About This Episode

In this insightful episode of the Player: Engage Podcast, host Greg delves into the burgeoning gaming scene in Barcelona with guest Pasqual Batalla, COO of Sandsoft. Pasqual shares his unexpected journey into the gaming industry, from his engineering background to scaling tech and digital companies, and eventually leading operations at gaming studios like Social Point and now Sandsoft. The conversation touches on the growth of the gaming industry in the MENA region and Sandsoft’s role in leading the charge, as well as the company’s strategy and vision for the future.

Key takeaways from the episode include:

  • Pasqual’s transition from engineering to the gaming industry and his rise to COO.
  • Sandsoft’s mission to craft joy through mobile-first games and its commitment to fostering the gaming ecosystem in Saudi Arabia and Barcelona.
  • The importance of a people-first culture in gaming companies and the diverse range of specialized roles within the industry.
  • Barcelona’s potential as a global gaming hub and the opportunities for young talent to break into the gaming scene.

To discover more about Pasqual’s unique career path, Sandsoft’s innovative approach to game development, and the exciting developments in Barcelona’s gaming industry, tune in to the full episode. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the gaming world, directly from an industry leader.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about the future of gaming in Barcelona and beyond.

Connect with Pasqual Batalla:

Learn More About Sandsoft:

AI Transcript: Pasqual Batalla

Greg Posner: 00:07: 00:30: Hey everybody, welcome to the Player: Engage Podcast, Greg here. Today we’re joined by Pasqual Batalla from Sandsoft. He has a really cool background, was at some big studios at Social Point, here’s another game called Ad Science, and he is here in San Francisco joining us today to learn a little more about gaming in Barcelona and Sandsoft and everything. So, Pasqual, thank you so much for joining us today. Is there anything that you would like to share with yourself?
Pasqual Batallia: 00:30: 00:38: Hello, Greg. Thank you for inviting me to the podcast. It’s a pleasure to spend some time with you and your audience to talk about the gaming industry.

Greg Posner: 00:38: 01:18: Yeah, I’m excited. This is a conversation I’ve been looking forward to because in the gaming world, the whole MENA, which is the Middle East, North Africa region, is really starting to see a big, big boom of gaming companies coming into the scene. And Sandsoft is one of the main ones that are helping lead the way. So I’m excited to hear that. But mostly as well as you starting your studio in Barcelona, because that’s Fascinating. I’d love to learn more. So before we really get into the weeds of things, I really always like to ask my guests the question of how did you become the COO of a gaming company? Because I think a lot of kids dream like, oh, one day I want to run my own gaming company. I want to do this. How do you end up in a position like this?

Pasqual Batallia: 01:18: 03:30: Well, Greg, I think that’s a good question. And I would say a little bit by mistake, no, it was not planned at least. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. Obviously, I’m married and father of two kids, so I’m proud of that. And I’m originally and currently living in Barcelona, where I’m committed to support the economic, the social, and the cultural life of the city. On the academic front, I graduated as an engineer. And I also did my MBA and also graduated in the executive program of the Singularity University. So I’ve been having plenty of education. And on the professional side, I started as an engineer working for Hewlett Packard. But then after my MBA, I moved into business and operations, first in a consulting firm. and later into several digital and tech startups in Barcelona. So during the last 50 years, I have been involved in managing and scaling tech and digital companies, being the last aid related with gaming companies, first at SocialPoint and now in Soundsoft. So regarding games, when I was a kid, I used to play a game called Penguin Adventure, and also Street Fighter with my friends. Now I’m more of a casual style type of games player, like Worldscapes, QS Watermelon, Zenmatch, Sling Call, Woodopool, Business Dudes. but also have a lot of fun when playing with my kids and more social type of games like Mario Kart or Party or FIFA or Among Us type of games. So that’s a little bit about myself and definitely first working with tech companies enabled me and startups enabled me to start understanding more the world of gaming, which is an intersection between technology, creativity, and business and art, no? So by some kind of luck, I ended up supporting SocialPoint when they were trying to scale the company, and I started helping them. And from there, learn more about the company and the industry, and step-by-step evolve into a CEO role.

Greg Posner: 03:31: 04:03: Very cool. I mean, I’ve started learning how big of a tech hub Barcelona has been, but hearing that you started HP and you kind of grow things there, it’s all such a cool story how you end up where you are. And I love the fact that you’re gaming with your kids because my son just turned five and I get to start gaming with him. Sometimes it’s a pain in the butt, but it’s a lot of fun to be able to play with them and I respect that. Can you give us kind of a high level of what is Sandsoft? Because it is a newer studio and I think a lot of people out there may not be fully aware of what is being built here.

