Team17 has grown phenomenally since you came to the market. How do you manage that growth, what have been the biggest changes within the business and what are the cultural changes during such an exciting period of change?
Our culture is very inclusive, we embrace the quirky here at Team17 and that runs from the top down and bottom up to ensure we protect it as we grow. Our people are the business and we will always ensure that they have the creative freedom needed to maintain both our culture and business goals. It’s important to understand that we retain an agile and entrepreneurial ethos, we don’t have a hierarchical management system, we are one team together and that is what we believe brings the most success. We are gamers at heart doing what we are incredibly passionate about and that means we have a very different approach to how other businesses would be managed. Ultimately, our success comes from total dedication to the day-to-day business.
How have you managed the pressures of video game development, particularly around the completion and launch of more complex titles whilst remote working?
I know it’s a bit of a stereotype, but many across the gaming sector are introverts, so lockdown fits their lifestyle outside of officebased working, but equally brings challenges as we rely on office environments for that social fix. It has also been emotionally hard for many of our younger workforce and we’ve been working tirelessly to support everyone on our team; you’re never alone when you work here. In terms of delivering on titles, it has of course been challenging, particularly with larger scale or more complex projects, specifically big online multiplayer games, but we’ve faced the challenge head on and delivered in 2020. We also know this will be an important part of 2021 and are doing all we can with our partners and Teamsters to help ensure we are in a good place to deliver our pipeline as we did in 2020.
The business has generated a healthy cash balance and has now made two acquisitions since listing. How important will acquisitions be in your growth plans given the gaming sector is awash with Mergers & Acquisitions (“M&A”)?
We have a healthy pipeline of M&A opportunities which will form part of our story but are not central to our long-term vision. Remember, we have built a great company by being selective and focusing on our core values. I’ve always said M&A in gaming is really easy if you play the short-term EBITDA growth strategy but long term beneficial M&A takes being selective. Ultimately, we want to build partnerships with people who not only buy into our long-term values regarding growth, but also add real personal value to the wider business.
Can you give us any insight into what your M&A strategy is in terms of types of targets, will they always be development studios like Yippee or IP like Golf With Your Friends?
We are always looking at M&A opportunities. We focus on three areas all with long-term shareholder value first and foremost. They are: IP where it makes sense; studios or services that benefit the wider Group margins and wider Group strategic ‘good fits’ that meet long-term goals with likeminded growth companies.
There have been recent moves by your peers to attempt to replicate Team17’s successful games label. How do you see that competition impacting your business and your ability to find, develop and launch future third party games?
We’ve built something very unique and special within the games industry. Our secret sauce isn’t easy to replicate and whilst we still don’t see direct competitors doing exactly what we do, we see a variety doing small bits of some parts. Competition is healthy and it keeps us on our toes. Remember, we are constantly evolving and growing ourselves so that’s hard for others to keep up with our pace.
How important is the Greenlight process to Team17? Will Team17 always develop ‘Indie’ games or could we see you targeting AAA titles? Do you see streaming services as a threat or an opportunity for Team17?
Our Greenlight process sits at the heart of our business model and enables us to evaluate a large number of potential games both internally created or from external third-party developers. We make decisions on games based on assessing potential commercial upside using the knowledge and experience across our team. We are very focused on working with talented creators who want to build sustainable studios, new IP and develop franchises across many genres and on multiple platforms. That has always been our message and it will continue to be so.
How much do you typically invest in a title and what stage of development is the title when you chose to invest, how does that compare with your peers? How important are next generation consoles to the long-term success of the gaming sector and specifically to Team17? How important is the Greenlight process to Team17? Will Team17 always develop ‘Indie’ games or could we see you targeting AAA titles? Do you see streaming services as a threat or an opportunity for Team17?
There is no one size fits all model as each game is unique. Our involvement varies from a few years out to a few months before launch. Investment equally varies depending on what stage the 3rd party game is at as well as what type of game it is. Historically, our funding on an external game is below £1m but is likely to be higher for a 1st party game. That said, if we thought a game needed further financial support, we would happily invest above those thresholds if the commercials all stacked up.
Will Team17 always develop ‘Indie’ games or could we see you targeting AAA titles?
AAA is absolutely not where we want to play. It carries significant financial risk and exposure. Our indie portfolio model is at the heart of the business and culturally Team17 is a premium indie business, it’s very much in our DNA.
How important are next generation consoles to the long-term success of the gaming sector and specifically to Team17?
Console development has been a central part of the gaming industry for many decades. Despite the onset of streaming platforms, I believe that consoles have a significant role to play for the foreseeable future. We develop the vast majority of our games to be played on multiple devices including consoles and we want to make our games available to as many players as possible.
Do you see streaming services as a threat or an opportunity for Team17?
We see it as an opportunity for our business and we are already embracing them. We have a huge back catalogue of titles which lends itself to this model very well. As with everything we do – the commercial terms must be right for our business as does the timing which to date, they have been.
AGM 2021 – FAQs
Chris Bell has a number of other Board positions of companies. Have you done any analysis on the time commitments of Chris to the Chair role, and his commitment to Team17 and can you confirm the Group is happy with the level of input from Chris and his focus on Team17, and does not see any conflict of interest in respect of his time commitment resulting from his responsibilities and positions on other boards?
Chris Bell continues to show his commitment to the Chair role at Team17 and maintains a constant and regular dialogue with the Executive Team covering a range of business areas throughout the year. Alongside the contact and discussions with the Executive Team, his commitment can be seen from the formal Board and committee attendance record in the latest annual report where Chris attended all 11 Board meetings and 12 other committee meetings over the course of 2020.
Considering the company remains highly cash generative with a healthy balance sheet and little debt, what are the opinions on introducing a shareholder dividend in the future?
The Directors carefully review the decision regarding introducing a dividend and as outlined in the latest annual report, the Group has again decided to focus on retaining cash to further invest in the business and its growth plans at present. This can be seen by the recent acquisitions of Golf With our Friends IP and the StoryToys business. Therefore, the Directors maintain their approach not to propose a dividend at this time.