2011: A Space Odyssey

2011: A Space Odyssey, by Laurent & Tatiana Sachs

Laurent is an angel investor and executive coach. He is the founder of L.T. Sachs and was a member of the board of directors of Amplitude Studios from 2011 until the sale of the company to SEGA in 2016.

Tatiana is a consultant. She is a co-founder of MAD – Lifestyle, Art & Design.

Views expressed here are their own.

 

It is the story of Amplitude Studios, co-founded in 2011 by Mathieu Girard and Romain de Waubert, a small office in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, a niche genre, a dream of a strategy game, and a new form of co-creation and collective intelligence.

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Amplitude Studios’ goal was to create AAA quality strategy video games at a much lower cost and in record time. Bringing costs down is key for any new business, and Girard and de Waubert found ways to design, develop and distribute their games with limited resources.

Since the early 2000s, digital distribution has become prominent as a method of selling in the video game industry. The new possibilities of digital distribution stimulated independent video game developers, no longer required to rely on conventional boxed sales, allowing them to sell and distribute their games without having to negotiate deals with publishers.

Amplitude Studios was the first indie for which Steam – the world leading internet-based digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer, and social networking platform developed by Valve Corporation – agreed to put the alpha version of a game up for sale. In a way, our first game Endless Space served as a beta version of the process which is now known as Early Access. Steam trusting them with the release of an unfinished game was a decisive moment in the young life of the Company.

Endless Space

As decisive was Amplitude’s decision to give access to the design and development process to the members of the community, as well as providing them with a two-way communication channel to express their views through an online forum, thus lowering the fence between the dev team and the community in a process they named Games2Gether, or G2G.

The forum is an art of cross-pollinating ideas while keeping the community interested, a way to optimise human networks, a place to exchange expertise, knowledge and skills. It can act as an ideas hive, an informal place of exchange of knowledge, like an online and unofficial context of interaction around the coffee machine.

Girard and de Waubert couldn’t see the point of starting to communicate with the community only after the official release of the game. The Internet sets the expectation that a game studio, like any other business, should be open to customer input and guidance. Hence, Amplitude Studios’ starting point was that game development had to be done in close cooperation and coordination with the community. The G2G effort was so successful that 13,000 people registered on the forum within two weeks of Endless Space alpha release.

With Endless Space we set out to create a game that was, for a start-up, very big. When you develop a game like that, it is important – and kind of a no-brainer – that you need to have as little fence as possible between the community and the developers. After all, they will play the game for millions of hours more than we will and discover subtleties that we would never have thought of. In order to understand what the community wants and integrate that as early as possible into the dev cycle, we created G2G which is a fundamentally different way of organizing how a community works with a developer. What we wanted was for the community to become an extension of our team.

“G2G: Expanding the Dev Team” – Romain de Waubert, Gamasutra, October 24, 2013

The cofounders knew that a new indie underdog had little chance to make the headlines. With G2G, they managed to draw the attention of like-minded gamers they knew, a few dozens of friends first, then a community of tens of thousands who managed to spread the word.

Over the past decade, the rise of the Internet has enabled the emergence of surprising new forms of collective intelligence. Games2Gether is one those new forms. Participants enjoy themselves, socialize and feel like they are contributing to a greater cause.

Our age of permanent connection provides us with means to strengthen direct relationships between individuals and businesses, and allows content producers to meet their consumers. It enables networking and the creation of communities of customers who will collaborate on the development and enhancement of such content. It facilitates the transition from innovation to market.

This is what co-design is about: strengthening the relationship between the creators and the consumers with a joint cognitive work. The company could benefit from a more accurate view of its customers’ expectations. To involve its customers, the company must open co-creation platforms, forums, centres for sharing and exchanging knowledge.

This is what Amplitude has been doing with Early Access, by revealing their game as soon as possible. The imperfect product served as a hook to create synergy with its users. It was also a way for a young company with limited financial ressources such as Amplitude Studios to outsource part of its marketing department, customers carrying a positive image of the company through word-of-mouth. With G2G, Amplitude has created a platform where members of the tribe can gather. The desire to associate with like-minded people is fundamental to human nature.

Consumers tend to become advocates when their consumption experiences are meaningful. Companies with higher levels of advocacy grow faster than their competitors, while generating greater sales. If advocacy drives growth, what drives advocacy? The answer is designing a meaningful, caring, interaction with the consumer.

