Behind the Screen: The Everlasting Passion of Ivan Davies, Director of Studio Partnerships

Ensuring that fun applies to everyone in the gaming industry

As the gaming industry continues to grow at a record pace, the need for premier talent to be the driving force remains a priority. With Level Infinite/Tencent Games pursuing more new partnerships and solidifying its existing ones with publishers and studios like Funcom, Fatshark, and more in the PC, mobile, and console space, having a stellar Director of Studio Partnerships like Ivan Davies makes the whole process much less challenging. 

For someone who always wanted to be a graphic designer before stumbling into the industry, Davies has come a long way since his first video game experience. His first video game was the multiplayer arcade shooter Boot Hill back in 1977. At Tencent for less than a year as part of the UK-based Nexus team, 2022 marks his 33rd year in the games industry, in which he started as an 8-bit artist working on the Commodore 64.

From saving pixel graphics to audio cassettes and working for Sony PlayStation, to running his own game production consultancy company his career journey has been exciting. And now, it brings him back to working closely with large studios again.

“You’ve got to find something that you’re passionate about. You’ve got to find something that you really enjoy doing, because then it doesn’t feel like you’re working,” Davies said with a smile. “I love my work “ but my wife often asks, ‘can you just stop working for a weekend?’”

A Refreshing Adventure

Even with his vast experience, the sheer scale at which Tencent Games operates has been a pleasant surprise, and it bodes well for new titles that are a result of partnering with the right studios and the increased commitment to AAA quality on all platforms.

“What was really interesting was looking at Tencent. We had a presentation of all the different divisions within the Tencent Group, and that was unbelievable. Many different departments, ground-breaking technologies, and even within the games’ departments, all the numerous studios and diverse genres we cover all, it’s so big, so global. There are so many things going on, I really like that approach.”

Ivan Davies and team

“And the answer is always, ‘yeah, we can do that,’ there’s always someone who can hook you up within the group that can help you and I think that for a company at this size, that closeness is really, really refreshing,” said Davies.

That propensity for disrupting the status quo and breaking new ground ties in with how he approaches his work with the studios, and how consistent sparks of innovation can be derived not just by looking at things for what they are and could be, but also what is missing. 

Seeing the Big Picture

Citing his “bird’s-eye view” of things and a unique perspective from taking a step back, Ivan supports his team by focusing on key aspects that may have been overlooked: A clashing release date, untapped business opportunities or tunnel vision in the name of pursuing perfection. All could trouble a studio without Nexus’ oversight.

Additionally, there are the more-subtle issues only an industry insider would see, Davies said. Like when developers, who can be strong gamers, increase the difficulty curve in the gameplay they’re crafting. The development team enjoys the game, but the average consumer? Not so much.

“They’re not doing it intentionally,” he said. “We need to remember we’re making the game, not for the dev team, but we are making the game for gamers.”

A Philosophy of Fun

Davies has some hardware on the shelf that recognizes his professional prowess. He won a British Academy Children’s Award BAFTA for Best Children’s Videogame with Buzz! Junior: Jungle Party in 2007. 

And at Tencent, his sharp eyes matter a lot in a market where consumers are inundated with choices. If he had his way, everyone would be playing games they love, while developers would love to do their jobs because they allow them to be creative. 

“We are all in this for the love of games, and if I can do my part to make sure our people deliver the right product to players who care, all the better. We could all use a little bit more fun in our lives!”

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