The lights are on
Earlier this week, Iron Galaxy announced that Adam Boyes, the longtime head of developer relations and third-party publishing at Sony's U.S. games division, was coming on as the new CEO. Boyes had previously worked with Iron Galaxy founder Dave Lang at Midway in the early 2000s. Along with Boyes' addition, director of product development Chelsea Blasko was promoted to chief product officer. With a new-look leadership team, Iron Galaxy is hoping to expand on what the team has already done, as well as explore new areas of expansion and growth.
Iron Galaxy is perhaps best known for its work on fighting titles like Killer Instinct, Divekick, and Wreckateer, but the studio's catalog extends beyond those games. In addition to original development like those titles, Iron Galaxy has become one of the go-to studios for ports, working on releases including PS3/Xbox 360 ports of Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, and Darkstalkers Resurrection. The studio also worked on the Vita port of Borderlands 2 and the PC ports of the two most recent Batman: Arkham titles, Origins and Knight – the latter being widely criticized and eventually pulled from storefronts until it could be fixed.
Most recently, Iron Galaxy published Videoball, a sports game from indie developer Action Button Entertainment that has received strong pre-release reception.
We had a chance to chat with Boyes, Blasko, and Lang about how this move came about, what Boyes' addition means for Iron Galaxy, and their visions for the future.
Game Informer: What were the discussions like leading up to both Adam and Chelsea’s new roles?
Dave Lang: So, Chelsea’s been here the last six years – the company is almost eight years old now – and we’ve been growing steadily over that time doing just work-for-hire stuff. And it’s been really good, but it got to the point where we were so big that all of our focus was just keeping the existing business running and getting games out and we couldn’t focus on future planning and stuff like that. And so, we just kind of needed more firepower at the top of the company and when I started thinking about who that should be and who makes sense to bring into what me and Chelsea kind of established here, Adam was really the only person on the list. Obviously we’re really good friends, but above and beyond that, and more relevant to this discussion, and we worked together at Midway, we kind of came up through the ranks there. I know exactly what kind of person he is and seeing what he’s done at Sony and the kind of things we suck at and the things he’s awesome at just seem to go hand-in-hand. So, it also just fits. Adam as CEO is going to plot out the future stuff, and Chelsea and I can focus on the present and executing on what’s here. So, it all just kind of fits in my perspective.
Adam Boyes: Obviously I have my own reasons for coming on board. Dave and I have known each other; we came up at Midway together in 2003, we joined the same year within a couple weeks of each other. So, we’ve always kept in touch and worked across all of the different companies that I’ve been working with. But, for me it was just getting back to game development and, not necessarily getting my hands on the keyboard and programming, but working with creative teams and being able to build stuff was a huge, huge draw for me, and this is an incredible team of super-talented people that it just started making sense the more Dave and I were jamming on it.
GI: Adam, you said you were excited to get back into the game development side. What was so attractive about that?
AB: Well, you know, it’s funny, Brian. Because, I mean, when I was at Midway, when Dave and I were there together, we worked on SlugFest: Loaded and on Blitz: The League. There was this sort of... and it actually dawned on me from [working at Sony] – I loved my job there and I loved working with publishers and developers from around the world, and nothing made me happier than seeing a game like Firewatch come out and be super successful or The Witness and all these different studios that put their blood, sweat, and tears. And what I started to realize was giving birth to a product and putting it out into the marketplace [comes with a] roller coaster of emotions.
So as I traveled around the different studios and over the past year, I started just missing that feeling of being part of a family that focuses on one thing, which is putting out a game and pouring their heart and soul into it. I started sort of looking at my background of all the different, you know, from working in very complicated scenarios of like, doing this Star Wars deal with LucasArts, Disney, EA and PlayStation sort of collaborating on all that stuff together. And I started thinking about how could I apply that to the gaming industry, and what’s happened in the gaming industry. Because, right now, I think it’s absolutely the most exciting time to be an independent developer in the history of the industry. And when I look at Iron Galaxy, it’s so well positioned for what’s happening, you know they’ve been so involved in all emerging platforms.