Pasqual Batallia: 04:03: 06:06: Sure. Well, Sansov was founded in 2020, but a bit more on operations are more recent on 2022, and is owned by a large private holding group from Saudi Arabia. OK, it is definitely aligned with Saudi contribution 2030, which aims to diversify the economy, being gaming one of the strategic sectors to invest and grow. With a team of more than 60 people and more than 25 nationalities, offices in Riyadh, Barcelona, Helsinki, and Shanghai, we focus on publishing, developing, and investing in high-quantity, formula-wide, free-to-play games across the world, not only in MENA. At Soundsoft, our purpose is to craft and deliver joy. Our vision is to be the leading mobile-first games publisher and developer from the MENA region, and our mission is to be the destination company to work for and the nucleus of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia games industry. Regarding our product strategy, we want to create innovative, accessible core social games that bring people together from all over the world and are played for years to come. Regarding our strategy, we have a people-first culture. building our studios to create our own games, developing a publishing powerhouse unit to support third-party game developers in order to distribute and scale their games, and we also have an investment unit to explore acquisitions and partnerships with top-talented teams. Regarding our company core values that guide our team attitude are growth, wellness, and togetherness. Finally, looking at the goals for 2024, We want to continue building a great team of game makers, to become a third-party publishing powerhouse, to start creating and publishing our own games, and to grow our audience. So plenty of challenges, but lots of excitement for Soundsoft.

Greg Posner: 06:06: 06:33: It’s cool. You were at social point during the growth stage, and now you’re back at Sandsoft during the growth stage. It’s obviously a stage you’ve come to learn and love, but were there any learnings that you learned from the experience at social point that either, A, you said, I definitely want to do this again at Sandsoft, or like, this didn’t quite work out that way, we’re going to do it a little different this time, or TBD.

Pasqual Batallia: 06:48: 08:19: up to the part of a large corporation like Take-Two and Zing. I also had multiple roles there, I did not start as CEO and led a variety of teams, projects and challenges that helped me to have a 360 view of the company in English. So just to name a few of them. I was working on the localization department, also on the QA, on outsourcing, on market intelligence, on managing acquisitions, on business development. I also acted as head of a studio for some time. I helped a lot and collaborated a lot and participated a lot on the integration with Take Two and later with Zynga. And at some point, I even became like the interim general manager for the studio when the founders left. So this experience was very valuable to me as I did not have a gaming background before and has helped me to realize the importance of people-first culture and building strong teams for creativity and execution. Also to value the importance of diversity and to understand the evolution of the gaming industry during the last decades. So being the head of a young company with relatively smaller team than Socialcoin, I’m a more hands-on leader and like to work across the teams to support decision making. I have a settlement leadership approach and attitude, being at the disposal of the teams to help them execute company strategy, remove blockers, and facilitate the team to take the best decisions.

Greg Posner: 08:19: 08:57: Very cool. And it’s great, I mean, with all the, you know, the ins and outs of gaming there. I think of the services that we provide at Keywords and they’re talking localization, they’re talking about QA, like everything you’re saying is hitting home. It’s fun that you have that experience, you can learn from that experience, it kind of helps you grow and figure out what you love best about the industry and how you want to get it to go. And I think you kind of just answered this question, but I’d like to kind of double tap it because I think it’s important. As the COO of a gaming company, what is, and you don’t have to go into detail, but what’s your day-to-day like or what skill set do you have that you think you tap into the most or you need to use?

Pasqual Batallia: 08:58: 10:40: I think the CEO role varies depending on the company and the needs. And I think that’s the beauty of that role. In some places, you are more in the execution mode. In some other places, you might need to define more the strategy. Definitely, you need to help the company to build the right teams and to count the right teams to make the right decisions. So on my day-to-day, I’m really trying to execute the company strategy that has been defined and supporting the teams to execute towards that strategy. Because you define a plan, but then things don’t happen as it were planned on the beginning. Also, you need to act and react and pivot and change and decide. That’s what I think that I push the teams to do, because they have the know-how. and they have the ownership to do it, but I’m just there to support them on these different, on these tasks. So what else is on the CEO role? I think it’s also a lot about guiding the team on the right priorities, okay? And helping the team towards making, let’s say, some compromises, no? As a company, we have limited resources. We need to decide which are the projects that we want to push, we need to decide how we can collaborate better to push them and make them happen. So I would say I have the honor to have a role where you can go from very hands-on to very strategic, from working with a management team to working with every single individual contributor. And I really enjoy that.

