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Posted on May 24, 2010 in Electronic Games

Matrix-Slitherine Merger – Armchair General Exclusive Interview

By Jim Cobb

The merger of Slitherine and Matrix Games took the gaming industry by surprise. Armchair General asked both David Heath of Matrix and Ian McNeil of Slitherine for insight into the event.

Armchair General: We understand that Matrix and Slitherine have merged. What was the logic behind this?

Sliterine's Airstrike: Eagles of World War II.Matrix–Slitherine: For a number of years now we have worked in close collaboration and whilst we both target the same wargaming audience and communities, we have tended to do this in quite different ways, so for us, this just made perfect sense. Slitherine has been much more focused on a move into the new console platforms through standard retail outlets and Matrix has been a forerunner in PC digital distribution, so the two businesses are entirely complimentary. A match made in heaven! The merger will also give us much greater opportunity to bring both lineups to a wider worldwide audience. Already we are in discussions regarding new and exciting distribution deals, so all is going according to plan so far.

ACG: How long did discussions last?


M–S: The idea was first floated more than two years ago, on one of our regular trips to the States and, as time has passed, the synergy between the two companies has grown exponentially. One of the great features of this deal is that we get along so well, so although to the outside world its come as a bit of a surprise, to us it’s more of a continuation of what has been happening behind the scenes.

ACG: How will gamers access both companies’ games?

M–S: At present, nothing will change in respect to how the games can be accessed, principally from the Slitherine and Matrix sites. Additionally, we already have titles on the Sony PSN store and on Apple iTunes, with further releases coming soon. For example, The Tudors, under a license from Showtime Inc., goes into submission with Apple today and Egypt: Engineering an Empire, which is on our HISTORY™ license, released last week on iTunes and is set for release on the Sony PSN store as a PSP Minis title on June 1st in the US and June 2nd in Europe. We are also looking at several other platforms and methods of digital delivery as well as traditional retail outlets, so there will be no lack of opportunity for gamers to get hold of our titles and hopefully in a range of different ways.

ACG: How does the merger benefit the two parties?

M–S: Well, for a start, we are now one party and the benefits of our broader approach to the market seem obvious, at least to us. Our breadth of approach and the new opportunities on both sides of the pond, will we believe provide ample opportunity for further growth. So exciting times ahead.

ACG: How does the merger benefit developers?

M–S: The merger will benefit our developers in two core areas. Firstly, we are aiming to bring their products to new audiences. For example, we are currently looking at localizing the Matrix catalogue into a number of languages including Russian. Clearly, this will increase sales of their products and create new possibilities for revenue. Secondly, we will work with our developers and assist them to bring their titles to the new console platforms, but only where they feel this would benefit them. We recognize that their main focus is to do what they already do well, so it’s their call, but the opportunity will be there.

ACG: How does the merger benefit gamers?

M–S: In future, we will be coordinating release dates and there are a number of other steps that we felt would benefit our audiences, such as common installers, patches, upgrades, etc. We are also working on some new features including leader boards and in-game matrix features for our PC audience. Also, the attraction of playing the games we all love, on a hand-held platform, whilst commuting or travelling is another area where we see our audience benefitting. Going forwards, the merger will also give us a huge increase in our bandwidth, so you can expect to hear and see more activity in a number of spheres from the new combined group.

Time of Wrath from Matrix Games.ACG: How will the merger affect the operations of either company?

M–S: This is the area that will see the most significant changes, but most of this will be back of house and we don’t intend to let any of this logistical stuff interfere with the relationships that we have with our audience. We’re pretty confident that they will let us know if it does.

ACG: Was the merger driven by the worldwide recession?

M–S: Not really. As we have already said, it’s been a slow process of getting to know one another. We have been living together for a while now and finally we decided to splice the knot! Sure, in terms of the economic climate, it’s not the best, but there will always be pluses and minuses in this sort of plan. What we are certain of is that we are a much stronger unit standing together.

ACG: What are the changes we can expect to see?

M–S: We intend to take this gradually, but what you can expect to see in the short term is an expansion of the business into new territories and a number of releases coming out on more than one platform. Other relatively short-term enhancements will be the introduction of common installers, patches, etc., that we have already mentioned.

ACG: If the corporations decide to split later, what precautions are built into the agreement?

M–S: We have no plans to split. It’s till death do us part!

ACG: Do you expect problems with currency exchange rates, e.g. the dollar dips versus the euro or the pound?

M–S: This is one of the back-of-house operations we mentioned earlier, but since we run accounts in US dollars, in euros and GB pounds, it’s not too much of a concern. They all peak and trough at different times, so, unless the entire world goes into financial meltdown, we should manage to avoid the vagaries of the money exchange markets. This is one of the benefits of being a truly international business.

ACG: One of Slitherine’s most successful games is Field of Glory, which has a server-driven PBEM component. What is Matrix’s involvement in keeping the server up?

M–S: Presently, Matrix is not involved with this particular feature but we have plans to expand this across most of the lineup, as it is proving to be a real winner with the gamers. So both Matrix and Slitherine customers can expect to see more from this feature, and we have plans for a number of enhancements.

ACG: Will both companies keep their games DRM-free?

M–S: The group is very committed to ensuring that our games are as accessible as we can possibly make them, both now and in the future. We have no plans to change this.

ACG: Will the merger hurt other parts of the industry?

M–S: This is certainly not our intention, and we really don’t see this as a problem. There are relatively few businesses operating in our niche, history/wargaming world, and we think that choice and competition is what drives us all on. Certainly from our perspective, we just want to get better at doing what we already do well, and we will not do anything to spoil the already excellent relationships and cooperation that we enjoy with others in our field. Where we can collaborate, we will continue to do so, and we positively welcome the opportunity to widen our network.

ACG: Fascinating and interesting stuff! Thank you.

About the Interviewer
Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he deals with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online, Gamesquad and Gaming Chronicle.



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