Ian Livingstone, OBE, is the Life President of Eidos interactive, the founder of Games Workshop and the co-author of the Fighting Fantasy game book series. Sam managed to get his ear for an interview at GCA, and saw his keynote address about his career and the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider brand.
I know what you want from me. I know why the name Ian Livingstone, and the name Eidos, inspire such a tingle in your cerebellum. But I have to tell you right here and now readers, that Mr. Ian Livingstone, OBE, gave nothing away. That said - maybe, just maybe - we can read between the lines. What I mean to say is: even if we don't have timing for certain upcoming sequels for certain beloved franchises, that doesn't mean that development isn't already underway, does it? What do you reckon? Study the following exchange.
NZG: "What about a sequel?" [to Batman: Arkham Asylum].
IL: "There's been no announcement about a sequel."
NZG: "But no announcement about a sequel and no thought about a sequel are two different things."
IL: "There's been no announcement."
This took place right after we'd spoken about the game, what it had done for Eidos, how it was faring even with game sales dropping off a bit in recent months. "We expect it to have quite a long tail, right up to and past Christmas," Ian said. Good news, indeed, and even more reason a sequel should be in the works, but he was very quiet on this issue as you can see. I wonder what was left unsaid. But, hey, We're here to report facts. So another fact, then, about Batman: "We had one guy working for eighteen months just on animation and sound effects of the cape."
NZG: "And the next Tomb Raider?"
IL: "I can't really say much about that."
NZG: "We're back to the sequel question again, aren't we? And you're a bit tight lipped about all that."
IL: "Until we announce things formally on a global scale it's really impossible to comment."
NZG: "Well, we try our luck, don't we?"
IL: "Yeah. I always get in trouble with our PR department. Because I'm so passionate about games - I want to talk about them, but with my Eidos corporate hat on, it has to go an official way."
No denial something's happening there. But no details either. For the next big things from Eidos it's very much a case of watch this space.
Ian Livingstone was genial and open about all other aspects of his career and his company. He spoke about the importance of the Asia-Pacific market and keeping on top of what's going on in this part of the world. As he puts it, "...you gotta do the air miles." For him, working in the games industry has been a labour of love that goes back 40 odd years. He started out distributing Dungeons and Dragons - the rights to be Europe's exclusive distributor came to him by post from the game's inventor when he and Jackson had tried to order six copies from Wisconsin, USA. For his 50 pounds, Livingstone found himself part of what would become a fairly lucrative deal. At the time it was more of a pain. To afford office space for their company - Games Workshop - the trade off for Jackson and Livingstone was sleeping in a van.
One of the things Livingstone loves about games is that they are constantly evolving. In his keynote on Friday evening, he talked about emerging technologies and the continual advancement of platforms. The iPhone (to which his old Fighting Fantasy books are to be ported by October/November), Nintendo DS and other handhelds, home consoles, online space, personal computers...
He says it's "no surprise," that games are bigger than movies, music or books. For Livingstone, there really is no comparison.
In Lara Coft: Tomb Raider, his company owns a truly epic brand, and he used this as an example for the importance of developers to own original Intellectual Property. The character that started as Lara Crus, when a man called Toby Gard decided to build a new hero based on the girl power movement, has grown to be a hugely important - almost real - person. She has a certain, undeniable sexual edge, which Livingstone partly attributes to the success of the franchise. With the target market being boys and men of a certain age bracket, we're talking over 34 million copies since her 1995 debut.
The success of the brand has been capitalised on for advertising, with companies like Visa, Pepsi, Timex and Lucozade all cashing in. Lucozade enjoyed 11% growth following their Lara Croft ad campaign, which were a mix of live action and animation. The movie did over $500m at the box office and another $100m in DVD sales. Things got a little rough around the time they decided a Lara Croft record was a good idea, though. Livingstone cranked this up for our benefit and I'm surprised it didn't clear the room. Talk about tragic.
But all the crappy CDs in creation can't ruin publicity like this: during Lara Croft's first big flare up, the then goal keeper of the English football team attributed a poor performance in an international game to having stayed up all night playing Tomb Raider. And when The Prodigy delivered an album a year behind schedule, they blamed her, too.
Livingstone's message for aspiring game developers is pretty simple - "If you don't believe in it, don't do it. Don't do it if it's work." Hark - be they singing angels? No, seriously, coming from a man with such a distinguished career, and with a newsletter called Owl and Weasel at one end and Xbox smash hits at the other, such a basic ethos rings very true. It was an absolute pleasure to chat with one of the industry's greats.
Mini Ninjas is the latest launch from Eidos, and Livingstone is optimistic about it despite the difficulties, he says, of developing for children. The NZGamer.com review hit on 3 September, so if you haven't checked it out, go take a look when you get a chance.
Leipziger Messe gave us chairs to sit on and a table to lean on. Oh, and they flew us here and stuff. Cheers LM!