Network of studios will keep expanding, but growth will be "organic" says CEO

Foundation 9 discusses further expansion plans

There’s no stopping Foundation 9, CEO of the US superstudio has told Develop – just weeks after the company’s acquisition of UK developer Sumo Digital – but the company will be taking a more slow and sensible approach as it expands further.

Sumo was acquired in August, with the Sheffield, UK-based team becoming Foundation 9’s first studio outside of North America.

“We’ll continue to look at opportunities that add something to the company,” boss Jon Goldman told Develop, although he added that “our studios are poised to grow quite well organically.”

“Right now, at 850 or so people, we’re plenty large and our goal is not to pursue a traditional financial roll-up scheme.”

Instead, F9E wants to spread its wings by improving facilities and capabilities across a network of studios that includes Amaze, Backbone, The Collective, Digital Eclipse, InginEngine, Pipepworks and Shiny Entertainment – and now Sumo, too.

While the swoop for Sumo is intended to strengthen Foundation 9’s development capacity across multiple platforms, according to Goldman (recent projects for the UK firm include Virtua Tennis 3 for 360 and Super Rub ‘a’ Dub for PlayStation Network), perhaps more important is the fact the move gives the American super studio offices in two countries – including Sumo’s recently opened office in Pune, India, granting access to local markets its North American empire couldn’t reach.

“Foundation 9 wanted a presence in Europe, both to tap the immense talent pool there, as well as to interact directly with
European publishing contacts in their own time soon,” explained Goldman.

Meanwhile India, he said, “makes sense from a talent, cost and demographic perspective.”

“On that last point, India isn’t just a low cost centre,” he explained.

“The economy will continue to boom, there is already a vibrant media industry, and we’ll need Indian talent to help us develop games for the Indian market in future.”

At home as well, Foundation 9 Entertainment is investing in its consumer testing facilities at its Kirkland, Washington studio, and is pushing forward with implementing better management which “actually benefits from our size and resources, as opposed to us just being large and there being no real difference in how we deliver products.”

He added: “On a more nuanced level, our business is very straightforward; we need to hone the service aspect of our business so that we are delivering a high quality experience.
“We’re aiming not only to respond to what publishers need but to improve our understanding of what customers want most.”

Which neatly leads into the fact that Foundation 9 will also be looking to see how it can move beyond the work for hire model to thinking up concepts tailored for consumers.

“We’re busily examining ways to invest incrementally more of our resources in self-funded projects, when it makes sound business sense,” said Goldman. “Only a very small number of our projects fall into this category right now, but this will become a valuable engine of growth for the company.”

The first is already announced, however, with Backbone working on the Pokemon-esque Wii and DS game Monster Labs, to be published by Eidos next year.

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