Greg Posner: 10:40: 11:00: You mentioned, I think the studios you named were Barcelona, Riyadh, Helsinki, and Japan. Is that, did I get those right? How do you collaborate with the other studios? Is it strictly like a team type of thing? Are there tools that you use to collaborate with one another? Is that something you’re still trying to figure out?

Pasqual Batallia: 11:00: 11:38: Well, in Helsinki we have a team working on business development as well as in Shanghai. But in Riyadh and in Barcelona we are building our own studios and there we are setting up the same tools for both studios, at least in terms of tools like networks or like it could be help sheets or it could be any technological tools, no? Then obviously each team has the capacity to decide on their day-to-day what’s the best way to approach the game development and there might be here some small differences. But I think that it’s pretty standard at this moment.

Greg Posner: 11:38: 11:51: I have one last question about the COO role, and then I’ll stop pestering you about those questions, but if you were going to go back to university and you were going to figure out what path you wanted to take in university, what are the classes you think most align with the responsibilities of the COO?

Pasqual Batallia: 11:51: 12:56: I studied engineering, and there’s a lot of technical stuff there. While on the COO, you need to be more on the execution part. What I think that it was more useful from the university is the capacity to learn constantly, which I think it’s needed as a COO because you definitely rely on the teams to make the decisions or to take the decisions, but definitely you need to challenge them and support them. So you need to have some know-how about that. And then the capacity to have a mindset of problem solving. And I think that as an engineer, you spend your whole university degree solving problems. That’s the way you learn. They teach you some theory, but then the way they try to check if you have a consolidated theory is by solving problems. And I think that on my day-to-day, that’s what I’m trying to do. Solve problems, solve blockers that can help the company to move forward and execute on the strategy.

Greg Posner: 12:57: 13:50: I feel like it’s every kid’s exciting. It’s like, you know, you play a game and you solve the problems in the game and if you can make that become your real life, your day-to-day, it’s something you just love to do. So thank you for sharing that. I would love to talk about Barcelona, right? That’s one of the main things we want to talk about today because it is a very fast-growing gaming hub. You have studios like Social Points there, Samsoft is there, obviously. I think there’s Gameloft is there. I think Lorraine also is based out of Barcelona. So many… big and up-and-coming gaming studios are based out of there. Clearly, I mean, they’ve got a big growing game ecosystem, right? There’s a lot of investment and cash growth from within there. It’s an innovation and tech hub in Europe. And I’d like to kind of tap into each one of those and figure it out. But how do you think Sansoft is going to continue to leverage the ecosystem in Barcelona to keep building it out as a gaming hub? And how does this, I guess, excite you, if that even makes sense?

Pasqual Batallia: 13:50: 16:20: Yes, I’m very excited to talk about Barcelona. As you know, it’s a city that I promote and that I try to continue improving and be active there. But yeah, Barcelona has emerged during the last 10 years as a key global hub, especially on mobile. But also growing on PC consoles, as you said, they love 2D software, IO Interactive, Digital Legends, so I think more and more PC and console companies from abroad are joining the city, no? As far as I know, with some data, around 40% of the world gaming leading companies have presence in the city. And therefore, a strong pool of professionals with know-how and experience are established there. It’s a mix of local talent, but also the city has the capacity to attract international talent, no? Added to an existing network of technological startups promoted by the Mobile World Congress, these have nurtured a gaming ecosystem in the city. Moreover, Barcelona is well known by creativity and innovation being a reference in terms of architecture and modernism, which fosters the presence of creative and artistic profiles that the gaming industry embraces. Finally, it has great quality of life and competitive cost, being very well connected to the rest of European cities with excellent gastronomy and weather. While Sunsoft has a strong commitment to grow and develop the gaming ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, it also understood that it would take some time in the region to develop the ecosystem and talent needed. Therefore, decided to open a studio in Europe that would eventually fast-track its capabilities and execution capacity to develop and publish games. When considering several European locations, like London, Helsinki, Berlin or Amsterdam, which by the way are great cities, Barcelona emerged on top as we were able to hire and attract the right profiles that the company need. For example, our head of studio, our lead game designer. So that were aspects that were key to finally decide Barcelona was the right place to land. So in conclusion, Barcelona allows us to engage with a high caliber of mobile-first talent based in the city, and connect with a driving development scene local.

