the fold is good for gaming. The key will lie in marketing the devices to a casual audience, which may be tricky for Microsoft and Sony who are traditionally perceived as hard-core gaming companies.”