After 22 years in a turbulent business, Gameloft is no stranger to upheaval. And Alexandre de Rochefort, currently CFO and GM at the French firm, has been with the company since the start.
He’s seen a thing or two, and is pretty candid about it. De Rochefort describes Gameloft’s switch from premium to free-to-play in 2011 as “brutal”, and later talks about the shift towards hypercasual: “We were a bit out of touch with the market and we knew it,” he tells us. “But we decided not to go towards hypercasual. That’s not who we are – that’s not our DNA.”
What is in Gameloft’s DNA, says de Rochefort, is high-end mobile games. And while it has continued to pump those out, you might not have even noticed Gameloft’s latest transformation.
The company quietly hit reset and committed to becoming “a major cross-platform gaming company,” as de Rochefort describes it, in 2018. And now that transformation is almost complete.
With free-to-play games like Disney Speedstorm and Disney Dreamlight Valley coming to all platforms, the former mobile game specialist is now looking to own what de Rochefort believes is an under-served space – free-to-play ‘double A’ games on PC, console and mobile.
“When I say that Gameloft wants to pivot a large part of its development team towards console and PC, I’m not saying that we wish to go head-to-head against EA or Ubisoft or Activision with premium games at 60-80 Euros,” says de Rochefort.
“We’ve always positioned ourselves as very high-end mobile. And we believe that the step to go from very high-level mobile games to very good quality free-to-play double-A games on console and PC is not that significant.”
Gameloft is working on four free-to-play, double-A games in total, each with budgets of around 10-15 million Euros ($10-15m), says de Rochefort. And the company believes that there’s a “great window of opportunity” for games of that profile.
“The EAs or Ubisoft or other companies of this world are reluctant to go in this direction,” he says. “It’s very hard for them to abandon the premium model. We’ll always have those triple-A games, but I think more and more of the market is going to be free-to-play.”
“If you look at the Nintendo Switch, I think there are 12,000 games available, and only around 80 of them are free-to-play,” he continues. “And on Xbox, we’re talking about only a few dozen games that are free-to-play out of 12,000-15,000 games.”
Across its 18 studios, including a new outfit in Paris, Gameloft is also now making games with leaner teams to move faster and prototype more “crazy ideas”, says de Rochefort. “We would start developing a game with 60-70 people from the start – we don’t do this anymore.”
The company also continues to make games for Apple Arcade and Netflix, and is looking into web3 games, but will tread carefully on that front.
On M&A, it is already involved in a headline-grabbing deal – its owner Vivendi is in the process of buying French media giant Lagardère, and once that deal is complete, Gameloft might be able to go shopping again. It snapped up SongPop maker FreshPlanet in 2018 and spicy narrative game studio The Other Guys in 2020.
“What I understand from our exchanges with our shareholders is that yeah, they’re ambitious in the space and they’re open to do more deals,” says de Rochefort. “But right now the focus is Lagardère.”
Gameloft sometimes feels like a company in a constant state of turnaround, with this multiformat move its latest shift. But perhaps that’s no bad thing – maybe it’s exactly how you survive for 22 turbulent years in a business as unpredictable as ours.