Lonely Mountains: Downhill and SteamWorld Quest publisher Thunderful has named former [email protected] director Agostino Simonetta as its new chief strategy and investment officer.
Simonetta joins Thunderful having spent close to seven years working as the director of global partnership management at [email protected], the Microsoft-backed self-publishing initiative that paved the way for notable indie projects including Telling Lies, Deep Rock Galactic, Kentucky Route Zero, Untitled Goose Game, and more to make their way to Xbox platforms.
In his new role at Thunderful, which has expanded in recent years with the opening of a new studio in Malmo and a string of acquisitions including deals for UK studio Coatsink and Bridge Constructor publisher Headup, Simonetta intends to help the Swedish publisher connect with indie devs around the globe by ensuring it’s fully equipped to meet “both the needs of indie studios and the changing nature of the games business.”
Speaking to Gamasutra about what that soundbite means in real terms, Simonetta explained that while the advent of self-publishing and digital distribution has empowered game creators to take more risks and create new experiences that might not have been commercially viable during the era of retail dominance, it hasn’t solved the dilemma of discoverability.
“When I was an independent developer, the big challenges were access to the platforms, cost and complexity of the engine, and development tools. Today, whilst creating a game is still extremely difficult, the big challenge is discoverability, the continuous evolution of business models, distribution channels, and so on,” commented Simonetta.
“For this reason I often compare independent developers and digital publishers today to Italian Renaissance artists. In the same way those luminaries were not just artists (they were also doctors, scientists, mathematicians and so much more), game creators, both self-publishing or partnering up, need to have some sort of an understanding of the video game business at 360 degrees. On top of that, they also need to have a grasp of marketing, public relations, community management, sales business development and so much more.”
Simonetta believes his experience working at [email protected] and other companies including PlayStation Europe and SEGA Europe — where he served as senior account manager for development and executive producer, respectively — puts him in a unique position to help Thunderful meet the highly specific needs of today’s indie creators.
“These experiences offered me the incredible opportunity to learn so much about independent development and digital publishing — about the way game creators and publishers can take advantage of new platform initiatives, disruptive business models, and the wide spectrum of distribution opportunities available today,” he continued.
“In the early years of my career, the relations between developers and publishers were, if not easier, in general more straightforward than it is today. Today developers are looking for partners that best fit their needs, aspirations and preferences. As such, at Thunderful we can offer developers a relationship that is tailored to their specific needs. From full product funding to co-development, from complete publishing services to single project investments and all the way to full merge and acquisition, we will build relationships that fit what developers really need and want.”
As for what sort of projects and partners he’ll be searching for in his new role, Simonetta explained he wants to start out with a completely open mind. During his time at PlayStation and Xbox, he found the ‘next big thing’ would often come out of left field and suggests the main attribute developers need when pitching to Thunderful — or any publisher, for that matter — is a clear understanding of their own vision.
“I strongly believe people in roles like mine need to have an open mind when it comes to the games our development partners are pitching to us. Expecting the unexpected is probably a good way to look at video games today. The most important qualities game creators should bring to a pitching session are a clear understanding of their vision and a genuine passion for the game they want to create,” he notes.
“Having a good commercial understanding of the industry is a helpful tool as well, but I believe as a publisher and investor we can work together with our partners to refine the commercial side of a project. A recommendation I am happy to give to any developer who will pitch to us in the future is first share with me the vision you have for your game. Get me engaged with your gameplay trailer and target visual and don’t be too worried about anything else.”