There has been much debate among media theorists as to whether video gaming is an inherently social or anti-social activity. However, games with an organised community of fans show high levels of corroboration and collective intelligence. Core gamers who gather together on a collective platform possess a shared language, engage in collective rituals and are often interested in cultural artefacts such as gaming paraphernalia.

Those communities exist as self-defining sub-units within mainstream culture. There seems to be a symbiosis between consumption-oriented subcultures and marketing institutions that cater to their specialized needs. A marketer who has gained a good understanding of its target subculture of consumption can achieve a symbiotic relationship with it.

Social media tools are familiar to most web users and easy to access. Open communication platforms and simple user interfaces make collaboration easy. Amplitude has provided its community with a platform and allowed its members to participate in designing their own consumers’ experience.

When Amplitude Studios was sold to SEGA in 2016, it was just the end of the beginning. With their fourth game Endless Space 2 presently in Early Access on Steam, a collective space odyssey is still being written as we speak.

 

 

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Amplitude Studios: chapeau les artistes!

Si vos amis n’ont jamais entendu parler d’Endless Space 2 (le génial jeu de stratégie 4X qui sortira fin septembre), voici la vidéo qu’il faut leur montrer:

Chapeau les artistes!

PS: on notera le logo de SEGA en intro :o)

L.T. Sachs a été un fier administrateur d’Amplitude Studios jusqu’au 1er juillet 2016. Et reste un administrateur.

SEGA acquires Amplitude Studios

We have just announced the sale of Amplitude Studios to SEGA.

SEGA Europe’s president/COO Jurgen Post commented:

To have the opportunity to add a studio with the growing reputation of Amplitude’s, to the SEGA family, is an exciting one and reinforces SEGA Europe’s position as a market leader in publishing high quality PC games.

Culturally, Amplitude are a fantastic fit for the business as they not only produce great games, but also have a proven track record in listening to their fans and directly involving them in the ongoing development of their games through their GAMES2GETHER system.

Our co-founder and CEO Mathieu Girard said:

Joining the SEGA family represents the culmination of five years of hard work from myself and Romain and everyone here at Amplitude Studios. For the Endless series to be alongside PC franchises with such heritage as Total War and Dawn of War in the SEGA Europe stable puts our games where we feel they deserve to be. We look forward to leveraging SEGA Europe’s expertise in the PC market to take the Endless series to the next level.

Amplitude Studios co-founder Romain de Waubert added:

Of course you could wonder, “Why Sega?” If you were to ask just Mathieu and I, we could easily answer with the words “Creative Assembly and Relic!” because we are HUGE fans of their games. The opportunity to join them is incredible for us, a real dream come true.

But the bigger reason why we wanted to join SEGA was how they treat their internal studios. Often, studios are controlled by a central department that dictates what games they should do, and how and when. But SEGA is a company that offers its support to the creators, positioning itself as a service provider, helping studios to reach their goals with only one objective in mind: Quality!

Now is the time to look back at the Amplitude story.

What began for me as a ten minutes pitch at Telecom ParisTech in the spring of 2011 has grown into a formidable fifty-four-person video game studio, one of the most interesting European developers.

Mathieu Girard and Romain de Waubert, it has been an honor and a privilege working with you. As we look toward our next endless adventures, I raise my glass to you, dear friends.

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Amplitude Studios Board of Directors 2011-2016. Standing: Romain de Waubert, Jeff Spock, Laurent Sachs. Sitting: Mathieu Girard.

Endless Legend

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Endless Space

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L.T. Sachs has been a proud member of Amplitude Studios Board of Directors (2011-2016)

 

 

Governance 101: Board meetings

One of the best VC out there once said :

Board meetings should be discussions. They should be interactive. They should have some structure. But they should not have too much structure.

Best practice: Amplitude Studios.

FestiveAmplitudeBoard2015 2

Amplitude Studios Board of Directors. Standing: Romain de Waubert, Jeff Spock, Laurent Sachs. Sitting: Mathieu Girard

FestiveAmplitudeBoard2015

Amplitude Studios’ Board of Directors was in a festive mood yesterday night during our Christmas party. Happy holidays everyone!

L.T. Sachs is a member of the festive Board of Amplitude Studios.

