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The house that Dead by Daylight built | Behavior Interactive interview

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Last week, game developer and publisher Behaviour Interactive acquired Codeglue, a game developer based in the Netherlands.

This marked Behaviour’s third European expansion within the last six months, as the company continues to strengthen its presence in the global gaming industry. Overall, Montreal-based Behaviour has more than 1,300 companies.

Built on the success of Dead by Daylight, Behaviour Interactive has become the largest Canadian video game developer. I spoke with CEO Remi Racine and Wayne Meazza, executive vice president of Behaviour Studios, at the Gamescom event last week in Cologne, Germany.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Remi Racine (left), CEO of Behaviour Interactive and Wayne Meazza, executive vice president of Behaviour Studios.

GamesBeat: What’s it been like at the house that Dead By Daylight built?

Remi Racine: It’s different. If you think about it, when we met before, we were a publisher. We’d just started. We had a small game that was–the game released in 2016, console about 11 months later, and then in April of 2018 the store opened, which is more than half of the revenue of the game.

Wayne Meazza: We’d bought back the publishing rights just before that as well, from Starbreeze.

Racine: We’ve grown the game. We have about 5 million MAU.

GamesBeat: How long did it take to start taking off?

Racine: When we released in June 2016 we’d made–I think we had our millionth player by the end of September. I don’t know how many players we have if you add up all the ones that left.

GamesBeat: I remember the switch from work for hire–

Racine: Well, it was never really a switch. We always tried, when we were doing work for hire, to do our own games, without success until Dead By Daylight. We’ve invested a fortune in Dead By Daylight. We’ve grown with the game. The game was 25 people when we released. There are now more than 300. The game has grown at the same time, so we’ve invested to make the game better and better. But the work for hire business has doubled since then as well, more than doubled.

GamesBeat: How many people altogether in the company now?

Racine: 1,300 altogether.

Meazza: We have three studios in Europe for our service business. One in the north, one in the south that we talked about last month, and now the Rotterdam operation. We also have a company in Seattle that we purchased, our first purchase for a long time, called Midwinter. That’s purely focused on the digital side. They’re working on a title for us, but it’s still very early. They’re the folks behind Scavenger.

Racine: They’re working on a game based on Dead By Daylight, a different game based on that IP.

GamesBeat: It’s gotten to be so big that it has multiple arms.

Meazza: We also announced that we’re doing something with Supermassive based on Dead By Daylight. Supermassive are known for certain types of games, so you can imagine what they’re building for us.

Behaviour Interactive acquires SockMonkey Studios in UK.
Behaviour Interactive acquires SockMonkey Studios in UK.

GamesBeat: What do you call this kind of game now? It’s become a category unto itself.

Racine: I’d say it’s a story-driven game. Narrative horror? With beautiful music. Visually stunning as well.

GamesBeat: Are you coming into some interesting decisions these days, then, about how to move forward and grow?

Racine: When I look at it, it’s funny. We’re in the budget time. Our year end is September 30, so we’re in the process of submitting next year’s budget. It’s always a question of how much we’re putting in on new projects, how much we’re investing in Dead By Daylight, and how we can grow as a business. What type of titles do we do for service? We need some opportunities in service. Sometimes we don’t grow because we don’t think it’s exciting, or that it excites our staff.

Meazza: We need passionate people.

Racine: New projects or work for hire, you need to find a team. That’s what I do. There are a couple of internal games right now. One of them I’m not sure–I basically gave them a day to say go or no go. The other one I’m inclined to say we’ll invest another six months to see if it’s a go. It might have something.

GamesBeat: You’re surfacing some new IP, then, through these investments?

Racine: And we’re also looking in the market. There might be games out there we like, that we might–there are two things. Can we help the game? We bring something to those teams. And then how can we work together?

GamesBeat: As a third party publisher?

Racine: No, I would say third party investment. We’d invest our staff as well. Some teams are too small. They have something, but they’re too small. They need manpower. We provide that manpower. We’re looking at–we’re not going to do all of them, but we’re looking at a few.

A timeline showcasing the 30+ year history of Behaviour Interactive.
A timeline showcasing the 30+ year history of Behaviour Interactive.

GamesBeat: Do you sympathize with some of the bigger companies in the industry then, as far as the tradeoffs and resource shortages they deal with? Deciding whether to invest in new IP or not?

Racine: Here’s where I think I disagree with some of the big boys. In the movie and TV business, they have a machine to create new stuff. Not only the branded stuff like Mission Impossible 7. They invest in new IP every year. In our world, some of them are playing it very safe. Maybe if I were in their shoes I’d do the same. But in my shoes, no. We have to try to make one more. We’re still going to try. That’s for sure.

GamesBeat: Ubisoft talks about tentpoles. Assassin’s Creed is the biggest tentpole, but it makes room for other things they can try. Right now what I see from EA and Warner and Take-Two is they’re going with franchises. They’re not trying to do new IP.

Racine: EA created Apex. But if I was EA maybe I would try–if you look at them they have a new IP every two or three years. They could be trying more. Creating new IP is a retention tool for staff. If you work on the same thing, some people want a change. Not everyone, but some people want to have a change.

GamesBeat: I thought it was interesting when Activision put the Toys for Bob people to work on Call of Duty. Must have been very motivating for those people.

Racine: Well, basically they have no choice. They repurpose over the years to totally different tasks. EA does the same.

GamesBeat: How can you try to run things so you get better outcomes than a lot of the others in the industry?

Racine: One thing we’re studying is being more open to the audience. When you’re developing IP, share earlier with the key audience. Share your ideas. Test earlier. That’s the big thing. It’s tough to make new games. We have to test it out a lot.

