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Ed Daly explains Zoë Mode

Head of development studio behind Crush for PSP discusses decision earlier this year to turn itself into a person.


BRIGHTON, UK--In March, Kuju's Brighton studio announced a rebranding with a difference--from now on it was a "fun and accessible" woman called Zoë Mode. Its first game under the new moniker--Crush for the PlayStation Portable--was released in May to a warm critical reception. Speaking at the Develop Conference & Expo on the UK's south coast today, studio head Ed Daly explained the move in a presentation titled "Studio Brand: Does it Matter?"

Daly said that he always knew that the move would be unpopular with some, and perhaps even seem a little silly. "But," he said, "the worst case scenario would be rebranding and [having] nobody notice, and that made us a little risk happy. We needed to do something drastic to break away from the Kuju brand."

The company started by hiring a consultant and identifying what was unique about the studio, and came up with a list including that it specialized in social and casual games and games for families, and was based in Brighton. The resulting character match was the character Zoë Mode, and he showed a picture of the young blonde sitting on the beach playing her DS.

The decision was also made to have an image of Zoë from a real-life model as opposed to a virtual babe like Lara Croft or a manga-style character. This was done because the company wanted to emphasise it was real, and the games it made were for real people.

Daly added, "We make games for Zoë and her family. Zoë is our conscience that 'signs off' on what we do. We ask 'What would Zoë do?' and 'Would Zoë like that?' kind of questions. It does help to have a reference point, even if she's imaginary."

Daly also told the audience that Zoë Mode was actually not the first choice of a nom de plume. Zoë Mode was originally Zoë Echo, but just weeks before the company was due to announce it, Marc Ecko announced his own games label called Ecko Games, and it was decided that the names were too similar.

However, Daly admitted that the move hasn't been all smooth sailing. One of the hardest things for the company was getting the staff to buy into the change.

"We did get some negative first reactions," Daly said. "However, associations change over time. A good example of this is the Wii. It's a strong product so people accept it... We haven't lost people because of it."

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