Interview with Outright Games
I’ve talked in the past about my weird passion with licensed games. I completely understand they are not always the exemplary case of a ten out of ten title that will be remembered for years to come, but something about their existence and the novelty of playing a game based on something that has originated in another kind of medium, has always fascinated me. In this particular spectrum, British publisher Outright Games reigns supreme as the king of modern licensed games, focusing entirely on releasing titles based on cartoons, movies, and other family-friendly franchises, such as Paw Patrol, How to Train Your Dragon, and Crayola.
I had the chance of interviewing two members of the Outright Games team, Business Development Manager Terry Malham-Wallis and Executive Producer Loz Doyle, to find out more about the company’s history, its business strategy, and its plans for the future.
First of all, I’d love to know how Outright Games was founded and what was the main reason it decided to work exclusively with licensed titles?
Terry Malham-Wallis: Outright Games is a family business founded in 2016 by Terry Malham Snr, who has worked in the games industry for over forty years. We have a passion for making games that the whole family can enjoy, so big brand family entertainment licenses are the perfect fit.
Nowadays, it’s pretty hard to find cartoon-based licensed titles being released on consoles. Outright’s output is almost exclusively aimed at consoles, not mobile. Could you explain this strategy?
TMW: To date we’ve launched nineteen titles, with a further twenty in production, taking us through the end of 2023. The plan was always to start with consoles and include mobile into the bigger strategy further down the line. This was precisely because of the exact point you raised about not being able to find quality cartoon based content on console. In 2021, we started our own mobile division, and to date, have launched two titles with MGA (the toy company): LOL Surprise! Movie Maker and Bratz Total Fashion Makeover, which together, have been downloaded over two and half million times. It’s a great start and there’s plenty more to come.
Outright has released games from all kinds of genres. Its Adventure Time game was a turn-based RPG. Crayola Scoot was inspired by Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Hotel Transylvania 3 felt like playing a new Pikmin. Do the developers pitch ideas for you to approve, as well as suggest franchises for you to work on, or do you usually acquire the license first and then look for a partner to work on said property?
TMW: Our process for creating game concepts has changed quite a lot as the business has grown. We now have an in-house team dedicated to creating new game ideas so quite often we start by identifying the license first. We work with the licensor to refine the high-level concept and then reach out to development teams with a request for pitches. We choose our development partners carefully and look for teams that match the vision, genre, and demographic we have in mind for the project.
The vast majority of Outright’s games are based on modern cartoons, but Transformers: Battlegrounds was clearly meant to evoke a sense of nostalgia for those who grew up with the franchise way back when. What was the decision behind attempting to release a game aimed at an older demographic?
TMW: That’s a great question, and yes, it does target a slightly older demographic. Transformers, as a franchise, has lots of series that are popular across all ages. Hasbro, who own the rights to Transformers, has its own stakeholders and creative directors that we work with closely to decide on the direction, art style, and ultimately the overall game. Transformers: Battlegrounds’ final form was the result of strong collaboration between Outright Games and Hasbro.
This is something I would love to ask as well about The Fast and the Furious. Is this a sign Outright is branching to other demographics, even if their upcoming F&F game is a lot more lighthearted than any other previous game in the franchise?
TMW: Similar to Transformers, the Fast and Furious franchise has many different elements that appeal to different demographics. The game is based on the Fast and Furious Spy Racers animated Netflix show for older kids, which was inspired by the film. We’ve really enjoyed working on it and think we’ve got a great racing game for the speedsters out there!
Crayola Scoot is one of your most unique games, not only because it was released in a time where extreme sports games were pretty much absent from the market, but also because, well, it was a Crayola game. How did you decide to make a game based on such a novel concept?
TMW: Crayola Scoot was a real passion project for the Outright Games team. Our CEO, Terry Snr, had wanted to make a scooter game for many years after watching how much fun his grandchildren were having playing on their scooters. From then, we started working with Crayola and the idea grew from there. Crayola is a huge family brand and their colour concept added a unique feature to the game that made it stand out from the crowd. We’re really proud of our Crayola game and feedback from customers has been really positive.
Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed was Outright’s first foray into anime games, and surprisingly enough, one of the very few anime games published by a Western developer. How was the process behind bringing the game to the West, and are there plans to work with similar franchises in the future?
TMW: Zoids Wild: Blast Unleashed was a unique opportunity for Outright Games. The game was already really popular in its home market and this partnership gave us the chance to bring the game to players in the West. We don’t have anything similar in the works at the moment, but we’re open to new opportunities.
As of now, all of Outright’s games are being developed for what are now considered last-gen consoles (PS4, Xbox One, Switch). Are there plans to start developing games for the PS5 and Xbox Series S/X in the near future?
Loz Doyle: Absolutely! While there have been shortages of those new consoles, that will ease over time, and we certainly intend on bringing our games to the next generation (of consoles and gamers!) As we head into 2022, quite a few of our titles will have native versions on the newer platforms, and I think from 2023 onwards, they all will.
We’ll continue to support the previous generation as well until we start to see demand for those falling away. That could be a while though, as those consoles get passed to younger siblings. We’re also trying to ensure that any games that feature co-op multiplayer aren’t just fun for the kids to play, but for their parents as well. I’m part of the PlayStation generation myself, so I know how important that is.
Finally, are there any other interesting licensed titles we should look forward to in the near future?
LD: Really sorry but that would be telling to much, wouldn’t it!? There aren’t any specific titles that I can announce here, but as you know, at Outright Games we’re always looking for new opportunities to bring exciting video game experiences to younger gamers. And next year is no exception; in fact, it’s going to be another bumper year for releases from us. As they say – watch this space!