Meazza: We’re continuously refining our greenlight process to spot things earlier. That’s something we’re conscious of, that we always have to improve the process.

Dead by Daylight won a couple of awards at the Canadian game awards in Montreal back in 2016.

Racine: It’s very difficult to place a new game in the market. The ones that can do it, congratulations. We have to be a lot better at this.

Meazza: Meet Your Maker is a critical success, but we’re still finding our feet on the commercial side. Certainly it’s a very well-received game. We can call that a success in terms of audience and fun for them. But we’ll keep working on it.

Racine: It’s still not a financial success. We hope that we can attract more people to it. That’s the bet.

GamesBeat: How many of these per year might be reasonable?

Racine: I’d love to have one. But it’s tough.

Meazza: They take time.

Racine: Next year we could say we have two that have been announced. The year after, for sure we have one that will most probably go to the end. We’re working on the year after.

Meazza: But there’s no set target.

GamesBeat: How has the work for hire side changed over the years?

Meazza: Has it changed? Companies are more mature. Publishers trust us to help them. Also publishers have tried other locations, mostly for cost reasons, and now they’re realizing that it’s probably better to go with the tried and trusted, even if it’s more expensive. There was a time where companies were interested heavily in full development of games through work for hire. It’s a bit quieter now. But co-development is still in incredibly high demand.

Freddy Krueger.

Getting back to the topic, this is another reason why our Rotterdam operation was exciting for us. That’s what they’ve been doing for 23 years. They were Dutch studio of the year last year. They’re a mature company that knows how to do this stuff. It was a natural fit for us in terms of expertise and history. But more important, their culture was incredibly significant.

GamesBeat: Does a studio like that stay a work for hire studio, or do they do their own new IP?

Meazza: Right now they’re joining the service division. They’ll continue to make games for others. But our service business does do original IP as well.

Racine: The difference is that it’s financed by a publisher.

Meazza: A publisher is going to take it to market, not us. That’s the big difference.

Racine: Sometimes we still own the IP, but we’re not the boss.

GamesBeat: There are companies like Keywords out there. What sort of role do you play by comparison?

Meazza: We’re trying to keep ourselves triple-A only. I’m not saying that Keywords doesn’t do triple-A, because of course they do. But we’re not an outsourcer. We’re not taking on single-discipline opportunities, modules or whatever. We do sometimes do some technical aspects, but it ends up turning into full discipline at some point. Games typically don’t–development doesn’t stop just because a game launches. Even if you had a mandate to help with the launch, post-launch there’s a need as well. Maybe you don’t have that mandate initially, but it turns into it. Learning a publisher’s processes–once you’ve learned those you’re a go-to studio. You’ve proven your quality and everything else to that publisher. These are key reasons why people come back to us again and again.

Caught by a killer in Dead by Daylight.

I said it before, but as a recap, we do full mobile development, including live operations. We do full development on PC and console, as well as live operations for games as a service. We also do co-dev. Going back to your point about Keywords, they do all of this stuff too, but they also offer a lot of other stuff. We’re playing in this space.

Racine: They do test. They do marketing. They do a lot of stuff for publishers that we won’t ever do.

Meazza: And they’re one of our vendors. We use them and work with them when we need it. We use them a lot.

GamesBeat: When publishers are using these services now, is it almost becoming part of the plan? I remember when Cuphead was getting down to the wire, Microsoft just threw in two or three times the number of engineers in the last three to six months. It almost sounds like that kind of thing is becoming more common on the co-development side.

Meazza: That’s great business for us.

GamesBeat: The thing that doesn’t have it so much is, say, EA finishing up Battlefield, taking the Codemasters people and putting them on Battlefield. It seems like–why don’t you use some of these outsourcing services more?

Racine: I agree. We do a lot of stuff. I call that the fireman work. We come when there’s a fire. These are difficult tasks, but we like it a lot. It’s very challenging for the programmers. This is the co-dev stuff that we love. But you say six months–it’s probably a year. Six months is too short.

Meazza: You can’t firefight in a very short space of time. That’s very challenging.

Racine: The first time we really did this in co-dev was Fallout in 2015, something like that. We worked 18 months on Fallout 4. We had about 50 people working on it. That was mostly technical. We had artists fixing the environment, but that was to support the technical tasks we had from Bethesda. We still do this a lot with the big boys. Usually we’re not allowed to talk about the co-dev mandates.

GamesBeat: Do you put your services people on your own games as well?

Meazza: Of course. At the highest level, all personnel have the opportunity to work on any game. Whether we’re investing or publishing or someone else is publishing or someone else is investing, it doesn’t matter. We have two business units for a reason, because one has a focus on original and publishing and so on – obviously Dead By Daylight and Meet Your Maker live there – and we have our service business, which is our foundational business that we’ve had since the beginning.

GamesBeat: Are you going to keep on expanding?

Meazza: Absolutely, if the opportunities continue to exist. We’re always on the lookout to expand. New games, new teams, new locations. But also just hiring. The greatest thing we have with these operations we’ve announced in the last six months, we have some incredibly talented people that are now the foundations for these locations, and we’re ready to expand them. We did that with Toronto. We had a small group working in Toronto, and now we’re at 90 people.

Yikes. Dead by Daylight features a killer, played by a human, hunting down four other human players.

Racine: During the pandemic we hired probably 45 people in Ontario. They were working at home for our Montreal office. Now there are 90, and most of them are showing up at the office every day in Toronto. Some of them live too far.

Meazza: It may not seem from the outside that we’re a cautious company, but we’re an incredibly cautious company. We’re only growing when it makes sense to expand. We see the opportunities. We’re going to expand because it makes sense. It’s not just about a new studio or a new game. It can also just be hiring more people.

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