Every time a new platform is coming out, they’re doing work on it, from Kinect with Wreckateer to mobile stuff with Scribblenauts. We’re on the cusp of VR and AR stuff which is super, super exciting. Then obviously all the new console platforms as well and when we look at the fighting game world and eSports and what’s happening in that place. So, you start to stack all these things up and the work that they were doing in publishing, and then really leaned in a lot of things that I fully believe in for the future. And also stuff that I can get super passionate about and bring my strengths to the table with all my relationships with publishers. And also collaborations, right? These collaborations I’ve had on a larger scale with big IP holders and stuff like that.
You know, right now Iron Galaxy is sort of spread out between Chicago and Orlando and that’s a huge strength. They’re able to collaborate with partners and work very closely together, even if they are apart. How can we take that to the next level? How can we sort of make more collaborative partnerships and stuff like that. So, when you tie all these things up together, and I look at the landscape of where the future’s going next, you know, five, ten years, to me in was kind of a no-brainer. And then knowing Dave for the last 13 years and it was, you know, meeting the teams and going to the studios, it was just like, ‘This is what I want to do with this crew.’
Iron Galaxy CEO Adam Boyes
GI: Your experience at PlayStation got you a lot of relationships with other publishers and developers, so how does that carry into this role beyond what you just said? Obviously you bring a ridiculously strong rolodex with you, but beyond that, what does all that experience you had at PlayStation, both being the guy who works on these deals and being a face of that company, mean for this role?
AB: I think it means that obviously all that publisher experience can now be applied. Dave and his team have worked closely with publishing Capsule Force and Divekick and Videoball and stuff like that. So how do we take that aspect of the business to the next level? How do we really understand how publishing works? Because publishing is super complex, and a lot of time that we spent at PlayStation was working with studios to help them understand the relationships of platforms and low-line media and support and stuff like that. I've got a little bit of an inside track on how that stuff works and how to bring basically best-in-class publishing methodology to the company. And then when we look at those relationships with publishers, obviously they have a face that they know and trust and they can basically talk to. obviously Dave, the Iron Galaxy team, and Chelsea have done a phenomenal job with many, many publishers out there. This adds that extra sort of layer of certainty to publishers.
You asked a question about being the face of it. That definitely helps too. And that’s not just with publishers and developers, but also with the IP holders. So that really expands our abilities, so now in my opinion, there’s nothing stopping us from doing anything that we want because we can have these [...] different relationships, walk into the room and some of them have seen me pulling off some bad dad jokes from the E3 stage. But that experience and knowledge of having been involved in many of the biggest deals at PlayStation is going to bring a lot of information and guidance to the company that we can apply.
GI: Do you think we’ll see more publishing deals like what Iron Galaxy recently did with Videoball with you on board?
AB: I think it’s definitely a place where a lot of my strengths lie, but right now we are looking at all the different opportunities out there. There has been a lot of work for hire work done in the past, there’s some IP ideas that the teams have, and then there’s also the [publishing deals]. So Dave, Chelsea and I are basically meeting very regularly to sort of hash out what does the next 2-to-5 year strategy look like as we build that up together. So, we’re not going to talk about it yet, but we’re definitely working on it right now.
DL: I think going forward we have to have the ability to be consistently successful publishing things, just to kind of have more freedom to do what we want to do. Now does that mean we’re publishing other people’s stuff? Does that mean we’re publishing little indie things? Does that mean we’re doing fundraising and publishing of bigger opportunities at Iron Galaxy maybe? We don’t know those answers yet, but I think one thing we all agree on is that we need to be able to publish stuff consistently and successfully, to go forward.
On the next page, we talk with Chelsea Blasko to find out what her new role means for her.
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