Greg Posner: 16:20: 17:03: And you mentioned that as our prequel, right, you have cities like Helsinki that have companies like Supercell and you have cities like, I don’t know, I see a point you said, you said Supercell, and you mentioned good games. You have Israel that has a few big gaming studios. It does. I mean, obviously Lorraine has the biggest game of the year last year, which is Baldur’s Gate 3, the biggest thing out there. But what’s it going to take to get Barcelona to that next level? Now that it’s starting to mature as the gaming hub, it seems like, how do you… And again, I feel like this is a silly question asking this, right? Because it’s like, hey, make a good game and then we get there. But like, how do you take that to the next level? And that question made sense again as well, I feel like.

Pasqual Batallia: 17:04: 19:16: Yeah, totally agree. I think the fact that we have been growing as an Indian Cup doesn’t mean that we don’t need to continue growing, no? Because at the end, as you said, there are different cities that also provide a lot of talent, no? We could also be talking about Istanbul, Helsinki, obviously, London, Berlin, Amsterdam. There are plenty of cities in Europe with great, great talent and great gaming talent, no? But in the case of Barcelona, And as you were mentioning, having a company that could launch one video game would be definitely something proving the success of the ecosystem. But while this does not happen, even if we had good success cases, like Threshold Point, for example, or Scopely, has huge, massive operations in Barcelona, or Keen, also operating some of their games from the city. I think that while this does not happen, there are other aspects that we could be fostering and improving. First of all, the gaming industry, it’s all about talent. So why not becoming a gaming educational hub to develop the best talent in certain areas of gaming? Or for example, why not having an international gaming event in Barcelona like GDC or Gamescom that would gather the best industry professionals into the city, no? Also, in terms of, let’s say, fiscal incentives and support to the industry, I think there is more that we could be doing, no? Having, for example, a private fund to invest in gaming as, for example, Helsinki has some private funds that are fostering and supporting young companies to appear and to work on their games, no? So, well, I think those are some of the ideas that we could continue pushing and that me personally, I work with the local, let’s say, with the local institutions to continue pushing for the city.

Greg Posner: 19:17: 19:56: It’s interesting. You mentioned the big conferences, GDC Games, ComEd, Picool have something in Barcelona, but with that many studios in the location, do you have knowledge share between some studios? Are there different ways to get? I’m thinking as someone that maybe lives in Barcelona wants to get into the gaming scene, are there things they can be doing? Are there people that they can be talking to? Maybe these are two separate questions, right? Maybe the first one is more so, how do the studios, if they share any knowledge or best practices, is there any way that happens today? And the second one, which we can answer after is, if you are a young student that is studying gaming in Barcelona, what would be the most logical step they take to make their dreams come true?

Pasqual Batallia: 19:56: 23:50: Both are good questions. On the first one, what I have seen is that the gaming industry is very collaborative. I’m not sure we see each other as competitors because most of the times each company is working on a different type of game for a different audience. So I think we see more ourselves as part of the ecosystem and in the ecosystem you need many different players, you need big companies, small companies, medium companies, indies, you need the universities, you need incubators, you need accelerators, you need like… So if you don’t have all of these, then the ecosystem is not healthy, no? So yes, the answer is, as an industry, we tend to collaborate a lot, we tend to share a lot, which are our problems, which solutions were working for us, and we try to provide advice and we try to gather, okay, together. So this is something definitely you can find in Barcelona, okay? Regarding on your second question for young talent, I think that’s one of the areas where, as an industry, we need to improve, or at least in Barcelona, because normally universities or schools deliver very smart and talented professionals. But that isn’t realistic at the same time. And I think it makes sense because when you are 18 years old, you know what you want to do most of the time. So as a university, they need to give you a broad picture of different options that you could do in any matter. for example, in the gaming industry, how it is to be a developer, how it is to be an artist, how it is to be a game designer, how it is to be a producer, for example. And then once you have a view of all those, it’s when maybe you can decide, hey, I would like to specialize more on this or I would like to go deeper on that. Eventually, universities and schools deliver quite generalist profiles, while gaming companies are looking for very specific and professionalized and very specialized profiles. So there is a gap there that we need to solve. Okay, we need to see how we jump this gap and sometimes I have seen and it’s not an easy gap to jump because then students come to you asking for internship programs and as a company we can have some interest but the volume of students that call out every year is quite big, no? And being companies preferring specialized and senior profiles, it’s difficult to advocate for a lot of junior profiles. So as some things are happening, for example, how you continue from the project that you ended in the university or in the school, how you can give, let’s say, a faster life into this project, into moving into an incubator, or later into a generator. It would definitely help you to continue working and experiencing and getting this kind of experience and specialization. Also collaborating with any studios on their early projects. And definitely also as an industry, we need to make a better job on integrating this young talent into our teams. So I think I cannot answer you easily on what’s the best way to enter into the industry. But doing your own games, collaborating within the studios, accessing to all type of incubators and accelerators. At the end, nothing is preventing you from working on your own games or building a team that can continue working on games. And this is definitely going to give the young talent this kind of experience and specialization that the companies are required.

