From left to right: Oli Barrett, Chris Kingsley,Hermione Way, Hardeep Singh Kohli
Chris and Jason Kingsley from Rebellion scooped the award for Digital Media, Entertainment & Gaming at the Great British Technology Entrepreneur Awards. But who are they, and what’s so special about Rebellion?
“We also own the 2000 AD comic,” Chris Kingsley told me, he said it as if it was an after-thought. “2000AD!” I exclaimed, I haven’t read a comic in a very long time (very long), but I know what 2000 AD is, this is the comic that gave the world Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, not to mention Tharg the Mighty – whom I confess, I was not familiar with.
That’s not bad for a computer and video games publisher.
Back in the day, before Rebellion, the brothers also created the Alien versus Predator game. That may not seem like too big a deal, after-all, video games based on films are as old as the computer and video games industry. It is just that in this particular case, the game came first. Sure, we already had the Alien and Predator movies, but never before had we seen them combined.
In 2016, Rebellion is focusing on virtual reality – and Battlezone
for the Sony VR system is clearly a big deal: “It is one of the top reviewing games for the PlayStation VR” Chris told me.
To tell the story from the beginning, Chris and Jason started life in the video games industry as freelancers, that was in the days when you put video games on discs. Back then, they used to work with other freelancers, but Chris and Jason found themselves coordinating, so maybe it wasn’t a big leap to then do this formally. That was how Rebellion was born, in 1991, with the first big game, Eye of the Storm, released in 1993.
Back then, in the days when the Games Consoles ruled, you couldn’t be a publisher of games without the agreement of the hardware company. That was an expensive thing to obtain. Then there was the cost of manufacturing. Duplicating cartridges or CDs is expensive.
This all changed thanks to digital technologies and Steamworks, a digital distribution system developed by Valve Corporation. Using Steamworks, developers can incorporate many features into their games such as networking, matchmaking, in-game achievements and micro-transactions. The point being that digital technologies had a massive disruptive impact on the video games business, and for Rebellion this was a massive opportunity, which Chris and James grabbed.
“We always said the future was digital” said Chris.
The thing is, and you hear this over and over again from successful entrepreneurs, Rebellion was not started as a way to make its founders rich. Their passion was, and still is, video games. They do what they love. “Every morning, I am looking forward to creating video games,” says Chris. This attitude shines through when you ask Chris what he would do if he sold the company. He just said that he has no plans to exit.
They say everyone has their price, but then Rebellion expects to turn over around £32 million this year – their profit margin is good too. Why sell when you are making the money you need, and you are loving it?
What does Chris put his success down to?
He said that both he and his brother went to Oxford and you soon learn there that no matter how clever you think you are, there is always someone who is cleverer. He said that you have to learn to accept criticism, and be ultra-self-critical. He also said you “have to ride your luck, to be successful you don’t necessarily have to be more talented, but you have to ride your luck.”
That’s nice humility from a man who co-founded a company that has published 28 games that have gone to number one.
But then the Kingsley brothers through their involvement with TIGA – which is an association representing the video games industry – and in-particular Jason, who is TIGA’s chairman, pushed for tax credits for video games developers, and they won. And Jason Kingsley bagged an OBE.
Just as they won at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.