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Tate Multimedia, once a development house, has transitioned to a full-time publisher. Formed over twenty years ago, the company has spent the last nine years publishing its own titles. They recently launched an internally developed title, Kao the Kangaroo, on six different platforms — digital and physical — worldwide. Now they plan on sharing their experience with others.
Paul Leskowicz, VP and founder of Tate Multimedia, has been in the industry for over two decades. I had a chance to talk to Paul via an online meeting and ask a few questions about his past and the future of Tate.
GamesBeat: How did you get into publishing?
Paul Leskowicz: My first experience was in San Diego, California trying to help a local team finish a game. I was a producer back then. It was 20 years ago and I was working for the group that was formed by Virgin Interactive and Titus.
I was sent over to San Diego to help finish a game that was pending for many years. That’s how I got into publishing myself. After that, Titus group collapsed along with the other companies including interplay. I got into dev 20 years ago and nine years ago I decided that it would be the right time to get into self-publishing. And that’s what we did. Nine years ago we started self-publishing our own titles.
GamesBeat: So you folks are moving from doing some development to just publishing?
Paul Leskowicz: Yeah, full scale publishing. The idea was an evolution, you know? Throughout the years we started by publishing our own titles. We had more than 10 PC and console games that we self-published over these last nine years. After that, we started thinking about moving into publishing third party developers, so we can share our experience good and bad, our successes, and our failures. Things that we would like them to avoid doing and things we would love them to do better than we did, you know?
GamesBeat: You folks are in the unique position of having worked on both sides of the fence. Do you feel your publishing experience has helped you bridge the gap?
Paul Leskowicz: Absolutely. We just published Kao the Kangaroo about a month ago. I am a hundred percent convinced that, without the nine years of publishing experience that we have, there was a very slim chance that we would have managed to publish this game on the same exact day, both retail and digital, worldwide, on six consoles. That’s what we did. It’s quite an achievement for my team.
GamesBeat: Other than experience, what incentives do you offer developers to join your team?
Paul Leskowicz: I think the first and foremost thing, the most important thing, is that we are investing very early on in the project. Even before the vertical slice. This requires a collaborative approach with these developers. They were careful and we were careful about how we would pick each other out. Because if we are not a good fit, well I’m not saying a marriage, but it’s a long way to share if we, if we start with fights. That’s why we decided that the IP remains with their company because the whole idea is not that we shine, it’s that they shine. Basically, they build their own house, their own dream team.
The developers we are working with are pretty young. They’re passionate, they’re taking risks because they are also giving up a lot of comfortable situations like jobs, etc. to fulfill their passion. So this is basically what we decided. They keep the IP. We share the revenue from day one. We invest with our own equity, which I would say is quite unique nowadays. I think that creates commitment from ourselves as well.
We are a group of 15 to 20 people here, so everybody needs to be hands-on. I would say like in sports, I can be a head coach, but the team has to play together and play nice. I really compare this to basketball because I’m a basketball player. Or I used to be, at least. I started playing in San Diego. My first experience when I started there, well, it wasn’t easy. I was young, even very young, and I noticed that the guys there were playing basketball at lunch. I wasn’t very welcomed back then. Because I was an outsider. A young kid, trying to teach them how to finish a game. I started playing ball with them and building relationships. This is how I got them to start sharing stuff and collaborating with me. We played ball every single day for the 6 months I was there.
GamesBeat: You’ve said the sweet spot for investing in a studio is between €500,000 and €2 million. That investment takes place early, so you’re investing in every part of the development process. Do you do a lot of work in-house, to manage costs?
Paul Leskowicz: Out of this 500,000 to 2 million, half of it goes into marketing, production, support, localization, QA, focus testing, and test marketing research. So some of those things we do internally, and some of them we farm out.
GamesBeat: How did you end up with the concept of letting developers keep their IP?
Paul Leskowicz: Based on my experience, I haven’t seen one example in the industry of an IP that wasn’t developed by the original developer to really succeed. Unless it’s triple A and you pour out a lot of money. That’s the first thing. The second thing is how can developers feel ownership if I start taking the IP or demanding that they give me the IP? How can I be fully honest if I start saying ‘if you fail, I’ll take your IP,’ you know?
GamesBeat: That can be a lot of pressure.
Paul Leskowicz: Absolutely. I know we’re taking risks, but it’s part of the game. We work with developers who see that we’re taking risks. They might be young and inexperienced, but the new generations are quite familiar with what it’s about to take risks with money. That gives leverage to our mutual collaborations that they don’t pretend, and they work hard to also deliver, you know?
GamesBeat: What would be the perfect project for your company?
Paul Leskowicz: The perfect project to me would be to expand and create another IP, whether big or small. I think all developers want to create something that stands the test of time, both their company and their games. So that would be great to achieve. To create a game that would get DLCs that would expand, and that would be bigger than just a one shot.
GamesBeat: Like a franchise.
Paul Leskowicz: Yes. Everything I do takes time, so I’m on the longer commitment thing as a person. My team is the same. I expect them to be owners of their projects. That’s why I talk about ownership, quality, and commitment. That’s just the way I’m made.
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