Greg Posner: 23:51: 24:31: Something that I’m gonna go back to is, and this is something we also spoke about before we started recording, is kind of the idea of these niche roles that these studios are hiring for. I, myself, right, didn’t know how vast each department is, right? You think design is probably taking care of all the design of the game, but then you look into it and there’s level design, and there’s character design, there’s all these other things. People think, oh, games should be fairly quick to spin up and it’s easy, and the thing is, and maybe it’s a question for you, is did you know in the gaming world that all these roles go significantly deeper than you thought they were, or was it kind of a shock to you the first time you stepped into a studio and you said, wow, these are really expansive?

Pasqual Batallia: 24:31: 26:19: Yeah, I think when I joined the gaming industry, I was very surprised to see the big amount of roles that I needed. Obviously, starting from the gaming side, you need the developers, you need the artists, the concept artists, and then the 2D artists, and then the animators, and the 3D artists, and the VFX, and then you go into technical artists. And then for developers, you have the mobile, the backends, the systems. It’s super specialized, you know, as you were saying also in game design, you have the level designers, the game designers, the product managers, the producers, then people looking at the analytics that they have, how much work, analytics background, no? And eventually then you start looking at other profiles like localization to help localize the games. You have QA to test and help teams to embrace. this kind of quality systems, you know, to deliver good games. But then to more traditional roles, like the marketing role, like the finance role, the talent acquisition role. So you need a big variety of profiles in a gaming company, and that’s why we think that let’s say, an added value industry, because it relies on talent. So yeah, definitely quite surprised on the big amount of specialization that it requires, but also it makes or it brings the opportunity to build more diverse teams and therefore better solutions and better decisions.

Greg Posner: 26:20: 27:05: Yeah, I love when you have a couple of guys I spoke to in the podcast, they all sit down, they kind of spitball ideas around, they kind of see what sticks. And when you can start collaborating with people, especially when you have people who are special specialties in different areas, you can get a different view of it. And I think it’s such a cool thing to be able to, like, just come up with a game, sitting at the lush table and do that. And I think As sometimes I think it’s too many roles because it’s a lot, but at the same time having those perspectives on things can be a great way to understand what’s possible and what’s not possible. Yeah, we’re past halfway through, but usually about halfway through I do something called our quickfire round. I’m going to ask five questions, super simple questions. You good for that? Yeah, sure. All right. Question one, when you’re not traveling, what do you have for breakfast?

Pasqual Batallia: 27:06: 28:24: For breakfast? Yes. Okay, look, I love breakfast, okay? In fact, I’ve been fasting since 2020, since January 2020, so I skip dinner, which means that lunch is my last meal, but breakfast is my preferred meal, no? And not just because I did not have dinner and I’m kind of hungry, but it had always been, no? So, nobody I have more than one breakfast. That’s because I love it so much I might have an early bite, and then a mid-morning bite, and maybe even a late morning bite, no? But let me think, I always have a sandwich with a baguette, like this kind of baguette bread. I like to have it quite big. And then I like to put there fuet, which is kind of a salami, but it’s from Catalonia. And let’s say that for you to understand, it’s kind of a salami. I also like the Spanish ham. or those are my favorite. And then on top of that, I also like to have a mix of different cereals that I mix all together or some piece of fruit as well.

