Disruptive Publishers banks on digital personalization

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Otis Perrick has lived through the various ups and downs of Vancouver’s game-development sector. He worked in the game-publishing department of Electronic Arts as the company grew its presence in the Lower Mainland during the early years of the 21st century. He witnessed firsthand as a number of studios in the area made great games and were then acquired by large publishing operations. For example, Barking Dog became Rockstar Vancouver, Black Box became part of EA, Propaganda joined Disney Interactive, Radical was bought by Activision, and Relic, now a Sega company, was originally acquired by THQ. Many of these developers no longer exist.

      So when Perrick, the president of Disruptive Publishers, says that his studio is not for sale, that’s saying something. Last October, Perrick told the Georgia Straight he didn’t know who would buy Disruptive anyway, despite the fact that the company is growing. Formed in 2007, Disruptive receives revenue from too many of the game-industry players to be appealing to any of them, Perrick explained, suggesting that his business has more in common with advertising and media companies.

      Disruptive creates content for gamers, but the company is not itself a game developer. Revenue instead comes from the sale of graphics and animations that people use to personalize their gaming experiences. In a tiny boardroom in the company’s former studio, a converted condo, Perrick and creative director Ty Du­perron showed the Straight some of Disruptive’s work. The Call of Duty: Ghosts T-shirt on your Xbox Live avatar was designed at Disruptive. So was the Batman: Arkham City costume.

      Personalization options aren’t limited to games. Disruptive has signed revenue-sharing deals to create graphics for companies like Billabong and Puma, as well as the professional sports leagues: MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL. Once upon a time, brands such as these would have sought licensing fees to be included in games, but according to Perrick that changed sometime around 2001. At the time, he was working on the NBA Live franchise at EA.

      “We were paying brands to be in the packaged goods product,” Perrick said. Then EA began pitching those same companies: “ ‘You want to have your authentic brand [be] a part of what we’re doing?’ And they started to pay for it. It became advertising.”

      Perrick insisted that companies investing in personalization can do so virtually cost-free. “You’re not going to lose your money. You’re going to make some,” he said. “If you invest in this, you’re going to get a return and still reach the audience you are trying to reach.”

      Disruptive’s “originals” include such things as dynamic wallpaper of Miami or fantasy scenes that can be installed on your PlayStation 3’s graphical user interface. Not only does the company keep all revenue from distinctive art, Duperron said, but it gives the artists employed at the studio a chance to showcase their own work.

      In December, the company moved to a new Yaletown studio that Perrick purchased and decorated to look like a cross between an auto garage and a tattoo parlour. While touring the Straight around the new space in February, he talked about the reasons why Disruptive needed room to grow, saying it will “pioneer” what’s going to happen with personalization on the PS4 and Xbox One. Themes for the PS4 haven’t been announced or implemented by Sony, and Microsoft is still working on how to bring the full Xbox marketplace to the Xbox One.

      Lego has just signed on as a partner, too, to Duperron’s great satisfaction. He’s not only a fan of the building blocks, but previously worked with the company while at Hellbent Games. Duperron said that Lego’s representatives have said they aren’t getting into personalization to make money, but to make sure that gamers have Lego as an option. “They are very in touch with who their fans are,” he said, adding that the first round of Lego Originals items will be making their way to game consoles this spring.