The FreeStyle Games co-founder gets the rapid-fire question treatment

FAQ: Chris Lee

[Develop’s archive of FAQ interviewees can be found here]

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Chris Lee and I’m COO for a new social game publisher called Hooplo. I’m also non-executive director for Relentless Software and Future Games of London.
I’ve spent the last few years building innovative game development firms such as Media Molecule and FreeStyleGames. I enjoy bringing new IP to market. It’s exciting to now do this across social and mobile platforms, as well as console and connected TVs.

What are you working on right now?
Hooplo partner with third-party teams to publish games across social networks. We have over five million monthly active players. We have in-house product management, analytics, design and localisation expertise, which we leverage for our development partners. We have an exciting slate of new games launching over the next few months, with big announcements planned.

Future Games of London (FGOL) is about to release its new IP Grabatron on iOS and Android in December. FGOL has a network of over 26 million users after great success with IP such as Hungry Shark, Pool Bar and Snooker Club. We’re expecting Grabatron to light up the charts for Christmas.

Relentless has just announced its partnership with Microsoft and National Geographic to develop a groundbreaking project and a huge leap forward in the way people will engage with interactive TV content.

What was the first video game or product that you ever worked on in the industry?
In the early 90s I was fortunate enough to work with teams such as Rare, Software Creations and DMA Design. I worked for a company called MultiGen Paradigm and provided software and technical support for a tool chain called NinGen, which was later called GameGen. This was back in 1994 and we became part of what Nintendo called the ‘Dream Team’, which was a group of developers and tool providers focused on delivering innovation on N64.

What was the first video game you ever played, and did you enjoy it?
I was hooked on Revs and Match Day on the BBC Micro. I was in awe of them in the 80s and still am. Revs taught me how to change gears and Match Day showed me that my dad would always be a formidable and highly competitive video game opponent. Both bits of learning have proven extremely valuable in later life.

What is your favourite game ever, and for what reason?
Tough to pick one, but being impartial and choosing something I wasn’t involved in, it would have to be Ico. The way it communicated emotion and how it made me feel, left a lasting impression. Ico showed players that games could be a powerful and emotional medium. I feel as though LittleBigPlanet built on some of those foundations with the bond that people have with Sackboy.

What do you enjoy about the video games industry today?
Being surrounded by incredible talent. It’s also a very unique and precious moment in the games industry. The power is back with the creators. Social, mobile and connected/interactive TV platforms are empowering creative teams to develop innovative content, which is taking the entire industry to a wider market.

What disappoints you about the video games industry today?
We don’t do enough as an industry to encourage and foster new talent, whether that’s graduates or smaller indies looking to build an exciting new company. We could and should do more.

We also continue to fall into the trap of developing games for gamers. That’s why I love being involved with a company like Relentless. They make games for non-gamers and realised ten years ago that there are more non-gamers than those in the traditional gamer market.

Seems like an easy thing to figure out, especially now with Zynga, ngmoco and others leading the charge, but very few companies seem to deliver on it.

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