Greg Posner: 28:24: 28:35: I guess I shouldn’t tell you, I don’t really like the breakfast meal. I feel like it’s overrated, but I will lose that battle against you. I see that. If you were to go to a bar, what type of drink would you order?

Pasqual Batallia: 28:36: 29:24: That’s a good question. I don’t like beer, but everybody drinks beer, so sometimes I end up trying to drink my beer, but most of the time I’m not even able to finish it up. So I’m more of a sweet person in terms of taste. So I like sweet tastes. I would like to have, I don’t know, for example, a strawberry, strawberry milkshake or, or like this, this kind of drinks, you know. Eventually I end up drinking sparkling water. a lot, but my favorite would be to have this kind of strawberry or even pita I swear. I need to go for a little bit more as well.

Greg Posner: 29:24: 29:26: What is your preferred gaming platform?

Pasqual Batallia: 29:28: 30:02: Definitely mobile. I’m not so much of a hardcore player, so I think mobile is a platform where I can enjoy and access anytime, any moment. The type of games are also more suited to me. The length of the sessions are also more suitable. I think it’s a great platform and it has enabled the gaming industry to grow massively during the last 10 years. So, I think that would be my answer.

Greg Posner: 30:02: 30:04: What is the last book you read?

Pasqual Batallia: 30:04: 30:33: I’m reading The Five Dysfunctions from Len Ceroni, because we are working as a team in Soundsoft to improve our facilitation team. I strongly recommend that one. And I’m rereading that because… I already read that one when I was at Social Point. It was really useful for our leadership team to improve as a team. And now we are doing the same exercise, repeating the same exercise at Samsung.

Greg Posner: 30:33: 30:40: My last question of the Firefly round is what show have you last binge watched?

Pasqual Batallia: 30:40: 30:47: Last show? You mean like a TV show? TV show, yeah. Look, I really enjoy Yellowstone.

Greg Posner: 30:47: 30:48: You think I’ll ever finish it?

Pasqual Batallia: 30:49: 31:10: I finish it yeah but it’s not the last one then the thing which has been the last one because um it’s something that we do with with my wife in order to have some time together you know but yeah not the last show but the last movie we have seen together is the open openheimer And regarding shows, we really enjoyed them.

Greg Posner: 31:10: 31:52: Awesome. You’re off the hot seat. Thank you. are confusing, some are less confusing. You have things like Web3, you have things like VR, you have mobile, like you mentioned, that’s leading the way of even consoles taking notes from how mobile is doing it, right? Are there specific trends that, personally, not fans of, but for yourself as well, that excite you the most? And for the whole industry, what type of challenges or opportunities do you think are going to be coming up in the next couple of years? I know that’s a loaded question, so I’m sorry.

Pasqual Batallia: 31:53: 37:07: Okay, yeah, no, thank you. In terms of platforms, I think the industry is ready to be disrupted, and definitely this industry will embrace any technology or any opportunity that enables a more, let’s say, integrated, immersive experience. Okay, so obviously the technology is improving, everything have better graphics, but eventually we will end up being like the gaming and the movies will become much closer, no? Because you will be able to The experience would be like being in a movie, but you being part of the movie. So while a movie is just one direction, in the beginning, you will be able to participate in that concept and to be part of that story. So anything that is more immersive and also integrates you is going to be great to experience. And that’s probably where the industry will go. It’s true that AR and VR have not been able to become a big business, no, to transform the industry. It’s true that also from the experience perspective, it brings a good experience, no, but it has some challenges at the same time. I’m a true believer that the industry will grow and will evolve into better player experience, more integrated, more immersive. And that’s what’s going to keep making this industry the biggest in the entertainment segment. But going back to your question and looking at the current situation, on the whole, the consumer spending in gaming faced some kind of decline in 2023 after also very good years during COVID, no? And considering the overall economic context, I think it’s important for the industry to stay cautious of the market conditions, not the current market conditions. There is definitely saturation in the market and consummation. Those are clear trends happening at this moment. Together with some, let’s say, privacy restrictions on distribution, some gaming regulation in certain regions, and as we all know, some financial constraints due to higher interest rates are clearly affecting the whole pitch, no? Seeing the scale of redundancies through the industry between last year and this year has been disappointing, no? But let’s take a look at which are the trends where I do believe that the industry is also moving, no? Overall, we expect new games to be created by passionate professionals that maybe have been recently reluctant from some companies. So the good point of the professionals in this industry is that they love doing games. So I’m quite sure that there’s going to be new teams deciding new games, creating new experiences. Also, during the next decade, we will see emerging markets to improve on infrastructure, connectivity, access to devices by the population, increase economic purchase power by this population that will definitely foster the industry to continue to grow. We are talking about countries and regions like India, Brazil, Africa, Southeast Asia, LATAM, MENA. So there’s still a big number of people to join into this gaming industry. And that’s definitely going to help the industry to continue growing and evolving. Also, there will be a generational replacement of all the population that is less engaged with digital and gaming by your generations that have video games as part of their DNA, you know, in regards to entertainment and day-to-day habits. We see this with our kids, you know, and definitely how they in how they interact with the games, with digital, no? And then when we compare this with our parents or with our older generations, it’s not the same. And this is going to be happening during the next 10 to 15 years, no? Finally, the industry, as I was saying, is ready to be disrupted again by technology that will enhance player experience. We need to imagine video games in a decade will be more immersive and interactive, with moving-quantity assets, accessible to all at any time and at any place, no? Funky mainly fostering more growth into the industry as a best entertainment experience at affordable costs.

