Brighton Week: Why Boss Alien is thankful there's no dominant developer in Brighton

Jason Avent on the city's open nature

Brighton Week: Why Boss Alien is thankful there's no dominant developer in Brighton
This the fifth part of our week-long look at the mobile development scene in Brighton.

The last twelve months has seen Brighton's Boss Alien become one of Britain's most successful mobile game developers.

This relatively fresh studio has undoubtedly helped shape the free-to-play model thanks to the success of its debut title CSR Racing.

Indeed, so phenomenal was the game's performance that, less than two months after its launch, publisher NaturalMotion revealed that it had generated $12 million in revenue in one months alone.

But, given Boss Alien's parent company – the aforementioned NaturalMotion – is based a good hundred miles north in Oxford, what keeps the studio and its managing director Jason Avent based on the English south coast?

Care in the community

"Brighton is a vibrant, exciting city with the sea on one side and the beautiful south downs on the other," says Avent.

"Game development is all about talented people. Brighton provides a lively, culturally rich and fun environment that's attractive to new hires and is a great place to live for our staff."

Jason Avent

The Brighton games community has been growing rapidly in recent years, partly due to the closure of larger studios such as Black Rock and the explosion of the independent development scene.

Arguably equally important, however, is the city's collection of quality pubs. After all, you can't be a truly British games community without a good pub or two.

"We all meet up once a month for drinks in a local pub," Avent tells us.

"There are various affiliations between the games studios here. Generally we support one another. Develop is held each year here and the city has hosted Rezzed and other industry events. It's a good centre for the games industry in the UK."

When we spoke to developers in Leamington Spa earlier this year, it seemed that battling for talent was a key issue in that particular UK gaming cluster.

However, Avent argues that this is not a problem in Brighton, as Boss Alien sees the human resources market as being just as global as the App Store.

"Since we're all pulling from a global talent pool, there's actually a lot less competition for staff than you'd think," claims Avent.

"The biggest benefit [of Brighton] is that we share advice and the studios support one another where we can."

Brighton is "not dominated by any one company"

As with the other studios we've spoken to in Brighton, we were keen to ask Boss Alien about what makes this city stand out from the many other games development hubs in the UK.

"I would guess that Shoreditch is dominated by Mind Candy [of Moshi Monsters fame] from a gaming point of view and Leamington is all about Codemasters," Avent says.

"We don't have an uber-studio of two or three hundred people in Brighton. I guess the closest is Creative Assembly but they're up in Horsham, which is a good 45 minute car ride away, so we never see any of those guys."

CSR Racing

Having smaller studios has helped to maintain a friendliness in the Brighton games community which is healthy for relationships between studios. Avent is very happy that Boss Alien's local area is not dominated by a single large studio.

"All the Brighton studios are less than 100 people currently," Avent claims.

"I'm sure that'll change over time but I think that helps to maintain more of a community feel that's not dominated by any one company."

The global development community comes to town

The annual Develop conference is in town this week and like all of the local studios, Boss Alien is seeking to take maximum advantage from having many of the UK and the world's best development and publishing talent right on its doorstep.

"I really enjoy Develop," says Avent. "It's good to see old friends and acquaintances."

"I'm not sure it changes the feel of the entire city but it certainly steers my entertainment and work agenda for a few days."

So what does Boss Alien do to make sure that its staff can enjoy the event and take on as much new knowledge as possible?

"We buy a lot of passes and our staff go to many of the sessions. It's usually a very informative conference with varied subjects and speakers," Avent tells us.

"We sometimes sponsor events to help studio recognition and our guys get the chance to meet up with people they've worked with before at previous companies. That can be great for hiring but it's also good for our guys to remember that they're part of a global development community."
Have you worked in video game development in Brighton? What was your experience of the area? Are you attending the Develop conference this week?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Joe just loves to go fast. That's both a reflection of his status as a self-proclaimed 'racing game expert', and the fact he spends his days frantically freelancing for a bevy of games sites. For, however, Joe brings his insight from previous job as a community manager at iOS developer Kwalee. He also has a crippling addiction to Skittles, but the sugar gets him through the day.


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