Ireland can dominate games platform business

16 Jun 2005

Ireland is swiftly emerging as the global centre for games technology platforms, says the founder of a young Irish games technology firm whose software he predicts will power most of the top 20 games for the emerging PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 games platforms in the years ahead.

Dublin-based DemonWare, which has raised €1m in funding so far, has offices in LA and is about to open a new office in Vancouver in order to capitalise on opportunities in the global games business, most of which operates from America’s west coast.

The company develops the software that powers multiplayer games and enables owners of existing PlayStation2, Xbox and PC games and future PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 owners to play against each other over the internet. The company competes aggressively against another market player GameSpy. Another competitor, RenderWare, was acquired earlier this year by EA Games, considered by many to be the Microsoft of the games business.

The DemonWare team combines network experts from Trinity College Dublin as well as engineers from the games middleware industry, such as Havok, and programmers from the telecoms sector.

The company was founded by CEO Dylan Collins and CTO Sean Blanchfield. Collins told “We do the network software for multiplayer games worldwide. Games developers effectively buy our software off the shelf. The unique selling point for games developers is that instead of building the software yourself over six to eight months, your game can be played in a multiplayer environment within a fortnight.”

Collins explained that the company recently received approval from Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox to develop technology for the next generation of their games platforms set to debut this Christmas. “We will be in the top three games that will sell this Christmas and aim to power most of the top 20 games for the emerging PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 games platforms in the years ahead. We are on track to be number one in the multiplayer middleware space within 12 months.” Collins revealed that his team is also preparing technology for the new PlayStation Portable to enable ad-hoc wireless gaming.

“We will be opening a new office in Vancouver because some 70pc of our business is done on the west coast of North America,” Collins explained. He added that the company also plays a role in hosting the multiplayer games community. “We partner with Hosting365 on the server side.”

The computer games sector is big business and is already demonstrating the potential to dwarf Hollywood in the years ahead. On average, developers invest US$10m to develop a game and a further €30m-plus to market it. For example, some €50m was spent marketing the Driv3r motor racing game for the Xbox platform, after which the publishers of the game made US$250m in sales.

“There is a huge mass-market appetite for computer games. For example, Halo 2 sold more than 5 million copies in the first two days of its launch last year, outselling any movie release from Hollywood,” says Collins.

According to Collins, Ireland is ripe to reap vast benefits from the growing power of the computer games sector provided it has the right skill sets available

“Ireland is emerging as the centre for games technology platforms. Dublin is becoming more and more regarded as a safe pair of hands for gaming technology.

“People don’t realise the job opportunities that exist in the games industry. Up until now the only games jobs were overseas. What’s happening now is there is an opportunity for people interested in the games industry to work at home in Ireland.

“The technology is challenging. For example, the PlayStation3 and the Xbox 360 are far ahead of anything in the medical, military or industrial simulation sector. It really is bleeding-edge stuff.”

However, due to an emerging skills shortage DemonWare is having to employ people from overseas due to a lack of sufficient graduates locally as well as proper courses. “A couple of games courses are emerging but ultimately people who would succeed in gaming would need to have a background in computer science,” Collins warned.

By John Kennedy

Pictured are DemonWare CTO Sean Blanchfield and CEO Dylan Collins.