Greg Posner: 37:07: 39:52: I think that’s well said. There’s a few points that I really enjoy. And Svante, you’re kind of saying this and I was having a debate with someone, not really a debate, but I was telling him how the cut scenes in video games are so good now that you can just watch it as a movie. It’s probably better than half the movies out there if you’re watching a pretty good game and we can just see the production level that goes into it. And it’s just, it’s mind-boggling how the industry is, is just maturing so quickly. Um, you mentioned new teams being formed and I think that’s something We all like to imagine it is happening, right? I mean, the layoffs that are happening are stink, but hopefully some of these veterans from different studios who are going to start their own new studios in the next few years, build some crazy new projects that are really going to push the boundaries of what we’ve seen before. and kind of shake it up, right? I mean, I love Call of Duty, but you get the same thing every year, and a lot of those games are just kind of, it’s very, it’s not very rare, but I feel like it’s rare where we get something new, right? I mean, Baldur’s Gate kind of took everyone by surprise, I feel like, last year, and it crushed it. But I think my favorite thing you mentioned was Player Immersion. I think that’s becoming such a new, maybe new is not the right word, maybe I’m not right saying that, but it’s becoming so much more the forefront of the game. I mean, the whole player experience. That’s the reason my podcast, like people, because we sell customer support tools and everyone’s like, why is that part of the player experience? And I get why you think that, but like, if you leave the game, if you doesn’t know who you are, like you’re a little less immersed and you have so many other options of games out there, right? If you think of a match three game, if you think of an RTS, if you think of anything, there’s so many different games out there and it’s a big pool, but if a game can pull you in and you are in that game, like, that means that studio head has done their job and they pull you in. And I think with so many games out there, the immersion is what’s going to be the difference. So obviously the game has to be good, but the way they make you the player feel, I think is going to be the most important thing. I mean, you look at a game like Monopoly Go, it’s amazing. But the thing is, and I don’t want to say anything bad, it’s a great game. It’s almost not a game. You press a button and you move and you press a button and you move. It’s like a dopamine hit. people feel good playing it and they’re doing that. It’s crazy to see how studios are figuring out new ways to get players to play games and feel like they’re part of that story and I give Monopoly Grow all the credit for that because players are excited to jump in and keep going and keep going and clearly they hit the notes right there. So I love that and I’m sorry I’m rambling here but I love the fact that you talked about player immersion because that is one of my favorite trends I’m seeing in gaming right now because who doesn’t want to feel like they’re part of the game? Great. So in terms of Barcelona, how is Sandsoft fostering and contributing and leveraging Barcelona to help foster innovation within the community?

Pasqual Batallia: 39:52: 40:59: Yeah, well, we see ourselves with a commitment to further develop the gaming ecosystem in the city and contribute to create great games for players to enjoy from Barcelona to the world. as well as to continue to inform, inspire, educate, and attract the wider industry in terms of talent. Due to our team background, tenure, and network, We have become an active actor in the Barcelona gaming ecosystem. We participate and contribute in different events to promote the gaming community and elevate the understanding of the industry inside the city. We are also a very serious team of game makers to create innovative and accessible core social games that bring people together. Definitely attracting local talent but also international talent into this team. Finally, we are also a point of contact between the city and the vibrant economy of Saudi Arabia, no? And not only the economy, also the culture.

