Founders on past successes and the future of the game
505 Games turns 15 this year, and it’s been a wild ride for the company. Since its inception in 2006, it has grown from a full-fledged player in the distribution of Nintendo DS and Wii games to one of the most eclectic publishers in Europe and beyond.
In recent years, 505 released AAA tubes like Control and Death stranding; first cult successes such as Ghostrunner and Journey to the wild planet; Indies celebrated as Terrariums, Abzû, Horace, and Laser league; and its own very popular racing IP, Assetto Corsa.
Now, its owners provide exclusive insight into the company’s success and come up with bold predictions for the future of the business and the game itself.
The brains behind the brand are brothers Abramo “Rami” and Raffaele “Raffi” Galante, the founders and CEOs of the Milan-based Digital Bros group. Siblings tend to avoid the spotlight, preferring to let their business do the talking, but to celebrate their latest milestone, the couple believe now is the time for a rare interview.
Rami and Raffi entered the gaming market in 1989 through Halifax, a company dedicated to the local distribution of video games in Italy. They shared a love for technology and entertainment from a young age, and by the mid to late 80s, as they reached their twenties, the Galantes saw real opportunities to support the home console boom of first generation.
“At the time, many international publishers had neither representation in Italy nor a direct relationship with local retailers,” explains Raffi. “We spent a lot of time talking and listening to publishers, developers and retailers at games industry events, where they told us that publishers were not set up to sell products on national markets like Italy – there was a gap that needed to be filled. “
The brothers were convinced their skills were a perfect match. Rami enjoyed building relationships with partners and gaining new business, while Raffi focused much more on building the business, driving sales, and directing marketing.
“We both wanted to be part of this first period of innovation on consoles,” explains Raffi. “The industry was exciting and seemed extremely dynamic, but video games were still marketed as toys for teens and children. “
After just five years, the Galantes realized they were at the forefront of a video game revolution that would dramatically improve their fortunes. Raffi continues: “When Sony launched the PlayStation, it changed all the rules. The mindset around gaming has changed dramatically because home consoles have become multimedia entertainment systems.
“Once we had established a solid foundation to work on, our goal at the time was to become the number one video game software publisher in Italy. “
At the start of the fifth generation of console games, the duo achieved incredible success distributing games that define the genre, including Pro Evolution Soccer, Grave robber, and resident Evil. While Lara Croft and Raccoon City may have a greater cultural presence in 2021, Rami explains that Pro Evo was the real “game changer” for their company’s fortunes.
“To state the obvious, Italy loves football,” he said. “We have already understood that Pro Evolution Soccer was a great franchise, but getting the distribution deal gave us the opportunity to show that Digital Bros. could increase a game’s retail sales even if it was already successful in Italy. This has opened many doors to other partnerships, especially with Asian publishers.
Building on their continued success, Digital Bros was listed on the Borsa Italiana, the Italian stock exchange, in 2000. International expansion was the duo’s next major step, and in 2007, 505 Games was born.
Things started slowly for the young 505. Between 2007 and 2011, 505 dabbled in game development, primarily for the Nintendo DS and Wii, including partnerships with Japanese giant Taito. “When we started out, 505 worked by researching existing titles and testing how we could develop their innate potential,” says Rami.
That goal slowly shifted, driving 505 people away from Nintendo to publish games, including ARMA 2, Terrariums, the Sniper series, How to survive, Payday 2, and even Rocket league. In 2019, 505 achieved one of its biggest hits to date, a game that set the continued direction for the company as a whole.
Rami continues: “505 Games has achieved an important and varied record of success, from AAA to independent, but Control was a big moment for us, so much so that we will be releasing a new spinoff game set in the universe as well as a bigger budget Control Title.
“This has been a great sign of how strong the relationship between Remedy and 505 is, and that we both greatly appreciate the mutual benefits we bring to each other. That’s the real success for 505, being able to secure and build incredible relationships with the industry that allow us to bring even bigger titles to our fans.
Alongside the Control okay, Rami also hails the successful PC launch of Death stranding and the multiplatform output of Ghostrunner– projects that the team could not have imagined possible a few years earlier.
“It’s always so humiliating to think that we have the privilege of working with both Remedy and Kojima Productions. We also knew Ghostrunner had great potential when he came through our go-ahead program just two years ago. We loved working with One More Level, who constantly impressed us with their talent and ability to deliver an incredibly refined gaming experience.
505 has since acquired the Ghostrunner IP, kicking off that direction with a recently released next-gen version for PS5 and Series X, and a sequel in the works.
It’s a strategy that mimics one of his other biggest hits. Constant evolution Assetto Corsa The sim-racer franchise hit $ 100 million in total sales at the start of 2021, and the company continues to invest in its intellectual property with countless updates and improvements to the game, as well as expansions for Assetto Corsa Mobile; new generation versions for Competition lands on PS5 and Series X next February.
Over the next few years, the Galante brothers hope to invest more in two main areas: developing in-house studios using intellectual property owned and co-owned and strengthening long-term partnerships.
After investing 76 million euros in recent years, the group already has 22 confirmed IPs, to which must be added the acquisitions of Australian developer Infinity Plus Two and the creation of Supernova Games Studios (Italy). 505 Games also recently announced the opening of Quebec studio Nesting Games, which is working on an immersive triple-A RPG.
Despite this, the Galante brothers believe indie titles are the backbone of the gaming industry, and its hit titles won’t steal the show.
“It is very important that we continue to support the growth of this exciting market sector,” says Rami. “By operating with lower development costs, independent developers can create a greater diversity of content, creating games that appeal to specific subgenres and are able to evade AAA requirements. “
Combined with a move to subscription gaming services, which more than ever support indie titles, Raffi sees potential for additional rewards through digital delivery.
“The console war has turned into an entirely new model as Microsoft and Sony have doubled their subscription gaming services, ”he said. “Content is more important than ever in this space, and as we’ve seen at Microsoft, there is an increased willingness to buy from legacy game studios. Over the next few years, the way we evaluate our console purchases will be very different from what has been the norm for consumers. “
Rami agrees, noting that in the last year-end financial report of 505, he saw that 88% of the revenue came from digital markets.
“Through player analytics, accessing real-time data has helped us understand what works and what doesn’t and it’s changing the way we develop and publish games,” he adds. . “By analyzing player data, we’ve been able to give many of our games a much longer lifespan through updates and DLC, which has further enriched the player experience over time.
“As multi-format play continues to become the norm for large online games, we have also seen gaming communities grow and for 505 this is a very exciting trend that we will continue to pay attention to. “
Not a follower
While the Galante brothers admire many fellow publishers in the industry, not least because success in the industry “takes a lot of effort, hard work and a bit of luck to be successful” – the 505 philosophy is to learn. of the best, but “forge your own path and grow from there”. Raffi adds: “We see ourselves as a curious editor, certainly not a follower. “
Rami continued, “Our studios and IPs will continue to grow in the future, and for the future, we want to deliver games that our audiences love. We will always stand up for AA and AAA titles, as well as the endless talent and creativity offered in the independent market, doing so with a rich set of experiences that position us perfectly to innovate.
“We have some exciting lineup in the works and are excited to share more when the time is right. “