Amplitude_Studios_logo

 

Amplitude Studios dans Libération

Libération vient de publier un bon papier sur Amplitude Studios. Son auteur Erwan Cario a très bien saisi l’essence de notre succès.

Lorsque l’on fait face au bâtiment qui abrite le studio Amplitude, à deux pas du métro Daumesnil à Paris, la façade un peu morne ressemble au siège social d’un groupement d’actuaires. Et quand on pénètre dans leurs locaux, à l’avant-dernier étage, ça ne s’arrange pas. Dans un silence studieux se serrent 45 personnes scotchées à leur écran. On pourrait se croire dans une quelconque société de service en informatique. Il faut regarder ce qui se passe sur les écrans où se côtoient vaisseaux spatiaux, générateurs de planètes et autres créatures fantastiques pour constater qu’ici, on crée des jeux vidéo.

Et pas n’importe lesquels. Endless Space (2012) et Endless Legend(2014) sont tous deux devenus des références mondiales dans le genre des jeux de gestion et stratégie en tour par tour, autrement appelé «4 X» (pour exploration, expansion, exploitation et extermination).

(…)

Autofinancé à 100 %, Amplitude ne peut compter que sur les recettes de ses productions pour subvenir à ses besoins. C’est le destin de ceux qui choisissent la voie de l’indépendance totale, et Amplitude est devenu pour le mouvement indé une success story emblématique.

Bon, pour la façade de l’immeuble je suis assez d’accord. Mais pour nos lumineux locaux au sommet de l’immeuble, avec une grande cuisine ouverte et une magnifique terrasse dominant tout le sud-est parisien, je peux dire une chose: j’habiterais bien là.

Amplitude, la stratégie indé, par Erwan Cario

Journaliste, Erwan Cario écrit sur les jeux vidéo depuis 2001 au sein du journal Libération. Il est par ailleurs responsable d’Ecrans.fr, un site fils de Liberation.fr consacré aux cultures numériques, et animateur de l’émission hebdomadaire en ligne (podcast) «Silence, on joue !», sur l’actualité du jeu vidéo.

Amplitude Studios - Create the best strategy games!

L.T. Sachs est un fier administrateur d’Amplitude Studios.

Amplitude Studios are unleashing the Guardians today

Four years ago nearly to this day I met two authentic entrepreneurs, Mathieu Girard and Romain de Waubert, who were looking to finance their video game venture, Amplitude Studios. What began for me as a ten minutes pitch at Telecom ParisTech in the spring of 2011 has now grown into a formidable forty-person video game studio.

When Amplitude were the studio that had made Endless Space, they were notable. Now that they have both Endless Legend and Dungeon Of The Endless chalked up on their scoreboard, well, they’re an enormously important developer. Amplitude have to now be regarded as one of the most interesting (and potentially one of the most important) European developers. RockPaperShotgun – December 24, 2014

Our last game Endless Legend has now sold well over 400,000 copies, and my personal bet is we’ll reach over a million copies at some point. And today we are officially unleashing the Endless Legend expansion: Guardians. The great game Civilization® may have found a worthy competitor. Endless Legend: Guardians

I once said that Amplitude was a diamond in the rough. Well, not so rough anymore. A gem, actually. A thing of beauty, an outstanding team of good people. I love them. As we look toward our next four years and countless endless adventures, I raise my glass to you, dear friends.

de Waubert, Sachs & Girard

de Waubert, Sachs & Girard

Endless Legend – Dust to DUST Trailer:

Happy birthday Amplitude Studios!

January 21, 2015: four years already.

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Now is the time to look back, and think about the future.

What began for me as a ten minutes pitch at Telecom ParisTech in the spring of 2011 has now grown into a formidable forty-person video game studio.

When Amplitude were the studio that had made Endless Space, they were notable. Now that they have both Endless Legend and Dungeon Of The Endless chalked up on their scoreboard, well, they’re an enormously important developer. Amplitude have to now be regarded as one of the most interesting (and potentially one of the most important) European developers.

RockPaperShotgun – December 24, 2014

As we look toward our next four years and countless endless adventures, I raise my glass to you, dear friends.

Mariage / Hochzeit/ Wedding : Christiane & Laurent  "April in Paris"

Romain de Waubert, Laurent Sachs and Mathieu Girard.

Amplitude Studios - Create the best strategy games!

L.T. Sachs is a high-spirited member of Amplitude Studios’ Board of Directors.