A fresh and dynamic team has landed in Brighton, with a select group of developers already making their mark. As the CEO of IO Interactive, Hakan Abrak, reveals to GamesIndustry.biz, this crew has prior experience on ventures bearing notable similarities to IO’s own offerings.
Best recognized for its famed Hitman series, IO Interactive maintains teams in prime locations including Copenhagen, Malmö, Barcelona, and Istanbul.
IO Interactive’s Strategy: Talent Meets Opportunity
Abrak explains that their unique strategy, conceived before the COVID-19 era, revolves around seeking talent at its source. Rather than outsourcing freelancers globally, the goal is to establish studios in prime spots, blessed with attractive locales, a rich pool of talent, and untapped potential.
“Each of these cities has a unique charm to offer. They’re all coastal, bustling, and beautiful—something about the sea it seems,” Abrak chuckles. “They’re vibrant cities anyone would want to call home, boasting an abundance of existing AAA talent or rising stars in the making. Brighton exemplifies both these traits. It holds a promising future in the gaming industry, with an already thriving developer ecosystem. Over 22 studios reside in Brighton alone, with the massive Creative Assembly just to the north.”
Why Brighton was IO’s Choice in the UK
Other UK cities were considered, but ultimately Brighton won out.
“We’ve had our sights on the UK for a while, given its history of legendary studios,” Abrak discloses. “The country’s vibrant ecosystem, spurred by the continual emergence of new studios, was appealing. We explored options in Leamington Spa, Newcastle, and even Edinburgh, but Brighton’s energy was unmatched. With its dense developer population and proximity to London, it enhances our global network of studios.”
Brighton and the Upcoming James Bond Game
Brighton’s location also harmonizes with the company’s forthcoming James Bond game, currently known as Project 007. As a quintessentially British brand, James Bond fits right in with Brighton, a stone’s throw away from Pinewood, where Bond films are produced.
“We joked about the English pride in their football and their hope of winning the World Cup,” Abrak shares. “While they may not have succeeded yet, we found humor in the thought of something else coming home to the UK.”
The UK and its Video Games Tax Breaks
Creating a team in the UK benefits IO Interactive beyond geographical and cultural alignment. They could qualify for the nation’s video games tax breaks, given their development of a culturally British game. Although this wasn’t the primary motivation behind their UK expansion, Abrak explains that the company is looking into these tax break opportunities now that they have established a legal entity.
“Each country, be it Turkey or Spain, offers unique benefits to attract the industry,” Abrak comments. “The UK does offer some very appealing tax breaks, but our primary reason for being here lies in the rich history and vast talent pool, especially with Brighton studios producing games similar to our own.”
The Brighton Team: A Diverse Portfolio of Projects
Differing from the usual IO Interactive approach, a small team is already in place in Brighton, as opposed to the ground-up creation of their other studios. The current Brighton team is primarily focused on the company’s online fantasy RPG: Project Fantasy. As the team grows, it will also contribute to Project 007.
Abrak highlights that they’re shifting from the typical structure of assigning single projects or project elements to individual studios. “Anybody, regardless of their studio location, can work on different projects,” he asserts. This structure prevents any single location from becoming overgrown, maintaining a cap of around 150 people per studio.
IO Interactive’s Vision: The Human Touch and Global Collaboration
When asked why IO Interactive hasn’t chosen to be a remote-first studio, Abrak cites two key reasons: maintaining real-time collaboration within similar time zones, and the value of the ‘human touch’.
He emphasizes, “I firmly believe in human interaction, particularly when you’re working on something new and innovating. Having people connect beyond Teams or Zoom calls, allowing them real interactions, is incredibly important.”
Even with team members across various countries, Abrak asserts that they put considerable effort into ensuring different disciplines are represented in all studios. This allows the creation of an ecosystem where colleagues can discuss game development over a cup of coffee, promoting real-time creativity and collaboration. The result is a dynamic and thriving studio culture that champions diversity, talent, and a love for game development.
- IO Interactive official website – https://www.ioi.dk/
- GamesIndustry.biz – https://www.gamesindustry.biz/
- Creative Assembly website – https://www.creative-assembly.com/
- UK Government page on Video Games Tax Relief – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/corporation-tax-creative-industry-tax-reliefs
- Pinewood Studios official website – https://www.pinewoodgroup.com/