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Quantic Dream CEO says new publishing label wants games, not franchises
Guillaume de Fondaumière said Spotlight was established to help devs "who have something fresh to say."
September 8, 2023
5 Min Read
Quantic Dream CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière said the company decided to branch into publishing to help smaller developers break through in an industry that's become obsessed with the search for the next billion-dollar franchise.
Speaking to Game Developer at Gamescom 2023 about the French studio's new publishing label, Spotlight, the long-serving chief exec said that most established publishers are chasing a pot of gold at the end of the IP rainbow, but that Quantic Dream will take a different approach.
"We've met a lot of developers who've told us that it's hard to pitch publishers [in the current market], because they want to do something at a smaller scale," said de Fondaumière. "So we thought maybe there's a space for us here, to help those developers achieve their goals by using our own production and technical abilities."
He emphasized that Quantic Dream would never interfere in development unless a partner specifically asked for help, and that studios and creators signed with Spotlight will remain "fully independent."
Spotlight wants to unearth developers "who have something fresh to say," according to de Fondaumière, who added that Quantic Dream is approaching publishing from a position of humility.
"We've gone into this very humbly," he said, "because we're learning everyday. It's about stepping back and asking 'how was it when we started developing games?' and thinking about how we can apply [what we learned], and perhaps also help them avoid some of the mistakes we made along the way."
Quantic Dream wants to offer an alternative to franchise-hungry publishers
Quantic Dream is no stranger to the world of game development. The studio has worked with Sony Interactive Entertainment on multiple projects including Heavy Rain and Detroit Become Human, and de Fondaumière noted the company was often fortunate to work with publishing partners that "believed in us."
He also said those experiences mean Quantic Dream is all too familiar with the challenges and potential pitfalls of production, and expressed a desire to use Spotlight to pass on what it has learned to the next generation.
"We've researched a lot of mechanics over a long time, so when a developer comes to us with certain dialogue mechanics, for example, and is struggling to find the right approach, we've probably investigated—not all—but a number of those possibilities. We've been there, so we can say 'if you try this, you're going to end up with this or that.'
"But we've been very clear with developers and ourselves that we're not creating the games. The final choice is still theirs. We're not here to intervene. We're here to support. There's a fine line—and some times you want to do more, but I don't think that's what we're here for."
Spotlight already has a growing slate of titles that includes Under The Waves, Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior, and Dustborn, but when I asked de Fondaumière about his long-term ambitions for the label, he indicated the publisher is more focused on the here-and-now. "We started the publishing department without any targets. Each time we see a proposition that we like and want to fight for, we'll try to sign it and see how we want to adapt our structure to be able accommodate it," he said.
He added that Quantic Dream wants spotlight to become known for its flexibility, largely because when development starts you never quite know how it's going to pan out. He said the label will cover 100 percent of a developer's budget in most cases and that IP acquisition isn't currently built into the company's plan.
NetEase acquisition has allowed Quantic Dream to become "more ambitious"
As we discuss what elements make a productive partnership—for de Fondaumière, transparency tops the list—I asked how NetEase's acquisition of Quantic Dream in the summer of 2022 has impacted the studio. "To be honest, nothing has change," he explained, noting that NetEase and Quantic Dream had already been working together for almost half a decade when the acquisition was announced.
That said, he acknowledged the financial backing of NetEase will help the company realize its vision and take on greater risks. "First of all, we have the ability to develop games like Star Wars: Eclipse," he added. "That's the starting point, but it also presents certain possibilities to be more ambitious at times."
Those burgeoning ambitions are reflected in the company's expansion plans. In 2021, Quantic Dream opened a new studio in Montreal to compliment its Paris operation. That same year, the company increased its headcount by over 50 percent.
At around the same time, the company also faced allegations of studio misconduct and workplace toxicity, including apparent instances of sexist and racist behavior. Quantic Dream attempted to rebuff those allegations, taking French publications Le Monde and Mediapart to court after accusing them of libel.
A French judge ultimately found Le Monde guilty of libel, although Mediapart successfully defended its reporting practices against the lawsuit. It was a ruling that doesn't provide a clear picture, but during our interview I asked de Fondaumière how the studio will foster a positive workplace environment as it continues to expand.
"I think what is important is to have a very clear culture and explain to everyone what it means to work at Quantic Dream and what our values are," said de Fondaumière. "We now have a person who's taking care of onboarding talents and taking them through a seminar [...] to make sure that, even a month before a person arrives, he or she or they understands how the studio works and how to behave."
He suggested that, specifically because of the company's expansion, Quantic Dream has invested more heavily in human resources to enable a better quality-of-life within the workplace and nurture inclusivity. Whether or not the company can make good on that promise remains to be seen, but de Fondaumière said Quanitic Dream is committed to the process.
"It's important to clearly set out your code of conduct, clearly set the rules, and then live by those every step of the way," he added
About the Author(s)
News Editor, GameDeveloper.com
Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.
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