Peter Van der Watt of Blazing Griffin talks about how Scotland's talent and industry support led him to choose Edinburgh as the place to build a games company
Founded in 2011 as an independent games studio with a team of three, Edinburgh-based Blazing Griffin has grown to become a digital entertainment specialist employing 25 staff, and was the 100th business to sign the Scottish Business Pledge.
Shortly after Peter van der Watt created the company, Blazing Griffin acquired the rights to Distant Star, an iOS title. This was followed by The Ship: Murder Party, an already-established title on PC. At the time the game had around 150,000 users and has since grown to 1.5 million users worldwide.
The success of The Ship: Murder Party has closely informed the business plan, with the focus firmly on reviving intellectual property (IP) and developing games across multiple platforms.
In 2013, Blazing Griffin developed APB Retribution, a top-down tactical shooter for iOS in collaboration with Reloaded Productions. This was followed by the launch of the company’s first new IP – Dino Tribes, a match-three puzzle game for mobile devices, nominated for a number of TIGA Awards in categories including Visual Design and Audio Design.
The company also won the Scottish Bafta Game of the Year award in 2015 for Distant Star.
When Peter left South Africa for the UK a number of years ago, he was faced with a choice – move to London or Edinburgh. He said: “I knew Scotland had the talent to build games, particularly with the reputation of Dundee. There are lots of people in the industry who make games but I saw a gap in the market in Scotland to build a games company.
“I also knew about Scottish Enterprise (SE) and Scottish Development International (SDI) before I came here and was aware of the support they offer. I believe Blazing Griffin could have got to where we are on our own, but we couldn’t have done it as fast as we have without the help of SE and SDI. Scotland is a great place to do business - and the capital we have invested proves that.”
As an SE High Growth Start-up, Blazing Griffin has been able to access a number of grants. This has allowed them to employ an operations manager and undertake research and development work that otherwise may have been deemed too risky.
Another major benefit of working with SE has been having access to a dedicated account manager. Peter said: “Our account manager is fantastic at making introductions and she is a games specialist. Her expert knowledge can be really helpful and she’ll help link businesses if she knows they can help each other.”
Shopping in San Francisco
Blazing Griffin is a familiar face at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), with 2016 marking their fifth visit to the San Francisco event.
Peter said: “BG is going back to GDC to pursue its strategic goals and find the partners it needs to achieve these. The game industry descends on GDC/SF for a week and there is no better time or place to build one’s network and do business with the industry at large.”
For Blazing Griffin, the support of SE and SDI has been vital in being able to travel to events such as GDC and ChinaJoy in Shanghai. Peter said: “SDI takes physical space at GDC which has obvious benefits. Being an exhibitor rather than a delegate ensures you are taken seriously.
“Through SDI we’ve tapped into the GlobalScot network and arranged some high profile meetings with Disney, Amazon and EA.”
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