Q&A: Sega Europe's Matt Woodley

Sega Europe has been busy buying up various studios and expanding others--we talk to creative director Matt Woodley about the thinking behind the strategy.

The past 12 months have been a busy time in the games industry, particularly for Sega Europe. Following acquisitions of studios Creative Assembly (developer of the Total War series) and Sports Interactive (of Football Manager fame), it was recently announced that Sega's Racing Studio outfit would double in size.

At a time when some high-profile publishers are feeling the pinch, Sega seems to have bucked the trend. GameSpot UK recently caught up with Matt Woodley, Sega Europe's creative director, to find out a little more.

GameSpot UK: Sega has made some interesting purchases recently--what has the reasoning behind these acquisitions been?

Matt Woodley: It's part of our strategy to improve our release schedule by working with the best developers worldwide, not just those in Japan. As two examples, Sports Interactive and Creative Assembly not only make the best games in their genres but also make the types of games that were missing from Sega's previous lineup. We had gaps to fill and went for the best to fill them. That's true of all the individual titles we have been acquiring, too, not just company acquisitions. For example, Bizarre Creations is working on The Club for us--we needed a superb third-person shooter that would take the genre to a new level, and it looks like that's exactly what we are getting.

Although it's by no means an easy target to achieve, we are striving to make the best games possible across a wide variety of genres. Hopefully, we can do this by investing in the talent we have whilst innovating at all levels. Making games isn't a science, but you sure as hell can minimise the risk by working with and nurturing the best talent. That's a big part of our philosophy. Let's be honest, Sega is driven by a desire to be successful and thus driven by making money, but the deal with our industry is that well-developed, researched, and marketed games tend to bring you such rewards, so that's our daily focus.

GSUK: Racing Studio has also expanded now--which titles will they be working on?

MW: For now, the only title we have announced is the next-generation version of Sega Rally. I'm talking to you right now from the Studio, having just seen the latest code on PlayStation 3, and have to say I'm very impressed.

GSUK: It's a difficult time for big brands in the industry--with others feeling the heat, how is Sega getting on?

MW: I think that Sega is in a completely different position to most publishers in the industry. We have a genuine vision and the support of the most dynamic and intelligent executives I have come across. Sega is part of a large Japanese group--Sega Sammy Holdings--and the desire of our board is that the company succeed, and we have been given the appropriate resources to do that. It will take time, but I'm totally confident that Sega will once again be the biggest brand in video games--worldwide.

GSUK: Are we likely to see further acquisitions this year?

MW: I can't comment on this.

GSUK: How will Sega approach the issue of next-generation titles--spiralling costs and development time are surely an issue?

MW: Well we've done OK so far with decent launch titles for 360, and I genuinely think that our PlayStation 3 launch lineup is looking the best out there, but we are totally aware of the pitfalls--mainly because we have such experience in developing for new hardware. Spiralling costs everyone needs to manage through careful planning--the industry needs people with great project-planning abilities as much as it needs great creative talent.

GSUK: Thanks for your time.

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