Interview

Speaker Spotlight: Amber CEO Mihai Pohontu on creative destruction, fearless indies and corporate rebels

Speaker Spotlight: Amber CEO Mihai Pohontu on creative destruction, fearless indies and corporate rebels

Pocket Gamer Connects London 2019 will take place on January 21st to 22nd. To give you a taste of what to expect, we'll regularly be publishing interviews with the speakers at the show.

For more details on PGC London and to book a ticket, head to the website here.

In today's Speaker Spotlight we're talking to Mihai Pohontu, CEO of Bucharest-based game development agency Amber.

Previously Pohontu was VP of emerging platforms at Samsung, working to build the developer ecosystem around the company’s product line. Prior to joining Samsung, he oversaw product operations at Disney Interactive, a team of 600-plus staff distributed across nine locations around the world.

While at Disney, Pohontu founded the Partners group, delivering a portfolio of co-development and licensing projects, leveraging Disney properties and franchises to deliver high-quality entertainment created by external studios and publishers, such as the top 50 grossing game Frozen Free Fall.

Prior to Disney, Pohontu was the VP and general manager of central development services at Electronic Arts, overseeing operational teams supporting 18 development studios on three continents. He founded and was the general manager of EA Romania, one of the largest game development studios in Eastern Europe.

At PGC London, Pohontu will host a talk entitled '101 Concepts for Games Innovation'.

PocketGamer.biz: Could you tell us a bit about your talk?

Mihai Pohontu: The games industry has the highest rate of creative destruction in tech, as we permanently contend with new platforms, business models, design and art trends.

This ever-shifting landscape forces large games entities to retreat into familiar tropes with certain commercial outcomes, but the future belongs to those who innovate, pushing the creative boundaries of the products and the outer limits of technology.

The future belongs to those who innovate, pushing the creative boundaries of the products and the outer limits of technology.
Mihai Pohontu

This talk will review a series of concepts ripe to be exploited by fearless indies or corporate rebels everywhere, from flicksyncs to metaverse-morphing neural networks.

Tell us a bit about the company.

Amber is primed to support creative industries by offering a full range of turn-key product development and live service solutions. The company maintains five service pillars: game development, co-development, live operations, custom engineering and development support.

Established in 2013, Amber has over 300 staff in its development centres and its team hails from some of the industry's best and brightest companies, such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Gameloft, Bandai Namco, Disney and others.

Amber is an employee-owned company headquartered in Bucharest, Romania, with outposts in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California.

What does your role entail?

Running the company, with a focus on laying out strategy, overseeing the operational performance of all business units, driving the development and growth of the agency.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

Absolute love for the medium, starting with an early age and hasn't abated with years and maturity.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?

Games development is the most complex form of artistic expression, requiring a blend of high technology and art. It's the apogee of humanity's creative evolution, but demands a high sacrifice, at an intellectual and emotional level, in order to attain and sustain top performance.

Making games is not a job per se, but a way of life.

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

As always, the games space continues to be dynamic and surprising. I'm excited to see new AR systems come to market, blockchain gaming showing up at the party and the advent of new game streaming platforms.

There's more diversity of content and platforms than at any point in the history of gaming.
Mihai Pohontu

At the same time, there's more diversity of content and platforms than at any point in the history of gaming, sustaining both market-leading enterprises and indie micro-studios alike.

What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?

I'm keeping a close eye on advances in the field of neurogaming, which I believe will deliver a major disruption to all interactive entertainment, especially as XR and blockchain enter the inevitable "trough of disillusionment" phase of the hype cycle.

I'm also intrigued about applying machine learning to procedural systems so that a game can actively learn from the play style of an individual or the community and independently adapt to it.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

Over the past two decades I've been active in the games industry, the only constant has been change and the relentless proliferation of modes of play.

The industry is more diverse, more innovative and more competitive than at any point in history. We are definitely entering a golden era, which will surpass everything that came before, with challenges to match.

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?

As the name of the conference implies, the best part is connecting - with people, first and foremost, but also with the latest thinking on game dev, the latest business opportunities, trends and design innovations.

Find out more about Pocket Gamer Connects London 2019 on the website.


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