Interview

Ignited Artists CEO Danielle Deibler on its staff-first approach to making core mobile games

Superpowered by Sega Networks investment

Ignited Artists CEO Danielle Deibler on its staff-first approach to making core mobile games

One of the big recent M&A headlines was Sega Networks' investments in three western development companies.

Demiurge Studios is fairly well known thanks to its Marvel Puzzle Quest game, and we've already spoken to London studio Space Ape about what the deal means.

US start-up Ignited Artists is more of a mystery, however.

Time to find out more from CEO Danielle Deibler.

Pocket Gamer: Can you give us some background on Ignited Artists - the co-founders and the vision?

Danielle Deibler: What makes Ignited Artists different than other game studios?

It all starts with a simple question, "What if a game studio valued its people more than anything else, even more than its products?"

That was the vision that Alessandro Tento, Scott Foe, and I shared and that is what makes Ignited Artists different: We are about the people.

We set no upper-bounds on bonuses: Some people think that making your employees rich will create competitors. We know that when you make employees rich and happy, your biggest risk is a Porsche collision in the company parking lot.

Everybody at Ignited Artists is a creator. We know that amazing creators want to work with other amazing creators.

It all starts with a simple question - What if a game studio valued its people more than anything else, even more than its products?
Danielle Deibler

It's our goal to never say, "No." If you have an idea, our policy is, "Don't guess; test." Show us your idea is awesome.

As for the co-founders who sparked this vision for a people-first game studio, well, there's me, CEO of Ignited Artists, Danielle Deibler. I am a longtime Silicon Valley technologist. I was entrepreneur-in-residence at Trinity Ventures and I was senior vice president of technology at Kixeye, where I helped to grow Kixeye from the low teens to 500 employees, and helped them launch their two most-successful products to date - Battle Pirates and War Commander.

There is also Alessandro Tento, former vice president of art at Activision Blizzard, where he contributed to blockbuster franchises such as Call of Duty, Skylanders, and Guitar Hero. Alessandro has also worked in film, and shares an Oscar for Best Animated Feature for Shrek. Alessandro will be chief creative officer for Ignited Artists.

Rounding out the team is the famous Scott Foe as chief product officer, who I think everybody knows. Scott's one of the few designers in the west who has over a decade of free-to-play experience and he's in your Mobile Gaming Hall of Fame.

That sounds great but how do such noble statements work in an industry that is highly competitive and pushes everyone to the limits in terms of working hours, etc etc?

Haha! Let's slow down for a second: We never said that we are not about games. We value our games and we value our people above all else; and every last person that we hire will value games.

To the core of your question, "How can we act on such a noble cause?" Well, actions speak louder than words: Our actions will show that we put our people first.

People are going to love working at Ignited Artists, and players will be able to feel that passion in the products. Players are going to love the games that we loved working on together.

Forty hours is the standard workweek in the United States because people like Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor arrived at that number through scientific experimentation and measurement: These people were not altruists and "rested" is when human beings are most productive. You can't burn a candle from both ends: They knew that then and we need to get back to that now.

Can you reveal anything yet about the sort of games you want to make?

There are nearly two billion smartphones at market today and we estimate that there are hundreds of millions of hardcore gamers with smartphones out there who are not being satisfied.

"Hundreds of millions" of people is a huge addressable market and rivals the install base of history's most-popular dedicated gaming consoles.

People are going to love working at Ignited Artists, and players will be able to feel that passion in the products.
Danielle Deibler

Most-importantly: our creators, the people who work with us, love hardcore gaming: It's what gets them up in the morning. We're not making products for a market that is not us, and that makes a huge difference. We are the market that we are targeting, and you are going to feel our passion in our products.

More generally, what do you think are the key trends in the mobile games markets and what opportunities do they unlock?

Hardcore gaming. Hardcore gamers did not just vanish from the Earth in an extinction-level-event. Hardcore gamers are still out there; they have smartphones; and they are hungry for deeper, more-compelling mobile experiences than are available today.

Some say that hardcore gaming won't work for mobile: "The play sessions are much shorter, the internet weather conditions are too unpredictable, etcetera."

We know that console games don't work on mobile, you need to design for your platform. We believe that hardcore gaming can be done and mobile and will be done well. Crafting hardcore experiences for mobile is what we do, and you're going to love what we put in your hands.

You've decloaked with an investment from Sega. What does that mean in terms of future operations?

Sega Networks is very focused on allowing us to have independence, creative control, and autonomy as a studio.

In Silicon Valley, there is much discussion given to "smart money vs. dumb money," and taking money from Sega Networks really puts "smart money" on a whole new level: Taking money from Sega Networks is like taking money with superpowers.

We received a significant amount of Series A round investment from Sega Networks. While we're not required to publish through them, we will consult with them when the launch of a title comes. We will share that we plan on using them to publish our first title.

We are happy to have the uncountable benefits that come with Sega Networks' deep experience in the space and their global publishing reach.


Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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