In-Depth: Bigpoint's Hubertz Talks Bastings Hire, Mobile Market Entrance

Gamasutra talks to online game firm Bigpoint's two joint CEOs -- with Heiko Hubertz spearheading U.S. operations, while Discovery Networks EMEA vet Arthur Bastings takes over in Europe.
Online game company Bigpoint will now have two CEOs, as company head Heiko Hubertz announces he's brought on former Discovery Networks EMEA managing director Arthur Bastings to oversee the company's German headquarters while Hubertz looks after Bigpoint's U.S. arm. Bastings will start in the coming week, Hubertz tells Gamasutra. "The reason for that is I moved to the U.S. in April last year, to head our entity there, and I think it makes total sense that we have two CEOs in the company if I'm in the U.S. and we need someone here at the Hamburg headquarters," he explains. At Discovery Networks, Bastings was credited with successfully expanding the company's initiatives to the Europe, Middle East and Australia regions. Prior to that, he worked at Turner Broadcasting's European television arm, where he ultimately became managing director for Northern and Central Europe. "We will always sit together talking about strategy and the next steps," Hubert explains to Gamasutra of the close working relationship he plans with Bastings. "Of course, we will also talk on a weekly -- even on a daily basis -- but in the end, we're both in charge of the worldwide company," he says. "I have more of a focus on the U.S., and Arthur has the focus on Europe." The U.S. office has been much more core-focused than Bigpoint's overall global efforts, including games that Hubertz calls "blockbuster-type," such as Battlestar Galactica and Ruined. "Everything is based in Europe, so here we do all the localization, community management worldwide and also development of new games," Hubertz explains. Worldwide the company has reached 790 million users, across 60 games in 25 languages. "We're doing three-digit million numbers in revenue, and two-digit million numbers in profit," Hubertz tells us. In his words, the U.S. office -- currently around 90 employees -- is "hiring like crazy at the moment, because we want to develop many more games." The goal? 200 employees by year-end, in the U.S. alone, says Hubertz. Primarily, the development arm works with Unity technology, and while Bigpoint has begun to nurture IPs like Ruined, it has also been working closely with Universal Studios' third-party IPs like The Mummy, Dracula and Frankenstein. "The partnership is very close with Unity," says Hubertz. "I think we are one of the studios who have the most simultaneous projects in development with the Unity technology, and we're developing many IPs -- even IPs we haven't announced quite yet." Working with Unity is part of the company's strategy to drive browser MMOs with a higher-quality look -- "We're also very happy with the installation rate," says Hubertz. The console space, on the other hand, is "absolutely not our market," and Bigpoint has no intention to pursue it. "The biggest challenge we have with online gaming is, how do you meet the expectations of the users?" says Hubertz. In his view, Bigpoint is currently addressing such a diverse market, one that transcends traditional bounds of male versus female, core versus casual audiences, and there are so many creatives involved, that having refined and specific visions for each product and how it addresses the market is currently the company's biggest mandate. Currently Bigpoint has some big technical decisions to make regarding formats like Flash and Unity, and how to reach its audience, Hubertz says. "And then you don't just develop games for the online market -- you can also develop games for the mobile market," he says. Flexible tech lets the company "go across any device," in his words. "I'm proud to get Arthur on board to make the company even more successful," Hubertz says. As he's new to the firm, Bastings tells Gamasutra he'll have to spend some time getting to know the teams and determining an ideal strategic direction. "I want to understand better the strengths and weaknesses, the short and long-term priorities and opportunities," he explains. "So it's my Day Zero, but obviously Bigpoint is a very dynamic company -- it's growing very fast -- and so I do expect for things to change over this time period," Bastings adds.

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