MWC 2011: Gameloft's Gonzague de Vallois talks freemium, 59p sales, and the publisher's new generation of 7-figure games

'The new generation of games we will be launching are seven-figure titles'

MWC 2011: Gameloft's Gonzague de Vallois talks freemium, 59p sales, and the publisher's new generation of 7-figure games

Think of a mobile publisher and the first name that's likely to pop into your head is Gameloft, such is the extent of the French company's presence on the portable platforms.

Covering every format under the sun – from iOS and Android to Xbox Live and Interactive TVs – Gameloft has rapidly been growing over the last few years, producing hit titles in a range of genres.

We sat down with Gonzague de Vallois, VP of worldwide publishing, at this year's Mobile World Congress to talk about some of the company's plans going forward, what his feelings on the competition are, and what sort of games we should expect from the company in the near future.

Pocket Gamer: Do you see a time when Gameloft will start specialising in certain genres?

Gonzague de Vallois: At the moment we are a mass-market video game publisher, so we want to keep a very wide range of games for all platforms.

We want to offer the choice to any consumer that uses those platforms. We have the teams - I believe we have over 4,700 people, 4,200 of those in production - because we have this desire to cover all the genres.

Do you envision a time when the separate teams behind these games are given their own 'personalities' - like the Take 2 approach to internal groups?

There's a discussion in house to do this type of studio.

Have you been looking into using middleware software like, e.g., Epic's Unreal Engine?

I know that our teams are looking into it. It's in their hands to see what it brings to our teams to enhance the experience.

We will always focus on the best experience. If we think we cannot match the experience offered by middleware or other such software then we might use the software.

Do you see it going the other way?

No, it is not really our business. We are very internally focused, doing everything in-house, so we have a very strong cultural group in-house.

EA has a presence on the new BlackBerry devices at their stand, will we see Gameloft titles also making their way to BlackBerry?

We have to leave some room for our 'friends'. We will be supporting most of the tablets and smartphone stuff stuff that have potential and makes sense in terms of the experience.

Each manufacturer selects games he wants to embed on the device. We're not sure Need For Speed: Undercover and Tetris are the most 'fresh', but it's Research In Motion's call.

In terms of iOS, we've heard from Guillemot about the Christmas sale. This year we've seen a Valentine's sale a week early - how do you feel about this?

It's a long-term Market, and we have to be careful that we don't get people used to the 59p price range. That's why we didn't move at Christmas when EA did. We could have.

We tried to make sensible decisions so that there is a price point that stays at a certain level for these types of experiences because they deserve a certain price point. Sacred Odyssey or Modern Combat deserve the price they are because they are very good games.

On the subject of Sacred Odyssey, it was an unusual price strategy for Gameloft [timed trial with an in-app purchase]. What was the thinking behind it and did it work out?

It's early days, but it's been pretty interesting. We try new models. There are new opportuities emerging with iOS to try, and you can expect more of these trials from us.

Will we see a freemium game in the same style of Green Farm?

Of course. You will see freemium, free to play, in-app purchase - you will see the types of new models coming to our games this year

Will the freemium titles be of the traditional FarmVille style titles or more the Gun Bros end of the scale?

The model can work for even the immersive style games. We just have to learn.

A number of developers I've spoken to in the past have been concerned there's a 'race to the bottom' in terms of pricing on the App Store. Is this also a feeling shared by Gameloft?

Yes, that's why we weren't that happy with the Christmas promotion because it was backed by Apple and they highlighted it on their store worldwide. One of their roles is to highlight premium content and to help publishers make money out of the platform.

There is already immense pressure on the prices but there is room for premium games at a premium price on the iPhone.

Thats what we need to keep going because the new generation of games we will be launching are seven-figure titles. It's not profitable to sell these games at 99c.

Do you see development costs for premium mobile games in the future echoing those of premium games on the home consoles due to the rapidly increasing power of smartphones?

We have a bit of time before we match the power of the PS3, but yes, the cost will grow. Will it reach 30, 40 million like Black Ops? Not tomorrow, but maybe one day.

There will be some challenges - battery life for instance. But yes, there will be more power and therefore require more investment.

Thanks to Gonzague for his time.
Will Wilson
Will Wilson
Will's obsession with gaming started off with sketching Laser Squad levels on pads of paper, but recently grew into violently shouting "Tango Down!" at random strangers on the street. He now directs that positive energy into his writing (due in no small part to a binding court order).