Greg Posner: 40:59: 41:14: I like that because you mentioned people first at the beginning of the podcast, and I think that’s a very important way to look at it, that you’re people first. And when you’re looking at Barcelona and how do you want to help contribute, right? It has to do with the people you’re getting talent from, the people you’re sharing that and you’re helping do that. So I think that’s really well said.

Pasqual Batallia: 41:14: 41:43: Yeah, I think talent is key. Attracting the right talent that have the aim to build games. In Barcelona, we have a lot of companies operating games, but not so many, at least, large, big companies creating new games. Or maybe sometimes not everybody has the capacity to work on building new games. And I think that that’s something that we are also offering to the city now.

Greg Posner: 41:43: 42:02: So with that, how do you see Sandsoft evolving in the next year? You’re going to be almost four years old. I guess you have about four years old, five years old as a company, right? You said 2020. So how do you see Sandsoft evolving? How do you want to answer this question? Maybe in just Barcelona or Barcelona and Riyadh?

Pasqual Batallia: 42:02: 43:47: Yeah, a little bit of both. At least in Barcelona, we are planning to grow the Barcelona team up to 60 people during the next three years. So we naturally need to fight by talent to achieve that goal. We have a range of open positions currently across various guilds in Barcelona and also some others in Riyadh. Looking at our publishing division is exploring partnerships with independent mobile studios that will materialize in the first half of the year and reaching our portfolio of publisher titles on top of current games that we have now like DC Heroes and Villains from Rudia or Jam City. I’m quite excited about a few of them that WCAG hopefully announce soon and I encourage any gaming company developer that does not have publishing ambition or capabilities to contact us in order to explore a collaboration opportunity. Similarly, Sunsoft is exploring further partnerships in Asia, in the same way we have been doing in Europe and North America. We see ourselves as best placed to connect the East and the West, and to support companies in leveraging the global opportunities we see in mobile gaming. I’m sure we will announce some good news very soon regarding the Asian topic. And finally, on the long term, we have the ambition to create amazing games for players to enjoy. Be recognized as one of the world’s top gaming companies, and the place to work for talented game players.

Greg Posner: 43:47: 44:02: I think I read an article, was it that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that,

Pasqual Batallia: 44:03: 44:26: Yeah, well thanks to Pocket Gamer team that last year classified us on position number 44, definitely for the ambition and growth and team that we are assembling, no? And looking forward to continue being recognized as one of the companies that is trying to make a change in the vaping industry.

Greg Posner: 44:27: 44:42: Yeah, it’s exciting. Again, like you said, a breath of fresh air to the industry. Innovation will start to come for that. Are you guys, and I know you and I are sitting here in San Francisco, but do you guys have a presence at GDC this year? Are you guys just doing your own work or do you have a booth?

Pasqual Batallia: 44:42: 45:18: We don’t have a booth. but we’ve been having plenty of meetings with game developers and with other partners to explore collaboration opportunities. It’s been a busy agenda with the team here and yeah, looking forward to see which of them we can execute. And also realize that the mood of the industry, at least during these days, has been more optimistic and positive than what I perceived probably during the last Molensi in other events.

Greg Posner: 45:18: 45:53: I think that’s all the questions I had for you today, Pasquale. I really appreciate you taking the time. This is such a fun conversation for me just to learn more. Because again, as a kid growing up, you aspire to run a studio one day. And in my world, I always thought you needed to know how to code. And now, after all the people i’m talking to you’re learning more and more that no you have to have these other skill sets and i think it’s awesome i hope the people listening can also understand that you don’t necessarily need to code is it going to help you probably but but there’s so many other roles available to you so i thank you so much for coming out but before you do go is there anything that you just want to talk about or save

Pasqual Batallia: 45:55: 46:12: It’s been a pleasure. It’s always great to speak with people like you about games and just building each of us different perspectives. But at the end, when you work with people, magic has to happen. And that’s what I’m expecting this industry to continue to bring.

Greg Posner: 46:13: 46:27: Yeah, can’t wait. And again, we’ll have information on Pasquale as well as Sansoft at our PlayerEngaged website. And we’ll have anything you need. So thanks for coming and listening today. Pasquale, thank you so much for joining us. I hope you have a great rest of your day. Thank you.

Greg Posner

Avid gamer with a passion for storytelling. My goal is to unpack the narratives of customers, partners and others to better understand how industry-leaders tackle today's challenges.

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