Hachette has bought mobile games development studios Neon Play in a “substantial” acquisition. Hachette c.e.o. Tim Hely Hutchinson has said the acquisition “could be one of several” for the company in the app space.
Neon Play was founded by co-owners Oli Christie and Mark Allen in Cirencester in 2010 and to date has created over 30 games, including Paper Glider, Flick Football and Panic Traffic London, attracting over 60m downloads.
The studio, which has won 20 business awards including the Queen’s Award for Innovation, will be tasked with “creating, developing and marketing new mobile games” as a standalone business under the Hachette UK umbrella.
Although terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, Hely Hutchinson said it was a “substantial acquisition designed to lead to substantial revenues”, and was also a “serious first step” for Hachette in a bid to make its business “more digital”.
Referring to the mobile gaming industry as “complementary” to the book industry, Hely Hutchinson anticipates that trade and educational publishers will become “more like 50% digital” within the next five to 10 years. He told The Bookseller mobile gaming is “part of the future of the book industry”, with games the biggest and fastest growing part of the app market, while e-books, currently in decline, are “so similar to print books … they barely count as digital objects”.
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He added: “It’s something where we are very much on the front foot. E-book sales are not declining because people don’t like digital things. They are declining because there is less discounting in the market. So that is the main reason why e-book sales are lower this year. In fact e-books are so similar to print books that they barely count as digital objects. What people are really looking for with the digital world is more interactivity. So communicating with each other on social networks and playing games, you’re not just looking at something, you’re directly involved. And that’s where we want to be.”
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Hely Hutchinson (left) said that conversations with Christie and Allen had shown him their efforts with apps to date were “somewhat amateurish”.
“They know infinitely more than we do about the app market and how to make an app work, and I think the skills and knowledge they have at Neon Play will help us, for example with a cookery book app or an educational app that actually has nothing to do with games, so I see the acquisition as taking us several steps forward in various parallel relevant directions,” he said.
Hachette has already seen success in the games market with New Star Soccer in May, a game and a book all in one, that was produced in partnership with game developers New Star Games and Insight Studios, and contributed to by award-winning children’s authors The2Steves (Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore). It hit 35,000 paid downloads in its first week and charted in Apple’s top 10 apps.
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Hely Hutchinson said the mobile game market “is not for all books,” because “they have to be big enough – have a big enough market – to justify the potential investment, which is quite large.”
Discussions with authors and agents whose books are candidates for gamification would start “from scratch,” Hely Hutchinson said. “Even if we happen to have a very broadly worded contract we would never go to authors and agents ‘we’ve got these rights, we’re going to exploit them’. We would always want to go to the author and agent and discuss the whole thing with them whether the games dimension is the sort of thing they want to do and we would start the terms discussion from scratch.
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“We see ourselves as having a role of taking, sensitively, creative people’s work to market and turning it into money – income – for creative people. It doesn’t mean we at Hachette can do everything, we are not of the scale to be producing Hollywood-style movies, but there are some things we can do where the investment level is affordable, which will widen our offer to our traditional author base and also give us potential new products where we can gain a very good understanding and do the job properly.”
PG is not familiar with the mobile gaming world, but he tried to imagine what Hachette could bring to a company that makes games. He couldn’t come up with anything but money.